In May, Riverside police officers inked an agreement with the village that allows them each to donate up to 64 hours of accrued sick time to fellow officer Chris Kudla, who is battling Stage 4 renal cancer.
Village Manager Jessica Frances last month also opened up the sick-time donation effort to all non-union employees, and on June 21 the village’s board of trustees approved an agreement with union public works employees to do the same.
Public Works Superintendent Kevin Kuratko, who is not a member of the union, said rank-and-file employees came to him after learning about the police union’s agreement, asking whether they could follow suit. There are eight public works employees represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73.
The public works union’s sick-day donation agreement mirrors the police union’s.
To date, according to Frances, village employees have donated more than 900 hours of sick time to Kudla, a little less than six months in all.
Police, who are Kudla’s closest colleagues and comprise one the village’s biggest departments, account for about 730 of those hours. The sick time bank is tracked by the Riverside finance department, and sick time donated to Kudla is permanently removed from the donors’ sick-time bank and can’t be counted toward their own retirement payouts.
“The fantastic thing is everyone can together show how caring and incredibly generous our staff is,” Frances said. “They recognize that helping one of their fellow employees is huge.”
With the approval of the public works agreement, every Riverside village employee can now participate in the effort to help Kudla, who remains an active, full-time employee despite being diagnosed with cancer back in late 2016 after feeling a lump near his collarbone.
He has been undergoing chemotherapy for about the past five months and the days after his treatments are difficult, often requiring him to take a couple of days off to recover.
But he’s always been back on the streets, in uniform, afterward.
“I don’t know that I could do what he does,” said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel. “I know he’s hurting. It’s to his credit.”
Kudla, 46, has kept well-wishers abreast of his journey through treatment via updates on a GoFundMe website (www.gofundme.com/believe-chris-kudlas-medical-fund) created last December by his sister, Alyceson, to help pay for the exorbitant medical bills. Since the online fundraiser began, more than 360 people have donated roughly $40,500, with donations still coming in.
About a month ago on the website, Kudla wrote that his family had moved into a smaller home to keep expenses and upkeep down, revealing that because the chemotherapy medication is special, he has to pay $3,000 for each treatment.
When he decides to go on disability, he’ll get 50 percent of his pay, but no benefits. While Kudla is in his mid 40s, he’s only been a police officer in Riverside for a little more than a year.
“My wife and I have been contemplating making a stop [from working] for a while now, and we may be near that time once we settle in the new house,” Kudla wrote.
To help Kudla further, the Riverside police union held a fundraiser in May at The Max in McCook. That event raised more than $15,000 to help Kudla in his battle.