The Giraffe Plan

When their nanny died young and tragically from breast cancer last fall, Fenwick students Wil ’21 and Leah Gurski ’23 knew they had to do something for her young son, Adam. But what?

By Wil Gurski ’21 (Oak Park, IL)

When God calls someone to be a mother, that virtue doesn’t only nurture her own child but cultivates all of those she influences.

Hi! My name is Wil Gurski, and I would like to tell you a story about a woman who fulfilled God’s call to compassion and left a lasting impression on my sister Leah [a Fenwick sophomore] and me.

Young Leah Gurski ’23 (left) and Viola after a manicure for Leah’s birthday.

Eighteen years ago, I was blessed with a second mother, Viola, when she started to take care of me at six months old. She taught me how to count to 10 in Polish, read me bedtime stories from her hometown of Krakow, and she would always take my sister and me to the zoo. Most summers we would go to Brookfield Zoo at least once a week. And every time we went, Viola would insist that we stop by the giraffe enclosure to take pictures. Without a doubt her favorite animal was the giraffe, and, in hindsight, a proud, compassionate and protective mother giraffe perfectly embodies her.

A few years later she had a son, named Adam; naturally, he became a brother to Leah and me. To this day, Adam still gets me in trouble. We play basketball together in the backyard, Minecraft until 1 a.m., watch the exact same TV shows, and one summer we spent the entire day
walking from park to park playing Pokémon Go.

Wil, Leah and Adam celebrating Adam’s first communion.

Then, in August 2020, Viola was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it had tragically spread throughout her body. She soon passed away on September 26th, devastating everyone who had been touched by her kindness.

My sister and I knew we had to do something to help little Adam and his Dad. A few weeks later, Leah came up with the brilliant idea to sell clothing to raise money for Adam’s college tuition. She figured that it would make a big difference for the family if Adam’s future was more secure. So, we decided to create The Giraffe Plan LLC, inspired by Viola’s favorite animal, to spread her love and confidence the same way she did for us.

Viola and a little, four-year-old Adam.

Leah and I know how much an average college charges in tuition, so we had to think big. A simple fundraiser could not cover the amount we needed to raise, but a business could. A business in which all of the profits go directly into Adam’s college savings plan.

Fellow Friar water polo player Pete Buinauskas ’21 (Western Springs, IL) poses in a Giraffe Plan sweatshirt with OPRF senior Isabel Evens.

With our mission in mind, we turned to the most gifted (and patient) graphic designer we knew, Fenwick junior Dylan Fu. He helped design our logos, sweatshirts, website, social media and so much more. Additionally, senior Maddie Miller drafted a six-page marketing plan and a seven-page sponsorship proposal. My Fenwick peers were vital help in securing an awesome sponsorship for our business. A sponsor paid for our entire stock of sweatshirts and financed our LLC, allowing us to donate all of the revenue we receive — without any overhead costs.

My sister and I are incredibly humbled by all of the support we have received in setting up this venture: from friends who have financially supported us, those who have donated their legal counsel, and all who have just believed in us and our mission. Most of all, we are truly grateful for people like you who take the time out of their day to listen to our story. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

Check out the website:


Adam and Viola sitting in front of the wall of Legos that Adam and Wil assembled. (There is a little giraffe above them.)
Leah and Wil’s Aunt Margie (holding baby Adam) with Viola and her husband, who is also named Adam.
Fenwick swimmers turned Giraffe Plan “models:” Michael Flynn ’22 (left, Brookfield, IL) and Pete Buinauskas ’21 (Western Springs, IL) posing in sweatshirts.

7 Replies to “The Giraffe Plan”

  1. Hey, it’s 14 year old Adam. From the bottom of my heart thank you to everybody who bought a hoodie, helped the cause, and spread the love. You guys do not know how much this means to me and my dad.
    On September 24th of 2020 Oak Park lost an angel but because of all of you the memory of my mother, Viola Dabrowa, lives on. I am indebted to everyone contributed but most of all I thank the Gurski’s. Thank you, Wil and Leah for stepping up as a brother and sister for me. Seeing you guys almost everyday was always a reward and I cherish all the moments I remember. My mother and all the Dabrowa family thank you one last time for all the love we have received.

  2. I would like to donate to Adams college fund , please email me where to send the check and who it is to be made out to . Thanking you in advance . God bless you always for your goodness and kindness . Marilyn G

  3. What a creative and generous idea! Viola must be smiling down on you. The sweatshirts are super cute, my god-daughter loves hers. Merci/Danke!

  4. What an incredible way to take action and make a difference Leah and Will. Viola would be (probably is) thrilled but not surprised. We love our sweatshirts too. Thank you for being healers in your own unique and thoughtful way!

  5. Leah and Wil (all who helped). What a wonderful tribute to a beautiful woman. I bought a sweatshirt for myself and it immediately was stolen from my closet by my 13 year old. It now has been worn by all 3 of my kids. I believe Viola is hugging them when they wear it.

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