When Richard Quinn-Delewski lost his long battle with cystic fibrosis, a condition that challenged him physically throughout his life but never broke his fierce spirit, his family wanted to find a way to honor his memory.
Something that would celebrate his legacy.
Something that would recognize his difficulties.
Something that would have an impact in the community.
A few months later, they decided to create a foundation that would aim to improve the lives of children who found themselves navigating the foster care system. It was a cause close to Richie’s heart.
Having spent 1,390 days – almost four years – in the foster care system before being adopted by Nicholas and Eleanor Delewski of Shillington at the age of 14, he knew the challenges of not having a stable living environment. and permanent.
His years in foster care were marked by multiple moves, and to each, he would lose all the possessions he had accumulated.
In the last year of her life, Richie worked with a local foster care organization to establish programs that would improve access to toys for the children in their care. He helped create Birthday and Angel Tree programs that provided toys to over 200 foster children.
“We thought we could continue what he was doing by creating a foundation as a way to continue his work,” said Eleanor. “Richie’s Wish was created to ensure that its advocacy for children in foster care continues.”
And not only this advocacy continued. He grew up.
“We weren’t expecting the response we received,” she said. “It kept growing and we kept going. This is how we keep Richie alive.”
Intended for comfort
Richie’s wish strives to provide toys for foster children, partners with local organizations to renovate children’s play areas in emergency shelters, and provides blessing bags filled with comforting items for them. children arriving in a new foster family.
Lester Wills, Eleanor’s father and Richie’s adoptive grandfather, said he thought Richie would be proud of what the foundation has accomplished in just three years.
“He was an amazing young man who left us too soon,” said Lester.
Richie was only 23 when he died in 2018.
Richie’s spirit was fully visible on Wednesday as a group of volunteers spent a few hours at Immanuel United Church of Christ in Shillington sorting through a huge pile of donated items to fill around 200 blessing bags with items designed to help a child settle into their foster homes.
“These bags allow foster parents to spend that first night comforting and getting to know the child rather than rushing to the store,” Eleanor said.
Richie’s Wish is counting on the generosity of the local business community to collect the necessary supplies to fill these bags.
The items were donated by the Reading Hospital Emergency Department, the laboratory team at Penn State Health St. Joseph Hospital, Orangetheory Fitness and Covenant Church in Spring Township on Wednesday.
The bags were filled to the brim with things like new linens, warm pajamas, a book, a few toiletries to use, and a teddy bear for snuggling up. No two bags are exactly alike.
And that was the point – to be as unique as the children who will receive them.
“Getting a nice bag with your own things to take with you can be a blessing for these kids,” Eleanor said. “Often, children show up with their belongings in a garbage bag. This sends a terrible message to children because they know you are putting trash in garbage bags. “
Robin McPeak said he has seen the positive impact these bags have on children.
As a supervisor of the Partners in Parenting social service organization, McPeak has been tasked with making sure these bags reach those in need through his work at LIFE House in Reading or through appeals. Berks County Child and Youth Services Social Workers.
“These blessing bags are amazing,” she said. “You should see the look on the faces of these children when you hand them a bag full of their own things. These children are so excited to have something new that is only theirs.”