St. Coletta's of Illinois presents Beverly native William Waddell with Humanitas Award

May 23, 2022

He joins a select list of individuals who have shown a commitment to the disabled community and those in need

When William Waddell sees a need, he acts. Whether purchasing Easter hams to hand out at the St. Gall food pantry; visiting residents at Avantara Rehab and Belhaven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center; or raising money to further St. Coletta’s of Illinois’ mission of serving children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Waddell is a steadfast humanitarian.


On May 21, the Beverly native’s efforts were recognized at the 69th Annual Caritas Benefit hosted by St. Coletta’s of Illinois Foundation. The Foundation raises money to support St. Coletta’s school and vocational programs in Tinley Park as well as its group homes, which are scattered throughout the south and southwest suburbs.


Waddell, a past Board chairperson and member of St. Coletta’s finance committee, first began his humanitarian efforts as a young man fresh out of the Army at 25. It was 1967 and a buddy asked him what he wanted to do after leaving the service. He said he wanted to help others; the buddy suggested he join the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.


Little did he know this would be the first in a long line of service organizations he would join or assist financially.


In 1970, Waddell began mentoring young adults with the Big Brothers organization after hearing an advertisement on the radio. It wasn’t long before he was volunteering with the Mental Health Association, serving on the Board of the Illinois Humane Society Serving Children and working with PADS homeless shelter.


“He is by far the most caring individual I have ever known,” said former St. Coletta’s of Illinois Board member and childhood friend Jim Madden whose friendship with Waddell dates back to their grammar school days at St. Barnabas School. He’s always taking people under his wing, he added.


Somewhere amid all his volunteering, Waddell made time to build a career as a stock broker. He married Kathryn Hahn, a graduate of the University of Missouri Conservatory of Music at Kansas City, in 1987. She filled their home with music. The couple was blessed with two children, Will and Dan. For many years, Kathryn served as the children’s choir director at St. Barnabas Church. When she died in 2001, Mr. Waddell found solace in his faith and charitable giving.


He most recently discovered Play Smart Literacy, a nonprofit that helps show parents how to relate and interact with their children through play. Its founder, Michelle Dinneen-White, is a retired preschool teacher who uses her skills to bring families together in underserved areas to prepare children for success in school and life.


At St. Coletta’s of Illinois, Waddell has been instrumental in securing donations for the nonprofit, recruiting more humanitarians to the Board and teaming up with Catholic Charities to provide vocational work for students in the Catholic Charities Thrift Shop.


“He has a passion for making sure the mission gets done,” said St. Coletta’s of Illinois Board member Susan Poole.


“He’s always thinking about who he can help,” added St. Coletta’s of Illinois Executive Director Annette Skafgaard. “He’s a real humanitarian.” During the holiday season of the past two decades, Waddell has housed students who were studying abroad but couldn’t travel back to their home countries while their schools were closed. On Wednesday mornings, he can be found directing the St. Gall’s food pantry, distributing food to thousands of families in need. Before the pandemic, he’d spend Friday mornings at the PADS homeless shelter helping clean up. On Saturdays, he’d spend the morning visiting people at Avantara Rehab facility. The time he has in between his weekly schedule is usually spent helping others, whether he’s taking referrals who contact St. Barnabas, or following the lead of longtime friend and mentor, Denny Conway. Waddell’s two sons have learned from their father’s charitable work.


“He’s a constant reminder to give back, and nobody has walked the walk more than my Dad,” said son Will. “He used to tell us every day growing up, ‘Do something nice for somebody.’ If we could accomplish a fraction of the positive impact he’s had, it would be a life well lived.”


Dan said of his Dad: “Of the countless number of people and organizations helped and impacted by his presence, none have been luckier than my brother Will and I. It has been a privilege to have a man with such great commitment to serving others be the one we call Dad.”