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"The Hope Award" Bear Tie Ball 2014

Jon Recana

With an “Into the Wild” safari theme, Bear Necessities celebrated its 21st Annual Bear Tie Ball at on Saturday, March 8, 2014. Philanthropists, socialites, cancer survivors and more came out to support this non-profit organization to raise funds for pediatric cancer research and resources.

Guests strolled into the UIC Forum Main Hall to a silent auction, accompanied by passed hors d’oeuvres, wine, and specialty cocktails. After which a seated dinner, presentation – inclusive of speakers and a live auction — followed by a couple hours of music, dancing, and fun.sports anchor, Peggy Kusinski, served as emcee for the night saying. She started off with “children and cancer should not go together.”

NBC 5 sports anchor, Peggy Kusinski, Bear Tie Ball Presents Into Wild Theme For 2014 Fundraiser, She started off with “children and cancer should not go together.”

The organization was inspired by Barrett “Bear” Krupa. He was diagnosed with a form pediatric cancer called Wilms tumor, and lost his battle at the age of 8-years old in 1993. He was known for showing concern for other patients came to the realization at a young age that there was a great need for research to tackle pediatric cancers. He and his mother, Kathleen A. Casey, would create Bear Necessities to raise funds for medical research and help others going through sickness. “Bear would pass away not long after the foundation was created, but Casey decided that she wanted to make Bear’s dream to cure children of this disease her passion and has since dedicated her life to the cause.

Bear Necessities has two arms of support for child cancer patients and their families. One of those arms is the Bear Hugs Program, which is a customized experience that the child can request (i.e. tickets to a sporting event or musical) based on their interests. Bear Hugs also provide support for families and basic needs, such as gas cards or grocery gift cards.

The other arm of support is called Bear Discoveries, which award medical research grants to junior investigative researchers making advancements in the field towards a cure for pediatric cancers.

Also speaking at the event and issuing special thanks was Chicago media personality and social columnist, Candace Jordan. Jordan served as this year’s event chair. She said she became involved with Bear Necessities after meeting Casey and gravitating to her passion for curing pediatric cancer. She felt the need to be a part of Bear Necessities in some way.

“When I first met Kathleen, her passion and dedication hooked me, said Jordan. “I attended this gala for a couple of years and covered the foundation’s events on my various platforms, but the more I learned, the more inspired I became. So when Kathleen asked me to chair this event, the answer was yes before the question was even out of her mouth.”

That passion and dedication that Jordan spoke about shone though Casey that evening as she addressed attendees that evening. She spoke to her personal story and journey from the time her son

“Bear” was diagnosed up to the present day and her continual fight to eliminate pediatric cancers. “Bear underwent cancer treatments for five and a half years and was given a 98 percent cure rate. When he passed away, there was no explanation from anyone. It was then that she came to a realization that would be part of the foundation for what Bear Necessities strives to accomplish every day.

“[When “Bear” passed away] everyone asked, ‘Why did he die?’ I could only respond with I don’t know, the doctors don’t know, we just don’t know. But what I did know was that we needed to find out, and the only way to do that was to help fund research.”

Casey  gave an overview of where pediatric cancer fits into the scheme of things as far as funding for research and treatments go. She mentioned that the cause for childhood cancers is largely unknown and cannot be prevented, which is why they are considered rare diseases. Because they are considered rare, Casey said that only four percent of federal funding goes to childhood cancer while the remaining funding goes to benefit adult cancer research. This is a major concern for Casey and she is committed to changing those statistics. She posed the question, “Why is it that we don’t make our children — our future — a priority as we do with other cancers?”

There was mention of things that have been done to aid in pediatric cancer research. Casey said that therapy has become more targeted and cure rates have risen. However, she emphasized that there was more to be done even with the advancements.

In addition to being a fundraiser, the Bear Tie Ball also acknowledges those making a difference in pediatric cancer and through the Bear Necessities organization. The 2014 recipients of the Hope Award were Magellan Corporation and Dr. Stewart Goldman.

The Hope Award, named after William J. Casey, honors individuals and organizations that assist the organization in its mission and provide hope and support to those who are impacted. President Bob Arthur was on hand to accept the award for Magellan Corporation, the Spotlight Sponsors for the Bear Tie Ball. The organization have represented as sponsors for 10 years.

Goldman accepted his award with a few words and also has a special relationship to the foundation. Goldman was the doctor of “Bear.” Casey made the introduction to Goldman and spoke highly of his gift as a doctor; not only regarding his intellect, but also the genuine care for his patients. She said, “It’s the Stuart Goldman’s who are going to cure our children.”

Goldman, known to patients as “Dr. Stew,” is interim division head of hematology/oncology and medical director of neuro oncology at Lurie Children's Hospital. He said that through his career he has learned about courage, strength, and giving back. Goldman acknowledged those he recognized as former patients and families who had lost loved ones before he presented a call to action.

“I look around in this room and see adults who I treated as children. I see families who have unfortunately lost loved ones. We have to change this. We have to make a difference. And I know together, we’re going to do that.”

A highlight of the evening was a former patient of Goldman and survivor of cancer, Abigail Phillips. When she was 13-years old she was diagnosed with Medullary Glioma, also known as a brain stem tumor. She is now a 25-year old living in Chicago and working on her master’s degree.

Phillips emotively told the audience her story and gave extreme gratitude to “Dr. Stew.” She talked about her hardships going through her sickness as a teenager, but reflected on those in her life that made it bearable. “The world’s greatest mom,” the medical team that helped to keep her spirits up, and Dr. Goldman who she said never stopped encouraging her to live life to the fullest.

“On February 27, I celebrated 12 years since I was diagnosed with brain cancer. This anniversary brought back many memories of treatment and what a tremendous role Stew Goldman played. His first piece of advice to me, was milk this for all it’s worth. Then he added the condition that I only had three weeks. After that, Stew expected me to get back to my normal life as a 13 year old.”

She ended her speech saying that she would never wish this disease on anyone, she cannot imagine what her life would be like without Dr. Stew.

“I’m extremely touched to be here tonight helping Bear Necessities honor Dr. Stew Goldman, who I owe my life to. And who is one of my greatest supporters and friends.”

The speaker presentation concluded with McDonald, and was followed by the raffle drawing, and a live audience donation pledge segment fueled by mobile devices.

Special guests for the evening included Alderman Bob Fioretti; hair and beauty entrepreneurs Mario and Cheryl Tricoci; former Chicago Bear Gary Fencik and wife Sandy; designer Mark Roscoe; Chicago journalist Anna Davlantes; and the Bear Necessities Texas Chapter.