Interest in foster kids growing after AJ Freund's death

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (WLS) -- In the aftermath of the murder of 5-year-old AJ Freund, a one time foster child, hundreds of people and groups have been collecting supplies to help ease the transition for other foster children.

Wednesday, truckloads of boxes and bags filled with duffel bags, backpacks and supplies were dropped off day at a warehouse in Crystal Lake as the interest to help foster kids grows.

Lisa Johnson collected supplies from the McHenry County Courthouse where Freund's biological parents are being tried for murder.

"We took up a collection of things that are gonna be needed," said Johnson.

But it's not just supplies, there is a critical need for more foster parents according to 'Let It Be Us,' a non-profit that recruits foster parents. They said AJ's death has sparked new interest at informational meetings.

"Since the AJ tragedy we have seen a tremendous increase in awareness and people reaching out," said Let It Be Us Board Chairman Bob Noonan.

Six years ago Noonan and his wife took in two foster children they have since adopted. They said the need is overwhelming, with nearly 18,000 kids in Illinois placed in foster care.

"Over half of them never go home, so they need love and guidance that a family brings," said Noonan.

Volunteers with the 'Stuff the Duffel' effort hope to make it easier on those kids.

"The community has stepped up and involvement has been amazing," said organizer Alicia Wehby.

The duffel bags are designed to get foster kids through the first few days in a placement with a family. Wehby said this is just the first step.

In an effort to do something more permanent, Wehby and other organizers have started a nonprofit called 'Second Bridge' which is designed to provide for the needs of foster children for the long term. It would be a permanent tribute to the tragic death of AJ Freund.
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