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MLK Day 2024: Bricks of Hope offers therapeutic distraction for sick kids

Gina LoGalbo, right, talks with Bricks of Hope founder Adam Petraglia during the 2023 MLK Day of Service Lego collection.
(Eric Crump photos and video/H-F Chronicle)

Building things with Lego brick sets is fun, but the activity also can be a lifeline to kids battling serious illness, as one local family can attest.

Gina LoGalbo’s MLK Day of Service project for the second year is collecting new Lego sets for Bricks of Hope, a project that delivers the sets to kids who need the distraction and the sense of control they get from focusing on building things.

Gina LoGalbo of Flossmoor talks about her family’s experience with illness
and how receiving Lego sets helped her sons deal with treatments.

Flossmoor’s village clerk has a personal stake in the project. Two of her sons, Iván and Lázaro, have been recipients of Lego sets from the program.

LoGalbo will be collecting new Lego sets from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 15, at Flossmoor village hall, 2800 Flossmoor Road.

She said Iván discovered a tumor on his back in April 2022, just before he planned to join the Illinois National Guard. While he was undergoing chemotherapy, he received a Lego set from Bricks of Hope.

“I had actually seen a news program about this program, so I knew about it,” she said during the 2023 MLK Day of Service collection. “It kept him busy while he was recovering from the treatment. It’s such a great distraction for the kids who are not feeling well.”

The program founder, Adam Petraglia, started the program in December 2021 based on his own experience with cancer as a child.

“(I was) diagnosed with leukemia on my 11th birthday,” he said. “Now (I’m) trying to deliver the same feeling that I had when I was sick. Legos were a big part of my recovery, playing with the bricks for an extended hospital stay about six months.”

Petraglia said at the 2023 MLK Day of Service in Flossmoor that the program had delivered more than 2,600 Lego sets to ailing kids over a 13-month period.

LoGalbo reported that Iván is doing well in his cancer battle. He recently had his chemo port removed after recent scans indicated he is clear of cancer.

She said the 2021 H-F High School graduate has a job and is studying in the Moraine Valley Community College culinary arts program.

“He’s a wonderful big brother and is very helpful to Joe and I,” she said.

His little brother, Lázaro, 8, has had his own health issues that a Lego set from Bricks of Hope helped him cope with.

He was hospitalized at Comer Children’s Hospital for three days in December due to asthma-related issues, LoGalbo said.

“Legos really helped to keep him busy and distracted from the boredom of being in the hospital,” she said. “He is an active child, loves to design and create, run and play, so being cooped up in a hospital bed was rough for him. Keeping him busy with Legos during the stay was so helpful.”

The benefits her sons got from the Lego sets motivated her to help the project.

“I wanted to give back, and I thought this would be a great way to give back,” she said.

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