Judith Balleno, a parent from the Jerri Hoffmann Child & Family Center, recently spoke at our 98th annual Woman’s Board September Gala. Here’s the story she shared about how the Hoffmann Center has helped her and her three little boys to thrive:

I’m Judith Balleno, and I’m a parent at the Jerri Hoffman Child & Family Center in Carpentersville. Thank you for inviting me here tonight to share my story.

I’m a proud mother of three wonderful little boys. My boys mean the world to me, and I want the very best for them. I realize that many of you are parents here tonight, so I’m sure you can relate.

Let me tell you a little bit about my boys. My oldest, Nicolas or Nico, is 8 years old and just started 3rd grade. He’s a passionate soccer player and loves everything about the sport. Romeo is 5 years old, and just started kindergarten. He’s a big fan of Superman and enjoys all the movies, books and toys. Vincent is 3 years old and is currently in pre-school. He can’t get enough of dinosaurs, and already knows many of their names – and how to accurately pronounce them.

Thanks to Children’s Home & Aid and the Hoffmann Center, Nico, Romeo and Vincent have received the best education and care possible.

I learned about the Hoffmann Center from a family member when Nico, my oldest, was a toddler. I needed to work but was nervous about leaving him with someone outside of my family. My worries were for nothing, because Nico absolutely loved the Hoffmann Center and his teachers. It was truly a weight off my shoulders to find such a safe and loving environment for him. Nico was very well-cared for at the Hoffmann Center and received an excellent early childhood education that helped him become the successful student he is today. He especially enjoyed the “Raising a Reader” program when he brought home a bag full of books we could read and share as a family.

When my second boy, Romeo, was born, I struggled with postpartum depression. I didn’t know if I could go back to work and leave my two boys for full days. Since I knew how much Nico loved the Hoffmann Center, I talked to the staff about my worries. Their kindness and concern put me at ease. I enrolled both boys at the Hoffmann Center for full days and returned to work. At first I called throughout the day to check on my boys – but everyone was so patient and helped me through my anxiety.

The teachers and staff at the Hoffmann Center have all been amazing. About a year and a half after enrollment, Romeo developed a life-threatening illness that put him in the hospital for two weeks. During this time I received several calls from his teachers, asking how Romeo was doing. I was so comforted, knowing how much they cared about my son! When he was able to return to the Hoffmann Center, we learned that the illness had effected his speech and hearing – and he had developed a speech impediment.

But Romeo was in good hands. His teachers at the Hoffmann Center took the time to help him. He wouldn’t have received this extra attention anywhere else. Though he had difficulty in social situations at first, his teachers really helped him come out of his shell. He even made faster progress than anyone, including his doctors, had expected.

It was also around this time that my husband and I separated. With two boys and one on the way, I was worried that I could no longer afford for my boys to be enrolled at the Hoffmann Center. I turned to the staff with my financial concerns. They helped me with my budget and made it possible for me to afford the care that I needed.

And then there’s my baby, Vincent. He’s been enrolled at the Hoffmann Center since he was an infant and is currently in pre-school there. Now, at 3 years old, his vocabulary is beyond that of most children his age. His pediatrician expresses time and time again that he’s very intelligent. People often stop to ask how old he is, amazed that he sounds so grown up.

I’m so proud of my boys and how much they’ve learned at the Hoffman Center. It’s truly changed our lives, and the lives of hundreds of other families throughout Chicagoland. It’s provided a lifeline to my children, enabling us to survive our challenging circumstances.

I realize this type of amazing opportunity only happens because of the support of everyone in this room—so I’d like to thank you for everything you’ve done for my boys and I. My family is now thriving, and our future is bright!