It’s the end of an era.
The committee of women that organizes the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk (BBCW), a Mother’s Day tradition since 2000, is retiring after this year’s event on Sunday, May 12, starting at Ridge Park, 9625 S. Longwood Dr., at 8 a.m.
Retirement is bittersweet, they said, but they’re ready to step aside after their 20th annual walk—a nice, round number to cap their achievements.
The three-mile walk began with a couple dozen women walking through Beverly. Now, about 14,000 people take part every year.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been so rewarding. It really has,” said BBCW Co-founder Carol Moriarty. “The relationships that we built, the people we met, it’s been absolutely wonderful. I can’t say enough about volunteering. I think everybody should. We’ve had a wonderful, wonderful team.”
Moriarty founded the walk with her sister, Nancy Mulcahy, and close friend, Lisa O’Brien. Moriarty is a breast-cancer survivor, and O’Brien lost her mother, a sister and an aunt to breast cancer.
In the late 1990s, the three women, along with a handful of family members, frequently participated in the Y-ME organization’s breast-cancer walk held downtown on Mother’s Day. However, the logistics of driving downtown and finding parking became untenable, so they decided to continue to sign up and donate to Y-ME but do their walk through Beverly.
In 2002, they began donating to Little Company of Mary Hospital (LCMH) in Evergreen Park, as Moriarty was treated there and wanted local breast-cancer patients to have easy access to quality care.
In the last 17 years, the walk has donated over $6 million to LCMH, helping purchase a digital mammography machine, hire new breast-cancer support staff and create a crisis fund to support patients with financial needs.
Three years ago, BBCW funds began supporting an annual “sister walk” in El Salvador, which many committee members help organize.
LCMH officials said they plan to continue their assistance in hosting the BBCW in 2020 and beyond.
In the early years of the BBCW, organizers used eight milk cartons and plywood to build a makeshift stage at Ridge Park. Organizers designed T-shirts that were printed by the Geraci Family, of Beverly, and then distributed from the homes of committee members.
The women would even go the extra mile to make sure participants received their apparel in time.
“People used to come and pick up their shirts, and then we would deliver them if they didn’t pick them up,” Moriarty said. “Is that insane?”
Local businesses, including County Fair Foods and Beverly Bank, began assisting in hosting pre-walk registration and T-shirt pickup days, but in order to accommodate thousands of people, LCMH began hosting those activities.
During the BBCW, live entertainment awaits participants along the route. Among the performers are local rock ‘n’ roll bands, high school bands and Irish dancers. Homes are decorated in pink, and a “survivor station” provides those who have defeated breast cancer a place to take commemorative photos with family and friends.
At every turn, walkers are greeted with messages of encouragement.
“I don’t think there’s another walk like it anywhere else,” Moriarty said. “And I’m not saying that because I’m a part of it. It’s because of what the community has done—people ask to be on the route because they want to get their blocks together to have meetings [to plan decorating]. It’s what the blocks do. It’s all the people who volunteer for entertainment on the corners.”
Committee members credited city agencies, including the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Fire Department, Department of Streets and Sanitation, Department of Transportation and 19th Ward officials, for their support of the walk.
Moriarty is grateful that so many people now assist her, Mulcahy and O’Brien. The committee includes over 15 women—many of them longtime friends, some of them breast-cancer survivors. This year’s route will pass by the homes of every committee member who lives in Beverly.
Moriarty said the committee could host the walk even without meeting face to face.
“It’s a team effort. Everybody works well together,” Moriarty said. “It’s a group of women who have just come together. They just get the job done.”
Eleanor Reardon, of Ashburn, joined the committee about seven years ago after meeting Moriarty at a police benefit.
Her sister is a longtime nurse at LCMH, and Reardon said anyone who has donated to the BBCW deserves praise.
“Everyone who’s volunteered,” she said, “whether it’s been for two hours or 200 or 20,000 or 20 years, has helped make this what it is today.”
Committee members said they’re pleased that participation has leveled off at around 14,000 people, an amount that doesn’t overwhelm the park or neighborhood.
However, they wouldn’t mind a larger turnout for their farewell walk.
Erin Hosty, a committee member and survivor, wants to go out with a bang.
“We want to make the 20th,” she said, “the biggest and the best.”
Reardon said she has an ideal number in mind.
“I told Erin,” she said, “it should be 20,000 for 20 years.”
In support of this year’s BBCW, Portillo’s in Oak Lawn, 4020 W. 95th St., will donate 20 percent of receipts generated on Wednesday, May 8, from 5 to 8 p.m., and the Buona Beef in Beverly, 10633 S. Western Ave., will donate 20 percent of sales on the day of the walk.
To start the BBCW off on the right foot, Mother McAuley High School will again host a Mass at Ridge Park at 6:45 a.m.
Registration for this year’s BBCW continues.
T-shirt pickup and registration will take place at LCMH, 2800 W. 95th St., on Wednesday, May 8, from 4 to 7 p.m., and Saturday, May 11, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registrants are advised to enter the hospital’s main lobby on California Avenue.
The cost is $30 for adults and $15 for children 18 and younger. On the day of the walk, it is $40 for adults and $20 for children 18 and younger.
Onesies and toddler shirts are available in sizes 6 months, 12 months, 2T and 3T.
A bus will be available to transport participants between LCMH and Ridge Park on the day of the walk from 6:15 to 11 a.m.
A trolley service will be available at Ridge Park and along the route to assist participants in the walk.
For information about the BBCW, call LCMH at (708) 229-5022 or visit the website at beverlybreastcancerwalk.org.
This article is part of The Beverly Review's annual special section highlighting The Beverly Breast Cancer Walk. View the e-edition here