UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — After spending thousands of dollars on parking while visiting her son at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, a Ukrainian Village mom now raises money to pay for parking for other parents who are bonding with their babies at the Streeterville hospital.
Earlier this month, Carrie Meghie was named a CNN hero for her role in spearheading the Jackson Chance Foundation, a nonprofit named for her son, who died on Sept. 7, 2012, at just under 10 months old.
"Frankly I feel a little uncomfortable. I don't feel like I am a hero. I am grateful for the awareness of the foundation. So much of it is bittersweet, as it relates to Jackson," Meghie said.
Jackson was born premature with underdeveloped lungs and spent all but two days of his short but impactful life in Lurie's neonatal intensive care unit, Meghie wrote on her website.
Meghie said that her family spent $2,000 on parking during the first two months that Jackson was at Lurie. A private donor "gifted parking passes" to her for the next seven months of Jackson's stay, where Meghie and her husband, Terry, were daily visitors.
"We saw the impact of the gift on ourselves and wanted to help other families. It's resonated with people and donors in a way that I never thought it would when this started," Meghie said.
Since its inception as a nonprofit in March 2013, the Jackson Chance Foundation has raised over $1.5 million and paid for tens of thousands of visits by more than 1,000 families whose children are patients in the neonatal intensive care unit at Lurie Children Hospital.
"Our goal is to expand to Prentice [Women's] Hospital by the end of the year," said the 43-year-old Meghie, who has another son, 2, and a 9-year-old stepson.
The foundation's mission is "to enrich the lives of families with babies in the neonatal intensive care unit by allowing them to spend more time with their baby," according to its website.
The foundation partners with the hospital to alleviate the transportation expenses of all families while their child is in the neonatal intensive care unit by providing parking and CTA/Metra vouchers.
Meghie and her husband, Terry, are part owners in Becker Ventures group, which operates the Hard Rock Hotel and Mr. Brown's Lounge, a Jamaican restaurant with locations in the Michigan Avenue Hard Rock hotel and at 2301 W. Chicago Ave. in Ukrainian Village.
Meghie told CNN that while she and her husband were fortunate to be able to pay for parking to visit their son, other babies in the neonatal intensive care unit were not as lucky to get daily visits, and their parents cited the high cost of parking and transportation as prohibiting factors.
"These babies are in the NICU for months at a time. Many families are making choices: 'Do I go back to work?' 'Do I take some more time off so I can spend more time with my baby?' If we can save them $1,000 a month that they might have spent in parking, they don't have to make so many of those choices," Meghie said.
The foundation is inspiring folks in other cities. About 20 people nationally have reached out to Meghie to launch similar programs, she said.
Last weekend, Meghie, her husband and several friends, family and supporters, participated in a 111-mile bike ride from Chicago to Valparaiso to raise money for the foundation. Between that event and a run earlier this summer, the group collectively raised $50,000 to add to the "TeamChance" coffers.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: