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As Wife of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy Fights Cancer, School Steps Up To Help

By Alisa Hauser | September 18, 2014 5:23am | Updated on September 18, 2014 8:19am
 The Near North Montessori School community is rallying around two "Light the Night" Walk teams.
Near North Montessori School Light the Night Walk Teams
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NOBLE SQUARE — Though the two sons of Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy and his wife have graduated from a private Noble Square Montessori school, the couple's years of involvement have not been forgotten, says the school's leader.

"We consider them to still be part of our community, and now it is our turn to give back to them," said Audrey Perrott, executive director of Near North Montessori School at 1434 W. Division St.

In recent weeks, Perrott and dozens of parents from the school have collectively raised thousands of dollars to support Susan Miller Tweedy's "Light the Night" team for next month's fundraising walk in Grant Park, part of a nationwide campaign to raise money for research by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Alisa Hauser says the Tweedy family has been very involved in the school for decades:

Miller Tweedy was diagnosed with a rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma earlier this year, according to the team's captain, Heidi Moorman Coudal, who has been posting online updates on the team's page and Facebook group.

Miller Tweedy, who had her last of six chemotherapy treatments at the end of August, is awaiting results from a bone scan as well as possibly dealing with another type of chest cancer that she had battled 22 years ago, according to an update titled, #Walkforsue.

Perrott said that both Tweedy sons were part of the school for about 22 years combined, during which time Jeff Tweedy put on several concerts to help support the school. Founded in 1963, the school celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and has about 575 students enrolled, according to its website. 

Coudal, the owner of a West Loop catering company, is also a Near North Montessori parent and currently has a son enrolled there. She's known Miller Tweedy for 14 years since their children were toddlers, she said.

After the diagnosis in April, Coudal said another parent from the school organized a website where people can bring a meal every night to the family.

"The Tweedys have given so much to our school," Coudal said noting the Tweedy concerts raised money for scholarships.

For Tweedy, a new album that he is working on with his oldest son, Spencer Tweedy, was inspired by his attempts to process his wife's illness in a positive way, Tweedy told Rolling Stone earlier this month. The album is titled "Sukierae," Miller's nickname.

"The prognosis is good," Tweedy told Rolling Stone. "We're proceeding with the idea that she's going to be in remission."

Spencer Tweedy, who has deferred his entrance to Wisconsin's Lawrence University for a year, told the magazine: "Mom is kind of the center of everything. I have no problem enshrining my mother in an album. It makes sense. She's number one in the whole operation."

The Tweedy family's youngest son, Sam, graduated from Near North Montessori last summer and is now a student at Northside College Prep, Perrott said.

Though the Light the Night Walk is not until Oct. 18, Miller Tweedy's team has just about reached its $25,000 fundraising goal, with only $880 left to raise, Coudal posted to Facebook on Wednesday.

Organizers of the team are hoping to double the amount raised to $50,000 by the day of the walk.

The school community is also rallying around another Light the Night group, the "Super Duper Arjun" team, which is supporting fundraising efforts for 4-year-old Arjun Velan, who is a Pre-K student at Near North Montessori, Perrott said.

Diagnosed with leukemia in January, Velan is described on his Light the Night Walk page as a "bright, resilient, and happy child who loves school and learning."

"Many of the families have helped both teams. It's a way of people contributing in ways that are meaningful to the family and to show support and come together," Perrott said.

Scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 18 in Grant Park, 337 E. Randolph St., the Downtown Light the Night Walk in Chicago has a fundraising goal of $1 million.

With walks scheduled across the country, the funds raised will be applied to advance cancer therapy research.

For more info on Team Susan Miller Tweedy, visit pages.lightthenight.org/il/ChicagoL14/TeamSusanMillerTweedy.

For more info on Team Super Duper Arjun, visit pages.lightthenight.org/il/ChicagoL14/SuperDuperArjun

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