Bear Hug Foundation

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Every Young Adult Needs a Path to Independence


Our 501(c) (3) foundation serves two separate yet equally important purposes:

Assist high school graduates pursue opportunities in the skilled trades, manufacturing, civil services and other careers that do not require a college degree.

Assist young adults with epilepsy live an independent life.

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On April 24, 2019, our beloved son, Jonathan Robert Denzer, lost his battle with an autoimmune disease with complications from epilepsy. He was 27 years old. Jon was loving, kind, gentle, funny and a giant! At 6’6’’, he towered over all, especially his adoring mother. His love and kindness was evident as soon as he entered a room. He was never hesitant to wrap his arms around you or drape his arms over the shoulders of his friends. He was the best bear hugger ever. We couldn’t help Jon beat the disease that took him from his family and friends way too early. With this foundation we hope to do some good....just like Jon. It is our mission to help young adults achieve their goals and live a meaningful, productive and independent life as Jon did and would have all the days of his life.


Path to Good Scholarship Awards Program

High School graduates who have the desire to pursue educational and vocational opportunities versus a college education path. There is a great need in our country for skilled labor of all types. These fields provide an opportunity to learn a skill and will provide a fulfilling and productive career.  

Epilepsy Safety Net Program

Young adults with epilepsy, at times, will be in need of help. These challenges will come in the form of unexpected medical bills, loss of mobility (driving restrictions), impact to job and other activities. Jon was diagnosed with epilepsy three weeks before his 18th birthday. He had a strong support group. Our goal is to provide financial and other support to young adults not as fortunate as Jon.  

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Scholarships, mentoring and financial support or services will be provided to those willing to apply, work hard and follow items described in the applications. The Jon Denzer Foundation Board asks for your help to identify qualified applicants and your financial assistance.

Contributions and request for an application can be made to:

Jon Denzer Bear Hug Foundation
c/o Carol Denzer 
3538 Westbrook Road
Chillicothe, IL 61523 

(309) 256-7189


Carol & Mike Denzer and the Jon Denzer Bear Hug Foundation Board

Carol Denzer, Executive Director, Jon, Eric and Greg’s mom. Retired from RLI Insurance Company in Peoria, IL on 12/31/19 after 32 years with the company. Most recently, Carol was the Vice President, Small Commercial managing a team dedicated to help small business and those in the construction space. Carol also currently serves on the Crossword Café board, a Christian youth center in Chillicothe, IL.

Mike Denzer, Board Advisor, Jon, Eric and Greg’s dad. Mike is a partner with Edward Jones where he serves clients in setting and achieving financial goals. Mike has been a financial advisor since 1989. He served the Chillicothe community as a school board member for 20 years and a volunteer firefighter for 22 years, including two years as fire chief.

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Ty Fennell, Chairman, friend of Jon and the Denzer family. Ty is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He has worked his entire career in the steel industry; the past 22 years for J.T. Fennell Co., steel fabricators in Chillicothe, IL. He employs a number of skilled trades people including laser operators, welders, machinists, painters & maintenance technicians. Ty has also served the Chillicothe community as a member of the Board of Directors for Pearce Community Center for 19 years and its President since 2011.

Pat Auge, Treasurer, friend of Jon and the Denzer family. Pat is a graduate of Millikin University and Eastern Illinois University. He has worked in education since 1996 and has been employed as a building administrator in the Illinois Valley Central School District since 2005. He has worked at Chillicothe Elementary Center and Jr. High, Mossville School, and currently serves as the Director at the IVC High School Learning Center. He has served on the Education Commission and Finance Council at St. Edward Catholic Church in Chillicothe. He also volunteers for the Chillicothe to Peoria St. Jude runs team and IVC Special Olympics.

Becky Lee, Secretary, friend of Jon and the Denzer family. Becky along with her husband Alan, own and operate their business, Strategic Wealth Management, LLC. She joined their company in 2006 and is responsible for all aspect of operations for the business. Prior to that she was employed by RLI Insurance Company of Peoria, IL for 21 years. The majority of her years at RLI were in the Accounting Department with her last position held as Billing and Collections Supervisor.

Brady Miller, President Brady Miller, President, friend of the Denzer family, Owner of Millbrooke Homes, Inc. a residential home builder and The Mill, Inc. an architectural salvage and wood shop retail store in Chillicothe, Illinois. He graduated from IVC District 321 and received his BS in Finance in 1997 from the University of Illinois. Brady is very active in the community and served as head boys basketball coach at Mossville Junior High.

Don Driscoll, Vice President, friend and co-worker, recently retired from RLI Insurance Company in Peoria, IL which he had joined in 1996 and served as Chief Claim Officer for most of his career. From 1991 to 1996, Don handled claims at Travelers Insurance Company in Hartford, CT. Prior to that time, he was a litigation attorney in Milwaukee specializing in construction defect, product liability and business disputes. He is a graduate of Valparaiso University and the University of Illinois College of Law.

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