Floridamae "Flo" Vanderpool lived in Orland Park most of her life, and spent years seeing the world with her sister Lois by her side. The two visited almost every continent, and each brought back a souvenir from their explorations—often the same souvenir.
When Vanderpool passed away in 2008, she left every trinket, her entire estate and her personal fortune in the hands of her investment advisor and good family friend Gary Bertacchi. She asked that Bertacchi keep her charity foundation, the Cord-Vanderpool Foundation, up and running, sharing her wealth with those in need.
On Dec. 19, Bertacchi dropped off a $6,000 check made out to the , an Orland Park-based charity that delivers toys into the hands of children undergoing cancer treatments nationwide. The donation brought Cord-Vanderpool's total contribution to $11,000 since November.
Treasure Chest founder and Director Colleen Kisel was floored by the generosity. With a goal of reaching every child enduring cancer treatment nationwide, any contribution—monetary or toy—is appreciated. The Treasure Chest currently stocks the closets and toy trunks of 39 cancer treatment centers nationwide, putting toys in the hands of about 7,600 children undergoing treatments each month.
"Little ones, they don't know what cancer is. They just know that it hurts," Kisel .
Kisel started the foundation after watching her son fight and defeat Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia as a 7-year-old. Toys were often used as incentives leading up to treatments, and it worked like a charm every time, Kisel said.
Though Vanderpool had no children of her own, she stressed that her money be used to help children. With that in mind, Bertacchi handpicks the charities to which they contribute, focusing on children and animals in need, because he believes it's what Vanderpool would have wanted. The foundation has pitched in to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, in Mokena, St. Coletta's in Tinley Park, Palos Park Police Department's Cadet Program and Orland Park's Disabled Patriot Fund. Bertacchi also donates some funds to .
Though the foundation was formed before her death, Bertacchi could not convince her to take credit for the good she was bringing into the world.
"She didn't want to be in the spotlight," Bertacchi said. "She was a very caring person, she put herself out there to help people."
Children in distress and animals in need seem like a natural focus for the foundation, Bertacchi said. The foundation is currently working to raise awareness of child sexual abuse.
"It touched a nerve," he said. "It's really just people who can't help themselves."
"We hope our efforts inspire you to go out and pay it forward," the Cord-Vanderpool website reads. "It is our goal to try our very best to leave this world a better place than how we found it—even if we have to take it one person at a time to do so."
The Cord-Vanderpool Foundation is based in Orland Park. They can be reached at 708-590-6253. Read more about the foundation on its website.