McHenry's Steve Franzen saw the outpouring of support for nurses and doctors across the country and wanted to do something special for first responders in his own community.
Franzen, a liver transplant survivor, runs his own business, "More Than A Gift," and had the inventory to make about 50 gift bags. With Mother's Day not far away, Franzen set out to make 50 custom gift bags to donate to local nurses.
National nurses week was around the corner, too, making it the perfect opportunity to show his appreciation.
Franzen called Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital and was told there were 100 day-shift nurses and 75 night-shift nurses. So Franzen had a new goal: one gift bag for each nurse.
But he didn't stop there.
Franzen made 50 more bags and dropped them off at the McHenry Township Fire Protection District. He then asked the fire department to share half with the McHenry Police Department for a total of 225 gift bags.
Each bag contained a Mother's Day card, book, silk purse and bracelet with panels to honor first responders, police and fire departments, emergency medical technicians and the branches of the military.
The bracelet was hidden inside of a colored and hand-shined egg, Franzen said.
"I have pictures of my house full of tissue paper and boxes, but, thankfully, it’s restored back to normal," Franzen said. "For weeks it was total chaos. I had friends that didn’t want to stop by, because they couldn’t sit anywhere."
Franzen said he wanted to help ease the burden of shopping on Mother's Day for as many nurses as possible.
Each bag and items could be personalized for the recipient.
"I made each one where they could give them to whomever they wanted, maybe a daughter who is a mother, or a grandmother," Franzen said. "And they were all different. Some were pink, some were blue. They were all quite beautiful. They had two butterflies sticking out of each bag."
Franzen got the idea to do something outside of the box when he saw images of police cars parked in a heart shape outside of hospitals.
"I thought, I can really do something nice," Franzen said.
Franzen grew up in DeKalb and lived and worked in Alaska for 30 years in the oil fields. He served in the United States Air Force and was deployed to Thailand during the Vietnam War.
More than three years ago, Franzen received a liver transplant in Madison, Wisconsin, and was told that he had less than a year to live if he didn't get the transplant.
"I've got a lot to be thankful for," said Franzen, who recently celebrated his 66th birthday. "I know they're all working hard, so I said I would do the shopping for them. I wanted to show my gratitude for doing all of that hard work."
Franzen wants front line workers and first responders to know that they are appreciated and valued in the community.
"I just wanted to say that our citizens of the county are behind our first responders," Franzen said. "Whether it’s police, whether it’s firemen, whether its nurses or doctors, we’re behind ours."