Andrea Thome

Andrea Thome (Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune / September 5, 2013)

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 ( 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?