A grieving community began on Monday to mourn and raise money for five members of a Rolling Meadows family who died along with another child in their van and the driver of an oncoming traffic going the wrong way on I-90 in McHenry County. .
Meanwhile, Palatine Township Elementary District announced 15 counseling services to help the community cope with the tragic loss of the mother and five students.
Troopers responded to the scene near Hampshire at 2:11 a.m. Sunday, where a 2005 Chevrolet van and a 2010 Acura TSX went up in flames.
Six passengers in the van were killed: 31-year-old Lauren Dobosz of Rolling Meadows, her four children — 13-year-old Emma, 7-year-old Lucas, 6-year-old Nicholas and 5-year-old Ella. — and another 13-year-old girl who was a friend of the family.
The driver of the Acura, 22-year-old Jennifer Fernandez from Carpentersville, was also killed.
The driver of the van, 32-year-old Thomas Dobosz of Rolling Meadows, was flown by helicopter to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood with serious injuries.
State police said the Acura was traveling east in the westbound lanes of I-90 “for unknown reasons” and struck the van head-on.
Lauren and Tom Dobosz were active with the Oriole Park Falcons, a youth travel soccer and cheer program on the northwest side of Chicago.
Ryan Cooper, cheer director for the Falcons, said, “I coached with Lauren for a few years and after taking over as cheer director on the program, she was my right-hand man.”
She added that Lauren was part of the backbone of the program, helping with coaching and gifts for the parents and coaches, as well as being a soccer mom.
“She always made sure our boys had everything they needed for their game,” Cooper said. “Lauren was a people person. She thought about everyone before herself. She made sure everyone was taken care of.”
Cooper said Tom was the “best happy dad we’ve ever had,” adding that he took over one of the concession stands to make sure the kids had cold water and hot food.
Ryan said the couple was “always hands-on. They were always willing to do whatever they had to do for the program, for the kids.”
She said Tom was a handyman, “which he did best.”
Friends said their oldest daughter’s family and boyfriend were vacationing in Minnesota on Sunday.
Balloons were released over Oriole Park Monday night, many hanging from the trees and one, in the shape of a heart, hovering above the large crowd who heard the many speakers pay tribute.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t cry tonight. This is a celebration of life,” said Luis Hernandez, one of the Falcons coaches.
“In the short time these kids lived, they had a huge impact on all of us here. I coached Lucas last year and I can tell you that one season had a huge impact on my life. And I coached Nicky for two days. little boy told me, “When I get back from Minnesota, Coach, I can’t wait to come back and practice.” Those words will stay with me forever, and we’ll always keep their names alive.”
Other speakers included Ashley Siek, who was a cheerleader at Ridgewood High School with Lauren, and Lauren’s younger brother,
A GoFundMe account, set up to raise money for funeral expenses, featured a message from the Oriole Park Falcons, which read: “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our beloved cheerleader Lauren Dobosz, along with her beautiful children Emma , Luke, Nicholas and Ella and gracious friend Kat.”
Mourners at Monday night’s memorial service further identified Kat as Katriona Koziara, Emma’s girlfriend from Rolling Meadows.
Natalia Lenkiewicz of Rolling Meadows said Kat moved to the United States from Scotland at the age of 8 and was a talented break dancer.
“She was one of a kind,” Lenkiewicz said.
By Monday night, the GoFundMe campaign had raised nearly $47,000 of its $50,000 goal.
The Rolling Meadows Police Department is also accepting online donations for the local victims of the crash. The fundraiser, called the RMPD Hope Fund, had raised about $8,000 from a $100,000 goal Monday night and can be found at gofundme.com/f/rmpd-hope-fund.
District 15 Superintendent Laurie Heinz addressed the school community on Sunday and Monday with statements pledging the support of the district’s resources in the grieving process.
“We are just heartbroken and in both shock and grief at the tragic loss of five students and one of our parents,” Heinz wrote. “Our efforts are now focused on providing support to our entire community, with a special emphasis on Willow Bend Elementary, Central Road Elementary and Carl Sandburg Junior High, where the students attended school.”
Heinz added that support is also provided to the teachers and staff who knew the students well.
“Personal, virtual or drop-in support for students, their families and staff will be provided for the remainder of this week by trained mental health professionals from District 15,” Heinz continued. “In addition, a Caregiver Support Training will be available on Tuesday, August 2, for both staff and parents. This training will provide parents and staff with information on responses to watch out for and how to support children and themselves during this difficult time .”
At the Tuesday meeting, comfort dogs will also be available for additional support.
“It goes without saying that this is a devastating loss to all of us here in District 15, especially as we look to the start of the new school year when their absence will be deeply felt,” Heinz wrote.
• Daily Herald authors Alice Fabbre and Doug T. Graham contributed to this report.