Andy Foster has always loved smiles. Growing up, he did whatever he could to help others and bring smiles to their faces. When he was 5, Andy was diagnosed with epilepsy. When he was almost 15 he was connected with the Make-A-Wish Minnesota chapter and found out he could have a wish granted, an experience that made him feel “as good as you can feel.”
“For me, it was a hard choice because my memory isn’t very good because of the epilepsy I have,” the now 36-year-old Oak Lawn resident said. “So, I wanted to get something that I would have for a long time and not go on a trip or something because I forget about those things. That’s why I ended up getting golf sets.”
While Andy continued to struggle with epilepsy, he never wavered on his mission to help others. As a teen, he enjoyed bringing people together by hosting parties. What started out as just teenage fun, ended up as something much more.
“My cousin had been up in his lot in New Lenox and had a tree that was coming down onto his neighbor’s yard and I knew of a couple other parties that raised money so I told my cousin, ‘Alright let me throw a party in your backyard and let’s try to get enough money to chop this tree down,’” Andy said. “We didn’t make enough money for it, but I had a blast doing it, getting the bands, getting the beer, we had tents out there, it was a pretty good time.”
Andy enjoyed throwing a party for a good cause so much that he wanted to do it again every year. He initially planned to pick a different friend in need to host a party for each year, but ultimately decided to throw parties for an organization that had made him smile throughout his dark days: Make-A-Wish.
“Make-A-Wish helped me, so I decided to donate it all to Make-A-Wish,” Andy said.
He started Foster Fest in 2007 and has held the event each year since. Foster Fest includes performances by live bands, a silent auction, a beanbag tournament, a barbecue with a pig roast, stories from Make-A-Wish kids, and more. All proceeds from Foster Fest go to Make-A-Wish Illinois.
“There are a lot of smiles going on, that’s what stands out to me,” Andy said of the event. “I don’t collect any money for myself, I just enjoy making people happy.”
Andy emphasized the importance of the community around him who help bring Foster Fest to life each year.
“A lot of people can help just a little bit, so many people start throwing that little bit in and then it tends to create an event like this and that’s one of the reasons why I do Foster Fest,” Andy said. “It’s not just for Make-A-Wish, this is also for the people. This is for the community because of how good they feel when they do this good deed for the kids. Everybody is upbeat, talking about it around town, and they feel like they really did good.”
The first year he started Foster Fest, it was difficult for him to find volunteers to help and bands to come and play for free. But after sticking with Foster Fest for 11 years, Andy says he now has bands lining up to play the fest. He’s also now gotten so many volunteers that he runs out of jobs to give them to do.
Andy is dedicated to making the party “better each year” by getting feedback from attendees and members of the community.
“Some people have got their hobbies, like motorcycles or cars,” Andy said, “and Make-A-Wish is my hobby and Foster Fest is my hobby.”
The 11th Annual Foster Fest to benefit Make-A-Wish Illinois will be held on August 11th at 2 pm at Chet’s Melody Lounge in Justice, IL. Tickets are available at the fest. Visit the Foster Fest Website for more details.