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Belvidere woman organizes benefits for people battling cancer

BELVIDERE (WREX) — Dani Klaus has worked at Renaissance Roofing in Belvidere for the last 20 years.

She started as a receptionist and worked her way up to the human resource manager position.

However, coming home after a day on the job is greeted with even more work for Klaus.

“Typically I won’t go through the rest of the house. I come straight down here and my husband brings me my water and my cranberry juice and we start,” Klaus said.

Klaus spends the rest of her day working on Heather’s Hope, an organization she started four years ago putting on events for people battling cancer.

It began as a benefit for her close friend Heather Gustafson after she was diagnosed with cancer at 36 years old.

“One of the things she did say was how she going to miss being a part of all of the other benefits that I’ve been involved in the past,” Klaus said.

“I just simply looked at her and said what if there’s a way we could do this for you.”

Heather passed away on May 23, 2016.

However, her death didn’t mean the end of Heather’s Hope.

It continues to this day, putting on over 20 events and raising over $350,000 for families.

One family being the Kozlowski’s, whose daughter Keira was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2018.

Thanks to Heather’s Hope, hundreds of people came together for a benefit for Keira, raising over $25,000 for the Kozlowski’s.

“Let me tell you it helps. Helps pay bills, helps pay for things for Keira,” Keria’s mom, Linda Kozlowski said.

“There are good people in the world. Good people.”

Keira has since gone into remission and is finishing chemotherapy.

Kozlowski has known Klaus, and knew Heather Gustafson, for years and is now an active member of Heather’s Hope to help pay forward the kindness Klaus gave them.

“Dani is just one of those people where she can be knock down drag out tired and she can turn around and say so and so needs help, lets go,” Kozlowski said.

“Everybody that’s knows her says she’s a light and that’s how Heather was.”

It’s a common theme Klaus sees in the people she puts on events for.

“We have a lot of volunteers that we’ve helped from families that we’ve helped that are officially team Heather’s Hope,” Klaus said.

“I think Heather would be extremely proud of us right now.”

The next event coming up for Heather’s Hope is their annual Charity Ride on Saturday, Sept. 28.

This year’s ride is in honor of Anne Carmean, a mother of three who has been fighting cancer for over a decade.

The event goes 9:30 a.m,-6:30 p.m. at American Legion Riders, Post 77 in Belvidere.

For more information on Heather’s Hope, click here

Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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