30th anniversary personal for Wellness House board chair

Wellness House Board of Directors Chair Lauren Haarlow has had a front-row seat to the Hinsdale-based nonprofit's evolution since its early years helping those with cancer live and thrive.

Her father-in-law, Bill Haarlow, was instrumental in the organization's founding in 1990, and Lauren Haarlow cherishes contributing to that legacy.

"Wellness House was always part of what we did as a family," she said.

Many families would undoubtedly attest to the vital role Wellness House has played on their cancer journeys over the last three decades. Haarlow credited quality programs and gifted staff as factors in achieving the milestone.

"I think we do a wonderful job helping (participants) navigate their treatment and providing them with the kind of friendship and camaraderie that they can't really get from their family and friends," she said.

The volume and breadth of offerings have expanded considerably over the years to meet the needs of patients and their loved ones.

"More and more now, people are living with cancer and they're living rich, full lives. And Wellness House helps them do that," Haarlow said.

Serving on the board affords her a unique and inspiring window into lives being renewed.

"My favorite part of the board meeting is when we have a participant come in. Hearing them share their stories firsthand of the relationships they've built or the advice they've received has had the most impact on me because you realize how meaningful the work is," Haarlow said.

On Oct. 17, an online Wellness Ball will give all supporters a chance to reflect and rejoice (see Page 24 for details).

"I think people are ready to celebrate, and I think after 30 years, Wellness House has a lot to celebrate," she said.

Haarlow herself is an experienced party planner, having co-chaired Wellness House's 20th anniversary bash as well as the 25th reunion for her Denison University graduating class. Another important philanthropic outlet is National Charity League, a mother-daughter community service organization.

"I like serving with my daughters. That's been a really neat opportunity," she said.

COVID-19 has posed a new threat to cancer patients and prompted Wellness House to quickly pivot its delivery model.

"The pandemic has enabled us to get that online programming out to more people and accelerated a plan that we've had for a long time," she said. "We found that we were able to reach many more people than we were able to before."

Wellness House's innovative spirit and close collaboration between staff and board members will continue a trajectory of vibrancy.

"We're looking to deliver our programs to more people who need the help in all different kinds of communities, and I am very thankful to have a board that is supportive of that ideal," she said.

- story by Ken Knutson,

photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean