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Last fall, Michael and Rebecca Vella lost their first child due to miscarriage,
So on the week their baby was due to be born, the couple donated hundreds of bagels with cream cheese to Edward Hospital in Naperville.
Michael, manager of the Panera Bread in Louis Joliet Mall, recently began a Bagels for Bravery program through Hamra Enterprises, which owns that franchise.
The Bagels for Bravery program sends as many bagels and cream cheese to health care workers and first responders as possible, Michael said.
On May 5, Bagels for Bravery will host a parade from its Lockport location, where Michael temporarily works, to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, along with donating bagels and cream cheese to hospital staff.
The public is welcome to participate, Michael said. Come to the Lockport :Panera Bread at 4 p.m. Supplies to decorate vehicles will be provided. The parade will leave at 4:45 p.m.
Then on May 12, Bagels for Bravery will host a second parade to AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet. This one will leave Panera Bread at Louis Joliet Mall at 4:45 p.m.
That mall franchise is scheduled to reopen on May 13, Michael said.
"We've been in there cleaning and getting ready for it to reopen," Michael said. "We'll be giving away cookies with every order on the first day."
Michael said the Bagels for Bravery program was his and Rebecca's way of helping to provide health care workers and first responders with food during their shifts.
"And it's only going to get harder for them to break to get food," Michael said.
That first week, Rebecca shared the program on social media and the couple collected $1,000 in donations.
With that money, Bagels for Bravery sent 700 bagels and cream cheese to all the workers at AMITA Health Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet.
Hamra Enterprises created a spot on its website for the Bagels for Bravery program so people could donate directly to the program, Michael said.
During its second week, Bagels for Bravery sent 300 bagels and cream cheese to the COVID-19 floor at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, AMITA Health Medical Group Family Medicine in Plainfield and also to the Lockport police and fire departments.
During the third week, Bagels for Bravery sent 354 more bagels and cream cheese plus fruit bowls, pastries and coffee and tea totes to Edward Hospital in Naperville for all four of its COVID-19 units as well as the Cancer Center at Edwards, Partners in Obstetrics, Women's Health in Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox and the Silver Cross ICU.
Why the ICU?
Because a woman whose husband was treated at the Silver Cross ICU wanted to send bagels, fruit bowls and other pastries to its staff, Michael said.
"And then she sent along a donation to help keep our program going, too," Michael said.
This past week Bagels for Bravery sent another 300 bagels and cream cheese went to Morris Hospital, Palos Hospital and Specialized Urologic Consultants in Orland Park.
Michael plans to continue sending bagels and cream cheese to health care workers and first responders each Tuesday as long as it can, Michael said.
"My motto, and Rebecca's motto, is that 'Enough is never enough,'" Michael said.
And Michael is looking forward to the parades.
"We drop off these bagels every Tuesday but we don't get to see any of the staff except in pictures," Michael said. "But, you know, it's funny, Even when the mask is on, you can still tell people are smiling. That's what makes it worth it."
For more information, photos of the donation, and to donate to the Bagels for Bravery program, visit hamraenterprises.com/payitforward.