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Family in Focus

Life after loss

After family tragedy, Melinda Kintz turns focus on Make-A-Wish foundation, CHIP IN Batavia, United Way

Kane County Magazine

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She’s a wish granter. She’s a problem solver. She’s a fund raiser. And, above all, she’s someone trying to make the community better one day at a time.

Melinda Kintz of Batavia turned a difficult chapter in her life into a new opportunity to be a part of something great by helping others and herself in the process.

In 2009, her eldest son, Alex, died after an 18-month battle with bone cancer. Alex was just 14. After he was diagnosed in 2007, Kintz made the quick decision to leave her job to care full time for her son and family. After his death, Kintz says that she saw herself at a crossroads.

“I needed some where to give my focus,” she says.

So, she turned her focus to volunteer work. She started small with Make-A-Wish of Illinois, a nonprofit that grants a wish to children facing life-threatening medical conditions. She had worked with the organizations during her son’s battle with cancer, though he wasn’t able to completely fulfill his wish of meeting actor Steve Carell.

“He didn’t get to meet him, but Steve Carell did call and talk to him,” Kintz says. “I was so impacted by Make-A-Wish I thought I could help somebody else.”

And help she has. She and her friends, who are also part of the organization, have granted 40 wishes in six years. Kintz says she enjoys her role, meeting and talking with the children and their families, uncovering a wish and working as a liaison for the family, as staff from the foundation make the connections to fulfill each wish.

“It’s nice to be able to bring them so much joy,” Kintz says.

Kintz says that she and her family were overwhelmed with the outreach and support they received during the time of Alex’s illness. Friends and neighbors wanted to help by offering meals for their family, fundraising for Relay for Life and lending a hand where they could. The experience opened her eyes to the generosity of the community, as well as the role of being someone in need.

“No one wants to need things,” she says. “It’s a lot easier to give than to take.”

Perhaps that is why she feels so passionately about her roles with CHIP IN Batavia, which assists homeless students and their families in the community. Through liaisons with the school district, CHIP IN volunteers collaborate to provide basic necessities, support and programming. Kintz co-created the organization with longtime friend, Joann Spitz.

“Melinda is so creative,” Spitz says. “She learned to use her grief to help people.”

Kintz soon found one volunteer role would lead to another opportunity to help in the community.

Then, three years ago, she accepted the position of executive director for the Batavia United Way. The role has been the perfect fit, allowing Kintz to merge her community connections with the strength and support of the United Way. She has the ability to be creative with fundraising and programming, while also providing outreach and support.

The Batavia United Way’s annual “adopt-a-family” program, which takes place during the holidays, has been a successful way to help neighbors in need and has been enhanced through partnerships with other community organizations.

And, Oct. 28, Kintz is looking forward to the annual Batavia United Way 5K/10K, a popular event that also serves as an important fundraiser with its community pancake breakfast.

Kintz says she considers herself blessed to be able to serve her community and support others, and that taking time to give back can be easier than one might think.

“It can be as little as a few hours, but those couple of hours spent out there can really make somebody’s day,” she says.

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