Our network

Billy Bear Hug Foundation co-founder honored with philanthropic award | Community Spirit

Title (Max 100 Characters)

Billy Bear Hug Foundation co-founder honored with philanthropic award
Billy Bear Hug Foundation co-founder honored with philanthropic award

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich.--  Billy Bear Hug Foundation co-founder, Charlie Wondergem is being recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals West Michigan.

The group awarded Wondergem their Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award during the 27th annual National Philanthropy Day at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on November 12.

"It's an incredible honor to be recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and nominated by two people for whom I hold a great deal of respect, Deirdre Toeller-Novak and Dr. David Dickens. They have played such an integral role in the development of the Billy Bear Hug model and my own personal and professional development." said Wondergem. 

The Billy Bear Hug Foundation, named in memory of Charlie Wondergem’s brother, William B. Wondergem, is a non-profit in West Michigan which provides quality of life support to children with chronic and terminal illness. Billy Wondergem passed away unexpectedly in October 2010 at the age of 24. He worked as a research technician in the lab of cancer genetics at the Van Andel Institute, where his work was published in several scientific journals and he actively engaged others in his research into Renal Cell Carcinoma. He also volunteered at Spectrum Health’s Butterworth Hospital. 

In the spirit of Billy’s career aspirations, most likely in pediatric oncology, the Billy Bear Hug Foundation was created by Charlie Wondergem and Billy’s long-time friend, Matt French, in 2011, to bridge Bill's passion for medicine with his love for children. The foundation provides teddy bears to young patients at the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital and grants wishes for children with life-limiting illnesses through Hospice of Michigan. In the organization’s first two years of existence, more than 800 children received a “Billy” bear. Billy Bear Hug Foundation is beginning to expand beyond its flagship bear distribution to provide hats to children undergoing chemotherapy, and other accessories for seriously ill children.

"Charlie has demonstrated great compassion and interest in supporting the outstanding medical community that exists in Grand Rapids. He excels at developing a rapid understanding of situations and seeking opinions of advisors,” said Dr. David Dickens, MD, FAAP. “He is an inspiration for those seeking comfort in knowing that it is possible to not only survive, but thrive with grief as a part of one’s life. He is a real superhero for children who will never know his true identity.”

Grand Rapids Central Deals