Mattea’s Joy, named after Mattea Joy Freedlund, provides comfort to those with hospitalized children, particularly at Comer Children’s

CHICAGO– When Grammy winner Mads Tolling played for parents of children being treated at Comer Children’s Hospital, Jamie Freedlund discovered a mother who was taking it upon herself to do it all.

“There was this mother listening and tears rolling down her face,” Freedlund said. “She only had a minute to feel the emotion.”

Tolling was invited to play by a charity founded by Freedlund and her husband Gary called Mattea’s Joy. The nonprofit organization provides dinners, snack boxes and other support to families with children in the hospital.

“I firmly believe that music heals,” Tolling said. “I feel like I can is that I can inspire people.”

The Freedlunds formed Mattea’s Joy in honor of their daughter, Mattea Joy Freedlund, who died in 2010. The couple spent several hospital stints with Mattea as she battled a variety of health challenges during her short but impactful life.

“I remember very vividly the day she died,” Gary said. “We walked out holding hands and said, ‘Well, are you ready to jump?’ We didn’t know what to expect next.”

A family fundraiser was planned prior to Mattea’s death and the couple decided to use the money to cook meals for families whose children were hospitalized at Comer Children’s Hospital. Soon the dinners became a regular occurrence and their non-profit organization was born. Its mission is to provide care and comfort to families like you.

“We specifically wanted these parents, sitting in seats that we were sitting in, to feel cared for and to feel like they were connecting with people,” Jamie said.

Erin Worsham experienced the trauma and frustration of being the parent of a sick child while her son was being treated for a brain tumor. Now on the board of Mattea’s Joy, she says it feels good to give back by volunteering frequently with the nonprofit.

“I remember sitting across from a mother who told me about her situation,” Worsham said. “I could say, ‘I’ve been where you are. It’s going to be okay.'”

Mattea’s Joy’s current projects include serving dinner to about 100 families a month, distributing snack boxes to hospitals, and providing packages of gift cards and parking passes. Jamie Freedlund said parents with sick children are in “survival mode” when they are first admitted.

“There’s just so much out of your control when you have a sick kid,” Freedlund said. “It’s lonely.”

Reese Freedlund, 15, was just 3 years old when her sister Mattea died. She said Mattea’s memory lives on in her family’s volunteer work, which is rooted in everything they do.

“Mattea’s Joy has really become a part of our lives and all the parts are growing up,” Reese said. “Even though she died, her life was an inspiration for my parents to do something more with it.”

Since Mattea’s death, the Freedlunds have added two boys to their family, Cooper, 11, and Kipton, 7. Cooper has learned valuable lessons by helping families through organization.

“Matteas Joy taught me to always serve others and just be kind,” Cooper said.

“No matter how challenging life circumstances get, you can still find joy in it,” Jamie said. “I think it’s beautiful to choose joy, even in the midst of darkness.”

For more information about Mattea’s Joy and how you can support her work, visit Mattea’s Joy, named after Mattea Joy Freedlund, provides comfort to those with hospitalized children, particularly at Comer Children’s

Laura Coffey

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