“On your honor, get set, go!”

The gallant Christmas Without Cancer leaders are counting on a host of runners and walkers stepping out “on their honor” this unusual year to bring in needed funds to help local families fighting cancer.

The sixth annual Christmas Without Cancer 5K Run/Walk still has a few mileposts to hit: 50 sponsors—businesses and families are welcome; 1,000 participants; and enough money raised to help hundreds of local families fighting cancer.

“We’ve set lofty goals before and seem to always meet them because people pay kindness forward or they’ve been a part of our movement from the beginning or they know someone we’ve been able to help at Christmas,” said Deb Gardner, Christmas Without Cancer race director. “This year requires more faith.”

The event is scheduled for the week of Saturday, Sept. 19, through Saturday, Sept. 26, during which participants will run “on their honor” instead of at the traditional group event at Klein Park.

Running or walking “on your honor” this year necessitates self-discipline, creativity and a goal.

“Dancing With Duff” meets that criteria.

A team re-conceptualized from a group known as the “VPs” will honor the life of Morgan Park cancer victim Dan Duffy, one of the original members of the group comprised of St. Cajetan, St. Barnabas and Red’s Drive-In alumni who buried their friend this past February.

Duffy’s close friend, Bill Mitchell, has been a quiet leader for Christmas Without Cancer ever since his wife, Lori, was able to beat cancer with the help of the non-profit.

Before his death, Duffy contributed generously, but discreetly, to the Mitchells’ annual fundraiser, a CWC Christmas party.

“The first year Duff came, he knew he had cancer but vowed to be back the following year, and he made it back,” said Bill Mitchell, who noticed the cancer was overtaking the couple’s good friend.

“At the end of the night in the sub-terrain part of the basement,” Mitchell said, “every woman at the party was dancing with Duff, so that’s the name we came up with for this year’s run.”

T-shirts designs are underway and ordered. Final plans for the “Dancing with Duff” honor run, or walk, are still being plotted but guaranteed to put the “fun” in fundraiser.

Mitchell and his wife are building a list, as are other groups.

In Christmas Without Cancer’s push toward the event, Mitchell’s focus is on adding as many of the old guard as possible to join the Dancing With Duff team.

In Colorado, Duffy’s daughter, Mary Margaret, will run “on my honor” with a lighter step but a still heavy heart for her dad. Her brother, Tim, who works in insurance in Chicago, will join the team named affectionately for their father.

Just hearing the words “Dancing With Duff” causes his kids to get choked up.

“The emotion is not just about missing my dad; it’s the realization that his life was fuller because of all the VPs who are now a team called Dancing With Duff,” said Tim. “My dad would be so proud to be part of Christmas Without Cancer, and if he could get his hands on the T-shirt, he’d wear it for an eternity.”

With his sister out of state, Tim is finding comfort with his dad’s many friends behind the organizing effort. They include the following: Bill “Harpo” and Lori Mitchell, Tom and Joyce Quinn, Bill and Elyse Quinn, Marty Fitzgerald, Shirley “Sissy” Duffy, Peggy Duffy Demmitt, Norean Mitchell, Tim and Colleen Greenfield, Terry Mitchell, Gerry and Chris Kutsche, Chris Ulreich, Jennifer Twitty, Sally Duffy, Caitlin and Joe Choinski, and Victoria DioGuardi.


Dancing With Duff joins other teams already formed and still in their planning stages: Amber’s Army, Anthony’s Avengers, the CWC Committee, Efrain’s Wolfpack, IronMatt, Kim’s Ministry Silly Walkers, and Nick’s Fight, to cite a few.

Anthony’s Avengers will step off in front of Mt. Greenwood Elementary School on Sunday, Sept. 20, at 11 a.m., and continue their 5K through the neighborhood. More are welcomed to sign up.

Registration for the Christmas Without Cancer 5K Run/Walk is online at runsignup.com.

The event, according to Gerri Neylon, Christmas Without Cancer founder, is simple.

“One step at a time,” she said, “but always in the right direction—helping people.”