BEVERLY — Bras will hang from trees, and garage bands will jam in driveways on Sunday in Beverly.
The scene may sound like the set-up for a rambunctious fraternity party, but this is actually the backdrop of the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk.
The 15th annual walk begins at 8 a.m. on Mother's Day at Ridge Park, 1817 W. 96th St. More than 12,000 participants are expected — making it the biggest such event in the Chicago area, according to Patricia Morley, associate director of the Little Company of Mary Hospital Foundation.
Howard Ludwig joins DNAinfo Radio to talk about the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk:
Last year, $540,000 was raised via the 3-mile walk. The proceeds help the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park. Since it's inception, the event has raised $3.4 million, which has built the suburban hospital's cancer center and its Comprehensive Breast Health Center as well as paid for upgrades to the mammography department.
This year, funds raised from the walk will be directed toward clinical services. This includes a designated breast nurse navigator, who will offer individualized assistance to patients and families facing the disease as well as provide survivorship plans.
The money raised in 2014 will also be used to hire a research coordinator who will identify patients eligible to participate in clinical trials at the hospital, Morley said.
"It has grown every year," Morley said of the event, which takes participants on a path past the luxurious homes lining Longwood Drive.
The Beverly Breast Cancer Walk began in 2000 as an off-shoot of Y-Me's preeminent Mother's Day Race Against Breast Cancer. Carol Moriarty, who is a breast cancer survivor, her sister Nancy Mulcah, and friend Lisa O’Brien opted to walk in their Southwest Side neighborhood rather than make the trek downtown for Y-Me's walk, which annually drew upwards of 20,000 people, Morley said.
Y-Me abruptly ceased operation in 2012 with “incompetence and mismanagement” to blame, according to the group's founder, Margaret Harte. The Chicagoland Affiliate of Susan G. Komen has since taken over the event in Grant Park. The charity expects 10,000 people to participate in its Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on Sunday.
The success of the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk is largely credited to the roughly 175 teams that annually embrace the event, Morley said.
Peace, Love & Pirates is one such team, led by Jeanine O'Malley of Morgan Park. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2012 with four children under the age of six.
"I had a real hard time telling them when I was first diagnosed," O'Malley said.
To lessen the blow, the former preschool teacher rallied around the Disney cartoon "Jake and the Never Land Pirates." She wore a pirate scarf on her head and handed out eye patches at her children's schools in an effort to explain her fight against breast cancer to the young audience.
Her courage was rewarded as family, neighbors and friends rallied to her side last year at the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk. A sea of people wearing Peace, Love and Pirates T-shirts flooded the streets and raised more than $4,000 for the hospital, O'Malley said.
She was able to take advantage of the improvements to the nearby hospital that came courtesy of the walk. Nevertheless, she was delighted to leave the facility after her final radiation treatment in October.
"Hopefully, things stay good," O'Malley said. Meanwhile, she plans to meet up with all of her "pirates" again this Sunday in Ridge Park. Registration is available up to the day of the event.
O'Malley said her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer was undoubtedly scary for her family. But it also drew them together, and the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk provided her children with a tangible example of just how much their family is loved within the community.
"I said to them, 'Look at all of the people that are here for us today,'" O'Malley said.