Amanda Reese

Remembering Amanda Reese

Amanda Reese (25) from Florida was committed to serving others during her young life. A graduate of Illinois State University and former YMCA camp counselor, she also served as a volunteer with AmeriCorps. Amanda led a team providing assistance to FEMA in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. She also volunteered for the Nature Conservancy’s effort to preserve the Florida Everglades.

Amanda died November 19, 2006 from an enlarged heart stemming from complications of Lyme disease.

Life of helping others cut short

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) - November 23, 2005

Carole Reese answered her phone late Saturday night. A stranger on the line said her daughter Amanda was in a Florida hospital and that she and her husband, Jim, should come.

Right away.

"At that exact moment I knew," Carole said. "A chill went through my entire body."

By the time Carole and Jim arrived in Florida early Sunday, Amanda, 25, was unable to talk and was hooked up to more machines than the couple could count. Later that day, Amanda died.

"She knew I was there," said Carole, tearing up. "I could tell she wanted me to fix her hair, so I did. She knew I was there. She looked right at me."

The week before she died, Amanda was near Orlando, starting a second volunteering stint with AmeriCorps. She was leading a team of 10 other AmeriCorps volunteers cleaning the Nature Conservancy in Kissimmee, Fla.

Neither her parents nor AmeriCorps officials know yet why Amanda died. An autopsy was performed Tuesday, but getting results could take weeks.

"She was such a healthy person," Jim said. "Then she just shut down."

Reese graduated from Rolling Meadows High School and Illinois State University. She was the only child of the Arlington Heights family.

Amanda and her team arrived in Florida last week. On Saturday, the group wrapped up a day of shopping and grabbed a bite to eat at a fast-food restaurant, Carole said.

A short time later, Amanda broke out in hives and experienced hot flashes. Her team members immediately took her to the hospital.

By the time Carole and Jim arrived early Sunday, Amanda's throat closed up and an X-ray showed she had an enlarged heart, Carole said.

"She declined too quickly," she said. "Everything shut down. Even the doctors don't know what could cause a young person's body to shut down so quickly."

Jim slowly shook his head from side to side Tuesday as he talked about his daughter's death.

"We don't know if it was a virus or something she was allergic to or what," he said.

Amanda had no serious health problems but caught Lyme disease as a child, Carole said.

"I'm thinking it might have been a compilation of things," Carole said.

Before coming to Florida, Amanda volunteered near Biloxi, Miss., helping hurricane victims who still were in temporary shelters but needed to be relocated to trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Her work in Mississippi was nothing new for Amanda. Helping people was something she just always believed in, Jim said.

"She was a great girl," he said. "She lived her life for other people."

"Everyone who got to know her loved her," Carole added.

Dave Ponce is another Arlington Heights native who volunteers with AmeriCorps. The two became close friends while living in shelters and working 16-hour days in Mississippi, Ponce said.

"We were buddies," Ponce said. "It was an intense situation and hard sometimes because so many people needed so much help. But Amanda kept things light-hearted. She kept things in perspective."

AmeriCorps members must be between 18 and 24 years old and complete at least 1,700 hours of service during the 10-month commitment. In exchange, they receive about $4,700 to help pay for college.

Amanda was going to use that money to attend graduate school and eventually work with children, Carole said.

"Who knows what she would've been," she said.

Colleen Sullivan was Reese's roommate and sorority sister at Illinois State University.

"Amanda was just so much fun. Everyone loved her," she said. "I remember we went kayaking in Chicago. It was so much fun."

Sullivan took a train from Chicago to visit Amanda's parents Tuesday and is planning a wedding that won't be the same without Amanda, she said.

"She was going to be one of my bridesmaids," Sullivan said.

Services for Amanda Reese will be Saturday at Glueckert Funeral Home, 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road. Exact times are pending.

Serving: Cause of death likely won't be known for weeks