In commemorating Memorial Day in the past five years, 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea has raised money and provided donations by hosting a fundraiser for Help a Hero, which provides programs that assist military veterans.

This year, Help a Hero will benefit the Road Home Program, a Rush University Medical Center service that provides support for veterans coping with mental-health issues.

Throughout June, supporters can purchase shirts, lawn signs or craft beers from two local breweries in support of Road Home, which was founded in 2014.

Supporting Road Home was an easy decision for O’Shea because Beverly resident Modie Lavin, whose son, U.S. Marine Cpl. Conner Lowry, was killed in action in Afghanistan nine years ago, works for the program.

“Modie is a dear friend and obviously passionate in her advocacy to help veterans,” O’Shea said. “It’s just what this organization has done in a few short years, assisting veterans and their families with mental-health treatment. This is just a way for the residents of our community to show their support for veterans and their families. They’ve sacrificed so much for our country. I think it’s important that we all step up and play a small role in this.”

T-shirts for adults are available for $15, and youth shirts cost $10. Lawn signs are $20.

All of the items carry the same message: “Freedom Isn’t Free.”

Since Road Home’s inception, nearly 3,000 veterans, service members and their families have received mental-health treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, substance-use disorders and other health issues. Many of the veterans and family members who take part in Road Home are not eligible for VA services.

According to O’Shea, several activities will also be scheduled throughout the 19th Ward in June to raise awareness about mental health in conjunction with National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month.

Horse Thief Hollow and Open Outcry brewing companies will offer specialized beers for the month, with $1 from the sale of each beer sold donated to Road Home.

“As a program, Road Home has never been busier than we are right now,” said Road Home Associate Clinical Director Brian Klassen in a news release. “Throughout COVID, we quickly transitioned to virtual clinical services that allowed us to continue providing care, even during some uncertain times for many of our veterans and families. We have a team of talented, dedicated clinicians who are passionate about working with veterans because many of them are either veterans themselves or they have a family member who served. The results of the work we do are literally life-changing for so many we serve. We thank everyone who helps to support the Help a Hero program, which will help to support this important and vital work.”

Since her son’s death, Lavin has maintained her courage and an upbeat attitude. She helped establish the Conner T. Lowry Foundation, and the foundation has provided thousands of dollars in scholarships to students who, as Lowry did, attended St. John Fisher Elementary School. The school’s gym was renovated and named in his honor in 2019.

Lavin has been active locally, helping to restore a World War I memorial in the Dan Ryan Woods and working with Road Home staff in cleaning Beverly Park, which features a memorial to her son.

O’Shea said he is honored to call Lavin a friend.

“She’s a classic example of someone who’s experienced such a tragedy,” O’Shea said, “and turned that pain into something positive.”

To purchase a shirt or lawn sign, text (855) 202-2100 or visit the19thward.com.