Guest Viewpoint

While the world stays apart, everything about the Christmas Without Cancer message says “Come Together.”

Last spring at this time, the Christmas Without Cancer event calendar was chock full of events that generated masses of participants and support.

In May 2019, Letz Boxing Chicago filled 115 Bourbon Street as young boxers danced inside the ropes and traded punches. A White Sox game was being planned, and the Thunderbolts were again preparing to host Christmas Without Cancer’s throng of fans in Crestwood.

All three of those events were successful and helped pay bills for families fighting cancer. Those events are off the books for 2020, scrubbed from the calendar that will someday be documented in history books for its pandemic and rioting.

Our community members “together” enable Christmas Without Cancer to generate funds locally for families facing cancer, a mission that conveys a Christmas theme but in actuality operates year round.

“Cancer doesn’t slow down,” said Julie Sullivan, a relatively new committee member who along with her husband, Joe, helps expand the organization’s reach into suburban Mokena.

MaryPat Heisterman, a Christmas Without Cancer volunteer, would relish being in charge of crowd control at St. James Place in Oak Lawn, where week after week the Queen of Hearts effort built a large kitty.

The sheer power of elimination would have resulted in a single winner by now, while the rest of the money would have gone to local families. That money earmarked for “need” items sits in an account while cancer families struggle with bills.

Daily, we read of celebrities and billionaires announcing huge gifts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic for charities and nonprofits caught in the struggle.

Christmas Without Cancer’s celebrities are local working-class heroes in Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn, Beverly/Morgan Park, Mt. Greenwood and beyond who have to squeeze out a few bucks from their own uncertain budgets to help the guy down the street battle lymphoma.

Our other celebrities are the rousing committee members who stepped up last month to help Christmas Without Cancer Founder/President Gerri Neylon and Vice President Renee Copeland.

The committee members drew from their own savings to support Christmas Without Cancer’s “fun(d) initiative” last month on its Facebook page.

The broadcasting neophytes charmingly went “live” on May 15. From Neylon’s basement, they projected hope that the committee seed money would turn into funds readily available for families.

A John Lennon poster from the “Imagine” era appropriately served as a backdrop during the brief broadcast along with a Christmas Without Cancer logo.

Such is the inspiration that Neylon and now Copeland still draw from the idealistic Lennon, who wrote an “anthem for peace” that is enjoying new levels of understanding in these restless times.

Neylon was helping one family when she “imagined” Christmas Without Cancer while alone at her kitchen table.

It should be noted that, while Lennon followed his masterpiece with “Power to the People,” a call to action for others to help, Neylon phoned friends.

Dan Letz could have cried when he had to close his gym and cancel the 115 Bourbon Street event. Instead, he created and is selling boxing shirts to help the Christmas Without Cancer cause.

Letz Box Chicago opened again this week, and young boxers have their eyes set on a May 2021 fight card.

The family-owned St. James Place will open soon, and a Queen of Hearts winner will be named, releasing important funding to local families. Baseball fundraisers will again be scheduled if players short-circuit the season.

Christmas Without Cancer is not surrendering, but rather using its ingenuity to create a virtual 5K for September.

Eighteen committee members donated valued items to completely fill a movie-sized poster frame, showcasing $100 bills, American Express, VISA and MasterCard gift cards, lottery tickets and other valued items exceeding $1,000 face value.

Raffle tickets are being sold for the poster, which included $500 cash; $350 credit card gift cards and $200 in lottery tickets, which could reap their own reward.

Ticket sales will end June 14 at noon; the winner will be announced at 7 p.m. that evening via Facebook live.

For more information or to purchase raffle tickets, visit myevent.com for the Christmas Without Cancer NFP Specialty Raffle.

All money raised will go to local families battling cancer—and a pandemic.

Power to the people, indeed.