CHICAGO — Lawrence Clark Jr. believes in giving back to the hospital that helped him walk.
On Tuesday he donated $500 and two giant bags of toys to La Rabida Children's Hospital. Clark, 20, used all of the earnings from his first paycheck working for his dad's automotive repair business in Garfield Park for the donation. Clark, who has cerebral palsy, has received care from La Rabida since he was born.
"To see the smile on the kids' faces when you walk in with a bunch of toys, it made me feel really good," said Clark, of suburban Calumet City. "The hospital has done a lot for me, and that's why I'm able to be where I'm at today."
Said Brenda Wolf, president and CEO of La Rabida: “All of us at La Rabida are so struck by Lawrence’s compassion for children with special needs. But those who know Lawrence know this is exactly the type of young man he is. His giving spirit is beyond appreciated at La Rabida, and we are honored that he chose to give back to our patients in such a special way.”
Clark, a Thornton Fractional North High School graduate, is earning an associates degree in automotive technology from Prairie State College. He'll use the knowledge to eventually take over his father's business, Buick Automotive. Currently Clark picks up and delivers parts — driving an adaptive vehicle with his hands — plus runs diagnostic checks on cars that need repairs.
He uses a walker but can take a few steps without the device. Clark said he works out every day to make his legs stronger.
Donating the gifts and check to the hospital located at the lakefront and 65th Street was his idea.
"It's to show the kids that you should never give up," Clark said.
The plastic bags were stuffed with dolls, toy trucks and cars, puzzles and all sorts of other toys. They will be given to kids like 13-year-old Cortney Rogers Jr. of Chatham, who receives physical, speech and occupational therapies at La Rabida after sustaining a traumatic head injury a few years ago.
Rogers' dad, Cortney Sr., said Clark's donation is "a blessing."
"I know a lot of kids who won't see toys this Christmas," Cortney Sr. said. "People don't do nice stuff like that every day. That means a lot to a lot of people."
Clark said he expects his donation tradition to continue every holiday season.
"This was the right thing to do, to give back," he said.