We live in a world of misanthropes. Want proof? Look at the comments following almost any story on this newspaper's website.
But Andrea Thome has an answer.
As a member of the Woman's Board of Children's Home + Aid, and with her connections to a host of other charities, she deals with a lot of people, the majority of whom are wonderful, she says. And yet …
"There are some people who are just miserable," says Thome, 41. "And I remember what my mother would say: 'Send them some white light and send them on their way.' I think if you show some kindness to them, maybe you plant a seed."
Andrea Thome and her husband, Jim, the former major league slugger who's now a special assistant for the White Sox, have planted a lot of those seeds through the years. They've done charitable work along the many stops of Jim's 22-year career. Now, she says, "we've put down roots" in the western suburbs.
Born in Detroit, Thome has spent much of her life living in different parts of the U.S., including West Virginia and Ohio.
A graduate of Bowling Green State University with a degree in journalism, she interned at "Entertainment Tonight" and went on to a broadcasting career covering sports and entertainment in Toledo, Ohio, and Cleveland.
"I'm reluctant to admit this, but in 1993 I competed in the Miss USA pageant, live on CBS, representing my home state as Miss Ohio USA," Thome says.
Thome has been involved with Children's Home + Aid (childrenshomeandaid.org) since 2006. The 130-year-old organization's mission is "to give children help, hope and opportunity." It helps with adoption, counseling, child care, fostering, parent support and other family issues.
This year, Thome's participation included co-chairing the gala held Sept. 6; it's the Woman's Board's biggest fundraiser of the year. Her role included myriad tasks, all with the goal of raising funds for the organization's programs.
"This year's gala raised nearly $600,000," she reports, "which is very exciting."
Thome talked about her charitable work and her family — Jim and daughter, Lila, and son, Landon, both in elementary school.
Following is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Q: Your involvement with Children's Home + Aid seems to be growing.
A: When Jim was traveling (as a player), it was hard to commit more time. Then last year they asked me to deliver the keynote at the gala. Then they asked me to be on the Woman's Board. Then they asked me to co-chair the (2013) gala.
Q: Both you and Jim have a long history of helping others. Where does this come from?
A: For my whole life, charity has been very important to me. My mom was very philanthropic. When we lived in West Virginia (as a child), every Christmas we used to adopt a family. But we didn't just get them gifts for Christmas, and that was it. We stayed in touch with them after. Later I was a candy striper. Why, I don't know; I can't stand the sight of blood.
Q: One very cool thing, You still do things for charities in other cities where you and Jim lived. What are some of those?
A: We've tried to stay connected with at least one or two organizations in each of the cities where Jim has played and we have lived. Other passions of ours are the Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center in Cleveland, the Near West Theatre in Cleveland (an intergenerational theater with an emphasis on helping youth), Cheerful Givers in Minneapolis (which provides birthday gift bags for needy children), Tapestry (a Minneapolis center for women and children in crisis) and Maternity Care Coalition in Philadelphia.
Q: How did you end up working with Children's Home + Aid?
A: When we were at spring training (in 2006, Jim's first year with the Sox), we sat down with (team officials) Katie Kirby and Christine O'Reilly. … And they asked where would we like to help out. We both said children, women and children, families in crisis. That was our sweet spot. Christine thought of Children's Home + Aid and paired us with the Konerkos (White Sox slugger Paul and his wife, Jennifer). We started doing events: back-to-school shopping (for foster kids), bike shopping.
Q: You have two young kids and the charity work. Do you have time for hobbies?
A: In high school I was a four-year letter winner in tennis. In the spring I started playing again after 20 years. Now I can't get enough. I run. Music. Travel. And reading. I love to read.
Q: What kind of music do you like?
A: I like everything. Country. U2 is my favorite band. When I'm running I listen to everything. I've often said that people would think I was crazy if they saw my playlist. Metallica. The Dixie Chicks. I'm a child of the '80s, after all.
Q: With something like the Woman's Board, do you spend all your time putting out fires or do you get to enjoy yourself?
A: They are a really cool, diverse group of women. I was always averse to being on boards, to do lunches. No offense to women who do lunches. But these ladies are just superfun. They're great to work with. And they do good things. Jim and I have always been careful about charities, where the money ends up. But at Children's Home + Aid, 85 percent of what they raise goes to the people needing help.
Q: In all your time doing this, what stands out the most?
A: I love the back-to-school shopping. It breaks your heart, but it also makes you happy. The kids get pencils, and they're so happy. But it wasn't the pencils or the notebooks, it was us letting them know that people care. We want to make their lives easier. That's all any of us want.
Q: What if people want to help?
A: They can do anything. Visit our centers in Englewood or Schaumburg; we'll show you in the flesh what Children's Home + Aid does. Come to a Woman's Board meeting. Come to one of our events; kick the tires and see what we're all about. They can also write a check, of course. This organization is always time and money well spent.
Andrea Thome says she's inspired by a lot of different things: "I'm inspired by music. I'm inspired by my kids. When I see my daughter at her school working with Feed My Starving Children, I'm inspired. Seeing people living the struggle, but with grace and dignity, that's inspiring. I see someone who can't walk volunteer — why shouldn't I volunteer? Why shouldn't anyone?"Copyright © 2015, CT Now