East Leyden grad remembered after death through fundraising efforts
Carolyn Dundovich and her daughter Shelly Benson started a foundation called Y.E.L.L. for the ingnored. She organized a fundraiser Feb. 9 to benefit American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. | Judy Fidkowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:57AM
FRANKLIN PARK — Danielle Benson liked all sorts of music.
She liked attending concerts, playing guitar and wanted to help her friends.
The East Leyden graduate was also bipolar, depressed and addicted to prescription drugs. After graduation she moved in with her father in Des Plaines, though she’d visit her mother and sister in Franklin Park and see her friends. She didn’t do much else for the next several years.
“Nothing,” her sister Shelly Benson said. “She suffered too much. She couldn’t do anything.”
One day in October 2011, River Grove police officers showed up at her mother’s workplace. Danielle had died in her sleep. Officially the cause was bronchial pneumonia, though her mother Carolyn Dundovich thinks the prescription drugs may have contributed.
Dundovich and Benson both missed Danielle but their reactions differed. Dundovich joined a group called Compassionate Friends, which is for parents who have lost children.
“The first year you after you lose a child, you’re in this, like, fog,” she said. “You’re on autopilot.”
Benson took a different route.
“I just got angry,” she said. “I spent a lot of time alone and being angry.”
Three or four months later, Benson had a few minutes to spare while at beautician school.
“It was one of our classroom days when I wasn’t working in the salon,” she said. “I wrote a bunch of stuff in a notebook and came up with that.”
“That” being the idea for an organization they named YELL for the Ignored. (Danielle was also called “Yell” by her friends).
“I think it was our way of coping,” Dundovich said. “To keep ourselves busy.”
Mother and sister decided to hold fundraisers and raise money for charities. Their first event was in September 2011 at a bar in Des Plaines. It featured six or seven bands and raised about $2,000. The money was contributed to To Write Love on Her Arms, an organization that aims to help those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide
“We kind of flailed through (the fundraiser),” Benson said.
The second event took place on Feb. 9 at the American Legion Post in Franklin Park. Between the cover charge, silent auction, raffle and so on, it raised about $5,000. The money will go to walks held by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The two plan to continue holding fundraisers, with the beneficiaries to be determined.