MORGAN PARK — Four unique charities came together Wednesday as one voice in the fight against pediatric cancer with the help of the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade.
The group — dubbed South Siders Fighting Childhood Cancer — was officially announced as the grand marshal of the annual march down Western Avenue. The parade takes over the main thoroughfare in Beverly and Morgan Park at noon March 13.
The 100 Club of Chicago was also named the honoree of the parade at the news conference held at the Beverly Arts Center. This group provides financial assistance and other support to first responders who have lost their lives in the line of duty. To date, the group has served 260 families to the tune of more than $9 million.
As for the grand marshals, it includes the men and women behind Live Like John, Pat Mac’s Pack, Emily Beazley's Kures for Kids and the Maeve McNicholas Memorial Foundation. All of these charities were founded by neighborhood parents who lost children to the disease.
"I feel this community needs to feel a real sense of pride and ownership in this effort," said Amy McNicholas, who founded the John McNicholas Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation shortly after the death of her son.
The charity also known as Live Like John raises money for research currently underway at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. The effort hopes to bring about better treatment options while also celebrating the 15-year-old boy from North Beverly who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor on March 31, 2010, and died 10 months later.
"We really started our foundation out of devastation," McNicholas said.
Other members of this group echoed the need for additional funding that could lead to new treatment options. Among them was Tom and Dee McNamara, of Beverly, who founded Pat Mac's Pack.
Their charity is named in honor of their son, Patrick Thomas McNamara. The student at St. Barnabas School in Beverly died on Oct. 14, 2011, at age 13 after an 11-year battle with a brain tumor. Upon Pat's diagnosis, the McNamaras were handed a treatment protocol from 1985, Dee MacNamara said.
The doctor "put his head down and said, 'This is the best we have,'" she said, recalling the treatment path her son was faced with in his final years.
Nadia and Ed Beazley were among several in the group that pointed toward the meager 4 percent of federal funds that is directed at pediatric cancer research. The bulk of the money is used to fight cancer overall — mostly targeting adult patients.
"My daughter was worth more than 4 percent," Nadia Beazley said.
The Beazleys launched Emily Beazley's Kures for Kids after their daughter's four-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma ended on May 18. Before she died, Emily, 12, of Mount Greenwood, dreamed of someday starting a charity that would raise money and advocate for children just like herself.
McNicholas said all of the individual stories told by grand marshals were powerful. But by joining together under the banner of the parade, it brings more attention to the issue of pediatric cancer as a whole.
"I think we are stronger together. We are able to reach a bigger audience," she said.
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