How philanthropy helps families like Olivia’s through difficult times

Carmenia and Olivia Brooks

In the best of times, life is challenging for Carmenia Brooks and her 12-year-old daughter, Olivia.

“My daughter has a lot of medical issues, and I’m a single working mother,” explained Carmenia. “We also don’t have any family here to support us.”

They do get care and support through an at-home nursing agency, but Carmenia often has to make tough decisions alone.

“It’s hard to be a parent of a child with special needs. If she’s sick, do I go to work to support our family – or stay home to care for her? A small thing like the common cold can turn into a major illness for her.”

Recently, Olivia was taken to Advocate Children’s Hospital – Oak Lawn via ambulance. She was diagnosed with influenza A and tracheitis, an infection of the trachea. Six days later, she was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), where she spent her 12th birthday.

“She was tested for COVID-19, but that came back negative,” said Carmenia. “She spent three weeks in the PICU and another week on one of the patient floors. We’ve spent many holidays in the hospital, but this was the first time she had a birthday in the PICU.”

An amazing blessing

Carmenia is a hair stylist but has been unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, care through the nursing agency was reduced because of the virus. Still, she’s not one to ask for help.

“When the hospital’s social worker reached out to offer financial assistance, I was initially taken aback. I’ve always been self-sufficient and able to support my daughter,” she shared. “But I knew we needed help. It was an amazing blessing.”

That help came from Advocate Charitable Foundation’s Antoinette’s Kids Fund, which was established decades ago by a longstanding volunteer and her daughter. The fund helped cover Carmenia’s rent so she could focus on caring for Olivia.

“I wasn’t expecting it, but it truly was a godsend. It really helped us through this challenging and difficult time.”

While so much about their future is uncertain and even scary, Carmenia will do everything she can to support her daughter and make sure she’s as healthy as possible.

“She’s the best kid. All she wants is love, and she deserves the very best.”

How you can help

You can help provide financial assistance to families just like Olivia’s. To learn more, please contact Emily Vernon at or 630-929-6906.