20 | April 11, 2019 | the tinley Junction LIFE & ARTS

Tinley woman named Volunteer of the Year at

Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation

Erin Redmond

Freelance Reporter

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Rita Parsons (right) of Tinley Park and her friend

Diane Ritchie prepare a box of toys for shipping to

young cancer patients on behalf of the Treasure Chest

Foundation. Photo submitted

For the past five years,

Rita Parsons has had the

same routine.

Every Tuesday, the Tinley

Park resident and her

friend Diane Ritchie meet

at the Pediatric Oncology

Treasure Chest Foundation

warehouse and begin

filling boxes for hours with

the lone goal of brightening

a child’s day.

Their devotion, consistency

and selflessness is

the reason both Parsons

and Ritchie — nicknamed

the “Dynamic Duo” —

were named the Volunteers

of the Year during the 10th

Annual Treasuring Our

Kids Fundraiser March 26

in Tinley Park.

“I was very touched that

they had chosen us,” Parsons

said. “It’s a wonderful

place to volunteer at. My

thought is these kids and

their families are going

through such hardships,

and if there’s one thing I

can do to make their life a

little easier, I’m happy to

do it.”

Parsons and Ritchie meticulously

package boxes

full of toys, arranging them

just right so items don’t

shift or break en route to

the hospital, but also filling

them with as many

items as they can. The duo

package an average of 50

pounds of toys inside each

box with an average of 350

pounds per week.

The hospitals the boxes

are sent to sometimes have

specific requests — more

boys’ or girls’ toys, for

instance — each of which

Parsons and Ritchie fulfill

to the best of their abilities.

“We like to pick a Volunteer

of the Year every year

and they were a great, logical

choice because they’re

just so awesome, they’re

here every week,” said

Colleen Kisel, Treasure

Chest CEO and Founder.

“They work so hard physically,

they do the job so


But Parsons and Ritchie

were chosen for more than

just their ability to package

boxes. Kisel said their

spirit is infectious, as they

are always laughing, swapping

stories and smiling as

they fill boxes with joy for

the children who need it

the most.

“My girlfriend Diane

[Ritchie] knew Colleen

from the past and she retired

about five years ago.

She said she was going to

volunteer at the Pediatric

Oncology Treasure Chest

Foundation and asked if

I wanted to join her, so I

was like ‘sure!’,” Parsons

said. “We started going

and we go every Tuesday

morning. I love it. It’s an

easy job to do and if we

can help in anyway, we’re

happy to do it.

“My favorite part is actually

just being in that

environment because it’s

so positive. Because it’s

so positive, nobody is in a

bad mood. It’s something

that I can do and I enjoy

doing it.”

The pair were honored

at the fundraiser, filling

two tables with their families

and friends who have

supported their volunteering

efforts over the past

five years and delivered a

speech to thank them for


They don’t seem burdened

by it at all.”

“They humorously

thanked husbands for still

working, so that they volunteer,

which was so cute,”

Kisel said. “They’re retired,

but they’re young at heart.

...We’re really blessed to

have joyful, loving, caring

people [like them] …

They’re just good people.”

Parsons is happy with

her current routine and

has no plans on changing

it anytime soon. She said

she and Ritchie will continue

their Tuesday morning

meetups for as long as

they can.

“I would like to do it until

I can’t do it,” Parsons said.

“When Diane and I fill the

boxes, we’re smart about

it. We move them together

because the boxes can be

50-plus pounds — I can’t

move them alone. We’re

going to keep on doing it.”