DuPage County tornado: Fundraiser held to support Woodridge victims struggling to rebuild

ByGreg Dutra, Liz Nagy, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team via WLS logo
Thursday, August 26, 2021
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Wednesday night's crowd-sourcing, or "friend-raising" as they call it, raised money to help victims of the Woodridge tornado.

WOODRIDGE, Ill. (WLS) -- Two months after an EF-3 tornado tore through Woodridge under the cover of darkness, residents are leaning on each other as they rebuild.

The Woodridge Rotary Club hosted a BBQ fundraiser Wednesday evening to help more than 400 families who were hit the hardest.

After they went through the unimaginable on June 20, 2021, every day since then has been spent picking up the pieces.

"We've gotten a new roof, and we've gotten the vast majority of nails out of the lawn," resident Mike Gasparino said. "But there's still a lot we're still waiting on."

SEE ALSO | EF-3 tornado touches down in DuPage County, with damage reported in Woodridge, Naperville

For some, the process has been even slower - one resident said work hasn't even begun on his home. The rain-wrapped tornado tore through the community at night, packing winds up to 140mph.

"I just grabbed my baby, and I asked my mom, 'should we just run into the basement?'" resident Chaitali Shah said.

"I look at the neighbors I know and the neighbors I've just met, that they just happened to be the ones that got hit that day," said Mayor Gina Cunningham.

And that's where Wednesday night's crowd-sourcing, or "friend-raising" as they call it, come in.

"We have been doing direct distributions already based on people who have come forth and are either uninsured or undersinsured," Mayor Cunningham said.

The mayor said the village has already raised at least $30,000 to help alleviate the rebuilding process, and they're hoping to double that number Thursday night. The money will go toward the cause as the village looks toward long-term recovery.

The tornado carved a path over 17 miles long with a maximum width of almost six football fields. One resident described the tornado sounding just like a train, as he'd always been told it might.

But while the memories of that scary night are still fresh in their minds, they all said the community has been there to help every step of the way.

"The amount of support that we've gotten from people in Naperville, Darien and Downers Grove, and everyone around the neighborhood has just been amazing," Gasparino said. "How they'd come out and help, prepare meals, gift cards for this, that and the other. It's, yeah, it's really heartwarming."

There are roughly 65 families who still can't stay in their homes; roofs are still gone, portions of the house have to be rebuilt all together. But donations made here and at more events like it will ease the financial blow.