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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Lorena La Grassa Family Fund

Last month the Evanston arts community lost Lorena La Grassa, to her 4 year battle with cancer. She left behind a husband, 2 young sons, and a daughter with autism. The family needs help, please take the time to view the Crowdrise page for the Conde family, and consider contributing in whatever way you can.

Lorena's story:

School has just started, and as summer freedom gives way to long days in the classroom, the three children of the Conde family struggle with a much more difficult transition.  Their mother, Lorena LaGrassa, passed away on August 9, 2015, after a 4-year struggle with melanoma.  A beautiful wife, mother and visual artist, Lorena gave all she had to raise and nurture her children, particularly her 11-year-old daughter, Mila, who has autism.  Now their father, Derek Conde, needs to be home to help Mila and her two brothers, Giacamo (13) and Marco (10), come to terms with their new circumstances.  We are raising $20,000 to help the Conde family through the first four months of this difficult time.

Lorena was dedicated to giving her daughter Mila an optimal environment to navigate the difficulties of autism as well as a pristine diet tailored to support the highest mental functioning.  She home schooled Mila, and Mila did well in an environment that was familiar, friendly, and free.  Now Mila will start a new school year without her mother, and leave her familiar home schooling environment to attend the local middle school.

This transition will be difficult.  As a child with autism, Mila requires constant nurturing, guidance, and structure.  Inherent in the condition of autism is the need for “sameness” – rituals and routines.  The transition for Mila will be fraught with frustrations as she struggles to adapt to the loss of her mother at the same time as she enters a completely new world of public school.

Within a week of Lorena’s death, Derek has already attended the first school district meeting for Mila.  There will be frequent IEP (Independent Educational Plan) meetings, particularly in the beginning, as the teachers, teacher’s aids, and administrators learn how they will accommodate Mila.  These changes come only incrementally, and only through further meetings.

In the course of Lorena’s 4-year illness, Lorena and Derek have exhausted both personal and family resources. Derek had taken periodic leaves from work when Lorena became too ill from chemotherapy to care for Mila.  Upon Lorena’s death, once again Derek has had to take a leave of absence from his position at Trader Joe’s to care for the children.  The family needs support to pay for all basic living expenses, including rent, utilities, food, and clothing, as well as childcare and a fund to help ease the constant financial stress.

To help the Conde family during this emotionally and financially trying time, you can contribute in one of three different ways:
- The fastest and easiest way to help, is by making a monetary donation via Crowdrise.
- Via Sign Up Genius, where the Conde's have a weekly grocery list. Go to and "find a sign up" using the email Sign up to contribute as little as 1 item from the list, or as much as the entire list!

- Purchase a piece of jewelry designed by the late Lorena LaGrassa. Etsy shop run and managed by friends of Lorena LaGrassa, on behalf of the family. ALL proceeds go directly to the Conde/LaGrassa family.

Thank you for taking the time to read our story, and please know that every donation, no matter how small, is LARGELY appreciated.

Photograph by Chris Bradley

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