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Aurelio's Pizza brought along some cheer and comfort to children undergoing treatment and frontline essential workers at Advocate Children’s Hospital, 4400 95th St, Oak Lawn, by donating 500 personal-sized pizzas on a mobile pizza truck, along with custom-made cookies, to the hospital on National Pizza Party Day on Friday, May 21.

Aurelio's Pizza brought along some cheer and comfort to children undergoing treatment and frontline essential workers at Advocate Children’s Hospital, 4400 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn, by donating 500 personal-sized pizzas on a mobile pizza truck, along with custom-made cookies, to the hospital on National Pizza Party Day on Friday, May 21. (Photos by Kelly White)

Aurelio’s holds pizza party for children and staff at Advocate Children’s Hospital

By Kelly White

Every year on the third Friday in May, pizza lovers across the nation share their love of pizza on National Pizza Party Day. Celebrated this year on Friday, May 21, Aurelio’s Pizza was ready.

The family-owned pizzeria brought along some cheer and comfort to children undergoing treatment at Advocate Children’s Hospital, 4400 W. 95th St. in Oak Lawn, by donating 500 personal-sized pizzas on a mobile pizza truck, along with custom-made cookies, to the hospital on National Pizza Party Day.

As a food that brings people together, the pizzas were given out to not only children within the hospital who were able to have pizza, but also to their family members and Advocate Children’s Hospital’s frontline essential workers.

“I know firsthand what it’s like to have a child in the hospital and no matter what the treatment is, it’s scary and disorienting and lonely,” Joe Aurelio’s, CEO of Aurelio’s Pizza, said.

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Joe Aurelio’s, CEO of Aurelio’s Pizza, was proud to deliver 500 pizzas to Advocate Children’s Hospital, 4400 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn, for children, their families and frontline healthcare workers on Friday, May 21.

Aurelio’s infant son, Austin, passed away from a serious heart defect in 1997 at just 15 days old.

Since then, the Aurelio family has made it their mission to help those in similar circumstances.

“Advocate Children’s Hospital had the best doctors around for the heart surgery he (Austin) needed,” Aurelio said. “I am always trying to give back. That’s just part of Aurelio’s Pizza’s culture.”

Aurelio’s Pizza has directly donated and helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Advocate Children’s Hospital.

“We have a longstanding relationship with Aurelio’s,” Jackie Pufundt, Director of Development at Advocate Children’s Hospital, said. “They delivered pizzas to our frontline staff last May, as well, in the heat of the pandemic.”

Just some of the establishments’ heartfelt contributions included a pop-up pizza party in Maggie Daley Park in downtown Chicago on National Pizza Party, where Aurelio’s Pizza collected donations and gave out free slices of pizza to everyone who donated in 2019.

As safety restrictions were tightened in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Aurelio’s Pizza hosted what owners called a virtual pizza party last May.

During the live-streamed online fundraiser, guests including Dolton-native actress Jane Lynch to Chicago sports celebrities including Brian Urlacher, Jeremy Roenick, Ozzie Guillen and Ron Kittle participated in a variety show.

Musical performances were made by Dennis DeYoung of Styx and The Chicago Children’s Choir. All donated proceeds went directly to benefit Advocate Children’s Hospital.

Keeping things smaller and much more personal this year is something that hit close to home for Aurelio. To him, the decision for this year’s Pizza Party Day was an easy one, as it was all about the children and frontline essential workers within Advocate Children’s Hospital.

“We’ve had big events on National Pizza Party Day before to bring people together, but this year we wanted to focus on people that can’t be with too many others but who are also so focused on others’ well-being,” Aurelio said. “They’re not alone and if we can bring them a little bit of comfort that’s what we need to do.”

The 500 pizzas were made at Aurelio’s Homewood location, 18162 Harwood Ave, Homewood, but the generosity did not end there. Aurelio made sure night-shift workers could also partake even though they were not working during the delivery, by giving out 150 Aurelio’s gift cards to those employees.

The pizzas were delivered in two shifts with 250 pizzas dropped off at the hospital in the afternoon and another 250 pizzas dropped off in the evening, giving patients and staff members the option to enjoy either lunch or dinner.

“We are so grateful for the continued support of the Aurelio family and Aurelio’s Pizza,” Dr. Andrew Van Bergen, director, Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care at Advocate Children’s Hospital, said. “Today’s delivery of 500 pizzas is a wonderful reminder to our caregivers that the community appreciates the work they continue to do”.

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