Yorkville-based Brenda Holzer Memorial Foundation supports kids with health challenges

Foundation transforms garage into accessible bedroom and bathroom

The Holzer family (from left to right: Mike, Melanie, Nicholas and Jacob) honors the legacy of mother and wife Brenda Holzer with the Brenda Holzer Memorial Foundation.

Following the tragic passing of 54-year-old Brenda Holzer in March 2022, her family established the Brenda Holzer Memorial Foundation to raise funds for children with health conditions and disability challenges.

Inspired by Brenda’s work as a para-educator in Yorkville School District 115, her Yorkville-based family swiftly established the foundation.

“Brenda was the whole inspiration for me for this, and she gave back to the kids and she loved her job so much,” said Mike Holzer, Brenda’s husband and one of foundation’s creators.

Since its establishment on Nov. 12, 2022, Brenda’s birthday, the foundation has raised more than $50,000 through donations, fundraisers and a variety of other events.

The Brenda Holzer Memorial Foundation was created in honor of Brenda Holzer, a longtime Yorkville para-educator who died in 2022. The foundation aims to support children with disabilities in the Kendall County area.

“[We’ve] probably raised over $50,000, but haven’t allocated all the funds,” said Melanie Holzer, Brenda’s daughter and the foundation’s president. “We wait for applications which are available on [our] website.”

One of the foundation’s most recent projects was for an 8-year-old boy with Cytomegalovirus named Axel Johnson. Because of Johnson’s condition, his family had to carry him up and down stairs to take him to his bedroom and bathroom as he is in a wheelchair. Cytomegalovirus related to the viruses that cause chickenpox and mononucleosis, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The project, which began late 2023 and was finished January 2024, was hands-on and centered around creating a fully functional bedroom and bathroom for Johnson in his family’s garage. The foundation estimated allocating $25,000 on the project.

“We decided that the best thing to do would be to renovate part of their garage into making a fully accessible bedroom with an attached bathroom that they can just, you know, roll him into instead of having to pick him up out of the seats,” Melanie said.

The Brenda Holzer Memorial Foundation completed a project earlier this year for Axel Johnson (8), a child affected by Cytomegalovirus. The foundation renovated the Johnson family's garage into a fully functional bedroom and bathroom for Axel.

A six-foot by six-foot wet room was created to make it easier for Axel to shower. Contractors and utility workers donated their time to help with the project, Mike said.

“His family, like his parents, were just so absolutely grateful, and it was truly life-changing for them,” Melanie said. “Their quality of life was completely changed.”

The foundation’s next project is making another handicap accessible bathroom for a 13-year-old boy with spinal muscular atrophy to prevent his mother and sister from having to carry him to the bathroom. The project will include making other home renovations as well, Mike said.

“Our mission is to help children and their families, so we want to come and help these kids with special needs,” Mike said. “We take it a step further because we’re trying to improve the lives of the parents and the whole family too, so it’s not just about the child; it’s about improving the life of the whole family.”

The foundation has raised thousands of dollars from its fundraisers. Most notable was its silent auction that took place Nov. 18, 2023, at Fox Republic Brewing Co. in Yorkville. Over $10,000 was raised, and the foundation plans to hold another silent auction at Fox Republic Brewing Co. on Nov. 23.

The Brenda Holzer Memorial Foundation held a silent auction on Nov. 18, 2023, at Fox Republic Brewing Co. in Yorkville in which they raised over $10,000. The foundation has another silent auction planned for Nov. 23, 2024, at Fox Republic Brewing.

“It was like a ticket style auction where you could buy tickets to be put in for a raffle,” Melanie said. “It was a really successful first event; it turned out so great. [Fox Republic Brewing Co.] is such a great local company to work with.”

A variety of other fundraisers have been held to raise funds, such as apparel, ornament and cookbook sales. These efforts are crucial for ensuring the foundation can provide immediate support to families in need, Melanie said.

“We think it is really important to focus on the families,” Melanie said. “For example, one of our family’s van broke down, and it was the only way they could transfer their son who is in a wheelchair, so we provided the funds to get the van fixed. It’s just those little things that people take for granted.”

There will be a Portillo’s fundraiser from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, July 29, at 531 N. Randall Road, Batavia, in which 20 percent of sales benefit the foundation. Participants can use code ‘PORTILLOS22′ for online orders, show a flyer or let the cashier know that they’re supporting the fundraiser.

“I think anyone who met my mom knew how kind and how big of a heart she had, so I think being able to take what she did for work to help these children she worked with on a day-to-day basis and loved so much continues her legacy,” Melanie said. “I think she would just be so excited to see what we’ve done.”

For more information or to donate, visit bhmemorialfoundation.org/ or contact contact@bhmemorialfoundation.org. Those in need can fill out applications on the foundation’s website.