Photos: Congratulations to Our Making a Difference Award Winners

36 photos
Vega, Carmen (NBCUniversal)
​Making a Difference Award winner Michael Griffin. In addition to balancing work and family, Michael also spends time sharing his professional DJ skills by playing music at local nursing homes. Since the pandemic began, Michael has been unable to go inside the facilities so he came up with the great idea to play music straight from his car, outside the senior buildings. His music has kept the seniors dancing and singing, all while staying safe. Thank you Michael for Making a Difference.
Vega, Carmen (NBCUniversal)
​ Making a Difference Award winner Tzvi Montrose. After his young son had a seizure, Tzvi became a paramedic to learn what to do in an emergency situation and help others when they are in an emergency themselves. He also started a non-profit organization called, Hatzalah Chicago, which is a volunteer emergency service that provides emergency medical response to all who need it, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. Countless of lives have been saved due to his efforts. Thank you Tzvi for Making a Difference. ====================================================================== Carmen Vega |
Vega, Carmen (NBCUniversal)
Making a Difference Award winner Ria Bawiskar. As a young high school student Naperville North High School Ria saw a need to help students struggling so she created a free pandemic pod opportunity in order to bridge the growing virtual education gap. She also created a program to bring computer science and STEM learning to elementary girls in her school district, Naperville School District 203, which has now spread to several other districts. Thank you Ria for helping educate others and for Making a Difference.
In addition to being the Bank of America Chicago Marathon’s Executive Race Director for 30 years, Carey also leads the Charity Program. Since 2002, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Charity program has grown from 14 charities with less than 2000 runners to over 170 charities with more than 10,000 runners. Together, the program has helped raise more than $234 million dollars to fund school initiatives, medical research, humanitarian efforts and much more. Thank you Carey for Making a Difference.
As the founder of The Southwest Collective, Jamie’s dedicated to helping families and small businesses to build a community for all on the Southwest side of Chicago. One of her events, Freebies for Families, allows people to exchange unwanted baby clothes and items. She also leads the Little Free Libraries Project to bring books to others. Thank you, Jamie, for Making a Difference.
In addition to running her bakery, Justice of the Pies, Maya-Camille has been dedicated to helping those in need during the pandemic by feeding frontline workers and educating her community about food insecurities. When life gives Maya lemons.. she makes strawberry lemonade pies for others.. Thank you, Maya-Camille, for Making a Difference.
As part of his mission to spread love and peace, Anthony created the Heart’s Project after receiving a grant from the city of Chicago. The Heart’s Project is a collection of cards made by artists, firemen and many others in the Clearing and Garfield neighborhood. Anthony also dedicates his time to helping seniors throughout the community by running everyday errands. Thank you, Anthony, for Making a Difference.
Eddie is small business owner, continually finding new ways to help his West Lawn community by volunteering with several non profits. He’s helped organize various programs for those in need like Love Fridge, Little Dry Pantry, the Traveling Lemonade Stand and more. Thank you, Eddie, for stepping up and Making a Difference in your community.
This team of teenage brothers spent their summer creating over 1000 face shields for essential workers. Using 3D printers and laser cutters, they manufactured and assembled the parts before safely distributing them to hospitals, schools, fire and police departments, nursing homes and more. Thank you, Ravi and Rohan, for being such an inspiration and Making a Difference!
Minister Shirley is a pastor at Trinity Resurrection United Church. As part of their work to provide mission, vision and praise, Minister Shirley has helped transform the church into a non-profit organization servicing those in need. During the pandemic, they’ve expanded their food pantry to feed about 1600 community members. Thank you, Minister Shirley, for Making a Difference!
Besides keeping busy with his professional career and family life, Dr. Tee is the founder of several organizations and museums that serve the Asian American community of Chicago. For years, he has worked tirelessly to represent his culture through leading organizations, fundraising for his community, and volunteering. Thank you, Dr. Tee, for Making a Difference.
This father and son duo were looking for a way to spend time together during the pandemic, so they began driving around the city, taking photos of the various murals that were painted on boarded up businesses. They compiled all the photos into a book called “Boarded Up Chicago,” that’s proceeds will go to the communities impacted by looting. Thank you, Chris & Zachary, for Making a Difference.
As an assistant principal, Maurice is on a mission to create an inclusive atmosphere for his diverse student body by injecting fun with his alter ego, Mr. McDizzle. While showcasing his personality, Maurice raps in both English and Spanish about topics to connect with his elementary students. Thank you, Maurice, for Making a Difference!
Sarah is the founder and executive director of Almost Home, an organization dedicated to helping the homeless and anyone else in need. Sarah and her team provide clothes, emergency funds, sponsor rehab stays, find halfway homes and much more. Thank you, Sarah, for helping your community and Making a Difference!
Jessica is a Senior Student Supports Manager with Communities In Schools of Chicago. Jessica’s efforts helped launch Art Xpress, a club dedicated to artistic self-expression. During the pandemic, Jessica raised money to provide at-home art kits so students could continue creating. Thank you, Jessica, for Making a Difference.
In honor of their daughter who passed away in 2017, Bob and Susan founded the ‘Center on Halsted’s Sloane Sullivan Backpack Project.’ Their organization provides backpacks and supplies to LGBTQ+ youth currently experiencing homelessness. Thank you, Bob and Susan, for Making a Difference.
Debra is a paraprofessional educator who works primarily with special education kids. During the pandemic, Debra went above and beyond to provide personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies and even masks to those in need by setting up a table outside her school. She would even make deliveries to families that were quarantined. Thank you, Debra,for Making a Difference.
Certified in youth suicide counseling, Gabriela hosts events for the public to help with suicide prevention. These events include art therapy, grief help and sharing personal stories. She’s currently in the process of creating a nonprofit foundation to help those in need. Thank you, Gabriela, for Making a Difference.
Karen helps run a local food pantry in her community. Since the pandemic began, Karen and her helpers have gone from serving 65 families a week to over 125 families in the Hazel Crest area. Thank you, Karen, for being an inspiration in your community and Making a Difference.
David, who plays professional basketball overseas, wanted to give back during the pandemic. His foundation teamed up with another organization for an event to provide fresh food and PPE to five hundred families in need. Thank you, David, for helping your community and Making a Difference!

Photo Credit: Kenny Smith Photography
Joanne is the executive director of Hopeful Beginnings, a nonprofit agency that helps women of childbearing age and women with children. Joanne has helped expand the program by adding social workers and providing free counseling services. She’s even managed to continue their work, safely, during the pandemic. Thank you, Joanne, for Making a Difference!

During her daily route as a postal worker, Akilah recognized a wandering senior citizen who was far from home. She went above and beyond her job to make sure he got home safely and was reunited with his family. Akilah’s act of kindness made all the difference for this local family. Thank you Akilah for stepping up to help others and Making a Difference.
Donald is celebrating 30 years as CEO of Habilitative Systems on Chicago’s West Side, where he and his team offer supportive programs to the city’s most disadvantaged residents. Focusing on mental health and alcohol and substance abuse, their efforts have provided services to over 7000 people. Thank you Donald for continuing to Make a Difference!
Elaine is the founder of Luft Ballons, known for creating bold and beautiful installations. Since the pandemic began, Elaine has been honoring frontline workers by decorating local hospitals with her amazing creations. She’s also working to support Black Lives Matter through art activism. Thank you Elaine for inspiring us and Making a Difference!
We’re honoring José Sánchez with our Making a Difference Award. As President and CEO of Norwegian American Hospital, José helped his team overcome many challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. With his leadership, the safety net hospital was able to serve the Latinx community by providing PPE, testing, food, and other resources to patients. Thank you, José, for Making a Difference.
Victor Love - Victor has been a helper in his community. During the coronavirus pandemic, he joined his mother Josephine Wade in delivering hundreds of meals to senior citizens through his mother’s Chatham restaurant called Josephine's Cooking. Victor also actively mentors young boys throughout the South Side. Thank you, Victor, for helping others and Making a Difference!
Courtney Schild - After hearing about 5-year-old Blake's battle with leukemia, Courtney knew he wanted to help. Courtney and the team at his landscaping and pool company, installed a pool, slide, fire pit and more for just one dollar so Blake and his family could have a special backyard oasis. Thank you Courtney for Making a Difference!
Cindy Thompson - Besides running her own catering business, Cindy volunteers in the kitchen at Sarah’s Circle, a center for women experiencing homelessness. Cindy has not let the pandemic stop her from volunteering.  She’s still cooking and dropping off meals twice a week. Thank you, Cindy, for your unwavering commitment to Making a Difference.
Photo Credit: Mark Joseph, Who We Are | National Project

Judge Stanley Hill - Since 2012, Judge Hill has mentored hundreds of children and young adults through his creation of the PUSH EXCEL Oratorical Contest and St. Sabina Church Oratorical Contest. Judge Hill's program includes weekly coaching classes, teaching young people the power of persuasive speech. Thank you Judge Hill for Making a Difference!
At only 10 years old, Olivia is on a mission to help feed the hungry during the pandemic. When the fourth grader saw a need at her local food pantry, she reached out to her classmates for donated goods. With so much support, Olivia’s been able to do multiple rounds of donations! Thank you Olivia for Making a Difference!
After a night of looting, Mylana stepped up to help her neighborhood by organizing clean up efforts and a donation drive for those impacted. Mylana and her organization, Chaos Chicago Incorporated, were able to raise over $5,000! Thank you Mylana for Making a Difference!
After losing her beloved dog Obi, Carolyn wanted to honor his memory and help other pet owners by creating a donation box in her neighborhood. Through Obi’s Pet Pantry, people can donate items and others can take what they need for their pet, no questions asked. Thank you Carolyn for Making a Difference!
At only 7 years old, Olivia already has a strong passion for helping the homeless and those in need. So when the Coronavirus pandemic hit, Olivia made sure the homeless could also stay safe by donating and passing out hundreds of bandana masks. Thank you Olivia for Making a Difference!
In response to Coronavirus and looting, Jeremy organized a relief fund to help Black-owned restaurants in Chicago. Jeremy’s original goal was to raise $20,000 …but thanks to an amazing show of support, he raised over $75,000. A big thank you to Jeremy for Making a Difference!
Sabryna is using her passion for sewing by creating modified masks for people with hearing loss. She’s shipped thousands of masks to people across the entire country, and even in Europe, all for free. A big thank you to Sabryna for Making a Difference and inspiring others!
Jermaine helped organize a large group of volunteers to clean up several South Side communities and businesses that were devastated by looting last month. A big thank you to Jermaine and all the volunteers for Making a Difference!
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