George Reddel assists Joey Rusin with a toy-labeling project for the Pediatric Oncology Tresure Chest Foundation. | Supplied photo
Updated: December 23, 2013 2:16PM
George Reddel looks forward to Thursdays.
The 86-year-old Orland Park man starts out his day by seeing nearly 50 people waiting in line for hugs at Elim Christian Services in Orland Park.
Reddel arrives at Elim — whose mission is to help disabled children and adults achieve their highest potential — and greets clients with whom he has been spending the last 10 years as a volunteer.
“They love to hug,” Reddel said. “Where else can you go that there is a line of people waiting to get a hug?”
Reddel then takes eight or 10 clients from Elim down the road to the home of the Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation, an organization that provides toys or gift cards to kids diagnosed with cancer to provide them with comfort and distraction from painful procedures.
Reddel is in his second year as a volunteer at the Treasure Chest Foundation. It is where he helps clients from Elim help others in turn.
“We make the toys up for them, and the clients from Elim walk down to the warehouse and put the ‘Oncology’ stickers on all of the toys so they know where the toys came from,” Reddel said. “They have fundraisers and they stuff envelopes, which they think is a big deal. They can fold a letter and put it in an envelope, and that’s hard work for some of them.”
As the oldest volunteer at the Treasure Chest Foundation, Reddel said his efforts and working with Elim clients help keep him alive.
“They keep my bones moving,” Reddel said. “I get more reward than they do. It’s great to be there to help them out with. I work with the clients too because some of them aren’t too flexible to put the stickers on and I help them with that and I enjoy that.
“They are so happy when they put a little tag on a toy because they know they’re going to go with a little boy or girl with cancer, and they don’t like it when kids are sick,” Reddel said.
Feeling rewarded is something Reddel — who is married to Grace, his wife of 30 years, and also is a father of five — greatly cherishes.
Reddel grew up in Chicago’s Brighton Park community and graduated from Harrison High School in 1945. He joined the Army, served in World War II, then went on to work for Illinois Bell for 37 years.
In retirement, Reddel not only volunteers with Elim Christian Services and the Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation, but also at the food pantry at Orland Park Christian Reformed Church, where he is a member. Reddel also volunteers with his homeowners association.
He goes the extra mile to help out when and wherever he can.
“I get boxes that are broken down,” Reddel said, “and we stick them in the car, and when we go over to oncology, the clients all help take them and help me bring them in that way.”
Then they pack up the boxes with toys for the young cancer patients.
Reddel is thankful for being able to do such work.
“God gives us the power to do this. He gives us the credit that way,” he said. “It makes me feel good to work with them. I’m happy.”