Normal Moments – This charity offers helping hands to families with ill children

August 2016 View more

Patricia Fragen

Patricia Fragen

When a family has a child with a severe medical problem, parents struggle to maintain a normal life on many levels—from making meals to keeping up the yard. When they get help, surprisingly, it’s not always family members or close friends who provide the most valuable assistance.

For many families, their savior is a “David,” a volunteer who can help them with simple household tasks.

“When your child is critically ill and you’re not sure how long you’re going to be together, it’s hard to tear yourself away to mow the lawn,” said Patricia Fragen, co-founder of Normal Moments with her daughter, Melissa.

The Fragen family learned about the power of David when Melissa’s music teacher of the same name provided above-and-beyond help for them during Melissa’s battle with metastatic osteosarcoma (a cancer that starts in the bone and grows out into the soft tissues). He did just about everything, sometimes at a moment’s notice.

“He was our hero,” Fragen said.

A Nonprofit Was Born

In March 2007, near the end of Melissa’s two-year battle, she said “You know, Mom, everybody deserves a David.”

A nonprofit was born.

Naperville-based Normal Moments finds and trains an army of “Davids” that assists about 300 families in northern Illinois. These volunteers complete everyday tasks that can seem insurmountable for families with ill children. The result: The more time the “Davids” spend on these tasks, the more normal moments the families have together.

Melissa helped her mother get the organization started just before she died. One of Normal Moments’ priorities is to make sure 100 percent of donor dollars go directly to services that help families, such as professional house cleaning and snow removal, and background checks on volunteers.

An eligible family must have a child who requires either regular medical care from a parent, or significant time in hospitals, according to Fragen. The organization often gets referrals from social workers, child life specialists in hospitals and palliative care professionals.

The Need For Volunteers

Approximately four years ago, Normal Moments served about 80 families. Now, volunteers are helping almost three times that many in an area that stretches from the Indiana border to the Iowa border on the east and west, Coal City to the south and the Wisconsin border to the north. Most families are in the DuPage County area.

Volunteers help out at least once every other week, and Fragen says the organization could use more of them.

“This is the number one most fulfilling volunteer opportunity in existence,” she added. “Our volunteers become more important than family to many of the people we serve.”

In-home tasks include cleaning, laundry, helping kids with homework and taking care of pets. There are no financial transactions involved or responsibility for dependents. Other areas of assistance include running errands and lawn care. Some volunteers come together for one-time events, such as spring and fall cleanups.

“Every family needs something a little bit different,” she said. The organization screens volunteers, does an introduction and asks the volunteers to talk to the family about its needs.

Another way to help the organization is to attend its Football Frenzy Fundraiser, an indoor tailgate party on Oct. 16 at the Hyatt Hotel on 1800 E. Golf Road in Schaumburg. Visit for more details.

Fragen said her daughter would be thrilled, but not surprised, that Normal Moments has been a success. Patricia, who also plays violin in the DuPage Symphony Orchestra and runs two businesses, has seen the positive effects on her own life.

“I have so many friends. There are so many people with so much emotional strength and the ability to get through it and walk through the other side without accepting that they are victims. Very few people seem to give into that,” said Fragen. “For me, I will never have a bad day again in my life, because I have perspective. And Normal Moments has given me that perspective. Normal Moments has done as much for me as I have done for it.

When your child is critically ill and you’re not sure how long you’re going to be together, it’s hard to tear yourself away to mow the lawn.