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Families Grow From Chelsey's Wish

Chelsey Bildstein catching

Chelsey Bildstein behind the plate

March 2017

Ron Ferrill only had the privilege of coaching Chelsey Bildstein '13 for one full season of St. Ambrose softball.

"The thing I guess I remember most about Chelsey is how unselfish she was," the veteran Bees coach recalled. "Chelsey didn't get a ton of playing time, but she was very committed and would do anything for the team. She enjoyed playing the game and being with her teammates."

Injuries shortened her softball career but didn't lessen Chelsey's experience at St. Ambrose, where she roomed with her cousin, Michelle (Gogel) Gallagher '13.

"She loved it there," said Chelsey's father, Chuck Bildstein. "She felt at home."

It showed.

"She generally had a smile on her face and worked very hard," Ferrill noted. "She was a pleasure to have around. I believe she had most of the characteristics we are looking for in future Ambrosians."

Chelsey's generous spirit has become a legacy through the Chelsey's Dream Foundation, a charitable organization established by Chuck and Carol Bildstein following their daughter's death just more than a year after her SAU graduation.

Chelsey had just begun her career in business in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer in October, 2013. She made the difficult decision to undergo a hysterectomy, during which additional tumors were found. Four months after surgery, doctors determined the cancer had spread to most of her major organs. Chelsey Bildstein died on Aug. 11, 2014.

Growing up, her father said, Chelsey had dreamed of motherhood. In the aftermath of the hysterectomy, she had looked into the process of adoption. After her terminal diagnosis, Chelsey expressed to Chuck and Carol her dying wish that, in her memory, they help one family with the cost of an adoption.

"She told us that by helping a family it would be like the baby was hers too," her father said in this article published on the website. "She so badly wanted to be a mom, and this was her way of accomplishing it."

Chelsey's parents have taken that wish several steps beyond through the Chelsey's Dream Foundation.

To date, Chuck Bildstein said, the foundation has helped 18 families adopt 22 children.

He described the foundation's work as rewarding, but "still a little bittersweet.

"We are basically the messengers for her," the father said. "We are carrying her dream forward."

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