Allison Hayes remembers Aug. 11, 2012, as a perfect day.

She, her husband, Robert Freeze, and their daughter, Emery, attended a family wedding that Saturday. That night they went out on the lake near their home and watched a meteor shower together.

"If you are going to have one last night with your husband, that was it," Hayes, the former Fox-28 sports anchor, said. "... It was just awesome."

It's the next day she wants to forget.

It started well, with her kissing Robert goodbye as he headed out the door to the Chicago Bears training camp in Bourbonnais, Ill., making the trip that thousands of Bears fans take every August.

It would be the last time she would see Robert alive.

On his way home that evening, Robert's Jeep Wrangler swerved off Illinois Route 17 in Kankakee, landed in a ditch and flipped. He was killed instantly.

The last 14 months have not been easy as the mother and young daughter work to heal over the tragic loss of a quiet family man who was known for his love and work ethic.

Nevertheless, Hayes, inspired by those who helped her during her time of grief, has formed a nonprofit organization that recognizes those who go out of their way to help others.

And she's taken a new job with the Big Ten Network.

But there have been struggles.

"It was really hard at first to let anybody in," she said, trying to fight back tears. "Grieving publicly was the hardest thing I've ever done.

"Because as much as I am out there when it comes to certain topics and things I am passionate about, when it comes to my personal life, I prefer to keep it very private. Even with close friends, that's just how I am."

So after the accident, she cut off Facebook and didn't answer the phone. "I didn't want to talk about it," she said.

But she knew she couldn't keep that wall up forever.

"When I finally started kicking that wall down and realizing no matter what I was going to try to do, this had happened, and there was a time that we had to deal with it," she said.

"When we let people in to help, it actually really did help," she said. "We got such a incredible amount of support. Not just from our family and friends and people who really knew us and loved us but from people that we really didn't know that well, that maybe were just acquaintances. And some people we really had never met.

"That really affected me. I thought that was amazing."

So much so that Hayes started her own organization. One Good Deed Michiana (found at onegooddeedmichiana.org) has had a few fundraisers already, including a golf outing this summer.

Its goal is to show appreciation to people who help people in need.

Hayes knows part of the kindness she received was helped by the fact that she had been on local TV for nearly nine years.

"But I knew that there were people out there who were always there for someone in need," she said.

These people, she said, do such things as plan benefits for sick people or take meals and do chores for those going through difficult times.

Her organization recently saluted its first honoree, Janet Price, who not only takes pictures at Warsaw Community High School basketball games and sends them to the players, but helped Hayes and two other people get through their grief with weekly encouragement.

Two more will be honored yet this year.

Special gifts relating to the giver's needs and interests are part of the gift basket as well as items such as restaurant and entertainment gift certificates.

"Our motto is helping those who help others because one good deed can change a life," Hayes said. "... We hope that they will keep going and doing what they're doing, and maybe they will inspire somebody else to do the same."

In some ways, it's like they're saluting people who are like her late husband.

"Robert was so quiet and shy," she said. "At the same time, he was such a good friend. He was so loyal. He was the first person, if someone needed help with moving or doing work at the house, he would be there for (them)."

For Allison, who met him when both lived in Niles, he was very supportive throughout her career, especially early on when she needed it most, she said.

He would be very proud of her now. She took a new job in August, a job she passed on twice, working for the Big Ten Network, doing halftime and post-game interviews.

The new position allows her to spend more time with Emery and remain in South Bend.

In the final years of the family's life together, some of Allison's favorite memories are of her husband as a father.

She's happy her TV background taking videos got her to take many videos of him. It allows their daughter to remember more about her dad than she could possibly have at age 31/2, her age when he died.

"If there's ever a time when she's sad and misses her daddy, we pull out a video and she can hear his voice and kind of see him a little bit," Hayes said. "That's been a real good thing."

So has One Good Deed Michiana -- which is helping both Allison and Emery.

"It's a big part of the healing process for us," Hayes said. "It makes us feel so good, it really does."



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