Wagner strives to assist Misericordia
In this Dec. 27, 2010, photo, Fenwick's Meredith Boardman (30) backs off from Regina's Abby Wagner (4). Visit wilmette.suntimes.com/sports to view a photo gallery from Monday's game at Resurrection. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:12AM
CHICAGO — For about as long as Abby Wagner can remember, the Regina senior girls basketball player has been involved with Misericordia.
The charitable organization has a long history in the greater Chicago area, dating to 1921, and now supports more than 600 children and adults with various developmental disabilities at Misericordia Home in the Edgewater neighborhood.
Wagner said she was about 6 years old when she first attended a Misericordia fundraising event with her mother, Tracey, as well as older siblings Nicole, Greg, Chloe and Samantha. Tracey Wagner first became involved after being recruited by a family friend.
Throughout her life, Abby Wagner has done volunteer work for Misericordia’s Candy Day, its annual Family Days event, and at its Christmas Brunch. Bruno Roti, her maternal grandfather, and Tim Roti, her uncle, co-own Bruno’s Lounge, a North Side tavern which hosts an annual Misericordia fundraiser party each May. Abby Wagner’s father, Greg, also volunteers at the various events.
“Because I’ve been around it for so long, it’s second nature to me,” Abby Wagner said.
Abby Wagner is so entrenched in Misericordia that last summer she decided to start a club, Heart at Work, with Regina teammate and classmate Mary Kate Palmer. Other Regina students came on board after school started. The idea is to spend even more time doing volunteer work for Misericordia, while spreading the word about the organization as well.
“I want to open everyone’s eyes to what Misericordia does, and how great of a community it is,” Abby Wagner said, adding that Heart at Work is planning a dance social, to be held at Regina, with all proceeds benefiting Misericordia. “When you go (to Misericordia Home), you can tell the care the caretakers have for the residents. You get this vibe there that (the residents) care about you, too. I feel personally blessed and happy to be there.
“The residents are funny, happy — they choose the happy side of life. They don’t know hate. With the club, I just want people to feel how I feel about (the residents). They just have a positive impact on my life.”
Abby Wagner said the residents always have a smile on their faces, laugh often and give visitors hugs.
A guard who scored seven points in Regina’s 62-52 loss at Resurrection Monday, Abby Wagner has a fan in Kerry Durham. The Panthers coach said she’s been aware of the family’s involvement with Misericordia since Abby Wagner was a grade-school basketball player.
“I can’t say enough about the family. They’re really neat,” Durham said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Abby. She’s extremely mature for her age — a top-notch kid. A lot of kids at Catholic schools do volunteer work, but it’s also important for them to understand how others are suffering. So to be aware about it, and to give your time, that says a lot. And her family does so much for (Misericordia).”
Greg Wagner said that he became hooked on volunteering for Misericordia soon after getting involved.
“It’s hard to explain,” he said. “You spend time with these people, and you get addicted — you want to help them out. They just have the greatest personalities. They’ve got love in their hearts.”