Not long after her son was born 10 weeks premature, Carrie Meghie received an eye-opening credit card statement: She and her husband, Terry, had spent about $2,000 on parking in six weeks while visiting their newborn, Jackson Chance, at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital. Even with a good income—Carrie is copresident of her family’s company, Becker Ventures, which owns Hard Rock Hotel Chicago, and she and Terry own the Jamaican restaurant Mr. Brown’s Lounge—the bill was a shock.
Then an associate gave them a parking pass for Lurie’s garage, which enabled the couple to visit their son every day during the 10 months before he died, in September 2012, from a lung condition. That generosity ultimately inspired the Meghies to start the Jackson Chance Foundation, a nonprofit that covers parking and public transportation expenses for every family with an infant in Lurie’s neonatal intensive care unit.
“The gift showed us firsthand what not having to think about the cost of parking meant,” says Carrie, who serves as chairwoman of the foundation’s board. “That’s why we decided to make it our mission, so every baby could at least have the opportunity to have someone with them 24/7.”
Since 2013, the foundation has raised nearly $2 million and helped some 2,000 families. That includes Vallerie and Juan Wonders, whose newborn, Seth, spent nearly six months at Lurie before he went home. Without the foundation, the Wonderses would have racked up almost $9,000 in costs from daily visits. “It’s really hard to put into words what something as simple as that parking pass meant,” Vallerie says. “No parent should ever have to choose between putting food on the table and seeing their sick baby.”
Carrie, who oversees everything from the foundation’s fundraising to strategy, is in the midst of organizing a similar program at Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital. “I always say that the time I give to the foundation is like the time I would have given to Jackson if he were here,” Carrie says, “so I’m being his mother by taking care of his memory.”