The nonprofit organization has been working in Chicago for 40 years to fund research, patient care and education concerning Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. This neurological disease causes muscle weakness, difficulty speaking and swallowing and often complete paralysis.
“The organization brings hope and help to individuals and their families suffering from ALS by providing services such as in-home consultations and equipment loans," said Jeannie Kovak, who serves as a chairwoman on the parade's organizing committee.
Meg Rooney of Beverly and her family will lead the march.
Rooney worked closely with the foundation as her husband, John Rooney, fought ALS. He worked for City News bureau, the Tampa Tribune and the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He is perhaps best known for his coverage of the 1982 Tylenol killings, uncovering the link between the Chicago-area deaths and cyanide-laced Tylenol.
John Rooney died June 30 after a two-year battle with the illness. His mother and aunt also succumbed to the disease.
Also Thursday, Christmas Without Cancer was named the special honoree of the parade. The nonprofit organization identifies families in the Chicago area stricken with cancer and provides gifts along with other basic necessities.
The charity was founded by Gerri Neylon, a nurse from suburban Evergreen Park. Neylon works in the radiation and oncology department at Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn and sought to help out her patients around the holidays.
Neylon's effort has since expanded to offer assistance to cancer patients throughout the year.
The South Side Irish Parade marks the unofficial start of spring for many South Siders. An estimated 200,000 spectators typically gather along the route.