Chicago Tribune: Komen Chicago Goes ‘Under the Pink Top’ to Combat Breast Cancer

Komen Chicago Goes ‘Under the Pink Top’ to Combat Breast Cancer

By Candace Jordan

Komen Chicago hosted The Greatest Show Under the Big Pink Top on Oct. 27 with more than 550 supporters in attendance. The star-studded event at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios celebrated over $600,000 raised throughout October in the fight to end breast cancer and fund research.

The vintage circus-inspired spectacle enveloped attendees immediately upon arrival in the cavernous Stage 21 space where high-flying trapeze artists, magicians, bearded ladies, aerialists, stilt walkers, flame-throwing contortionists and even a life-size pink inflatable elephant were on full display.

Celebrities walking the “pink” carpet included “Chicago Fire’s” Miranda Rae Mayo and Annie Ilonzeh, “Empire’s” Andre Royo and singer-songwriter Tara Macri, among others.

Popular local singer John Vincent opened the program with the Moe Fitz Project band performing “Come Alive” from the film “The Greatest Showman.” Dramatic pink lighting swirled around the space as Komen Chicago Executive Director Tiosha Bailey and gala chair Lauran Bromley took the stage and welcomed the crowd.

Bailey spoke about how cancer has touched her life: Both her mother and maternal grandmother succumbed to the disease, and she currently has two cousins in the fight. She described Komen Chicago’s 2.0 initiative, which involves funding mammography screenings, navigation and biopsies, as well as working collaboratively with corporate, government and health care partners to save more lives and reduce health care costs.

“Each day in Chicago, 15 women are diagnosed with breast cancer while three will die. These numbers are even higher for African-American women whose mortality rate is 40 percent higher than Caucasian women. This is often due to late diagnosis and impeded access to quality care,” Bailey said.

Bromley, a cancer survivor, shared Komen’s fundraising statistics. “Since its founding in 1997, Komen Chicago has funded $17.5 million in community grants and has put $5.5 million to work on scientific research. … I’m excited to be part of Komen 2.0 as we (home) in on breaking down barriers to care for underserved women in Chicago,” she said.

Theatrical table-side dessert presentations, created by STK Chicago restaurant, were followed by the introduction of the evening’s honorees by masters of ceremonies: Roz Varon, ABC-7 anchor and a cancer survivor, and Dr. Suzet McKinney, Komen Chicago board president/CEO and executive director at the Illinois Medical District.

The Civic Award was presented to patient/doctor team Patti Beyer and Dr. Georgia Giakoumis Spear, radiologist and chief of the Breast Imaging Center at NorthShore University HealthSystem. Dr. Kent Hoskins, associate professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, received the Medical Award, and Corporate Award winners included Jewel-Osco (president Paul Gossett accepted on behalf of his company) and Rivers Casino (accepted by Devin Maddox, Rivers Casino Des Plaines’ vice president/general counsel).

Breast cancer survivors Caryn Smith, Ethel Turner, Dr. Louisa Olushoga and Kirstin Chernawsky were recognized onstage as Vincent sang an emotional rendition of “What a Wonderful World.” The survivors were provided with complete makeovers by FashionBar Chicago’s Tony Long for the event.

The evening concluded with Macri performing “This is Me” from the “The Greatest Showman” with Vincent, Mo Fitz Project and the New Life Covenant Church choir. Acrobats shimmied up pink curtains onstage while the entire “circus” troupe danced through the audience. Confetti cannons launched colorful streamers into the crowd as it stood for a standing ovation.

Freelance writer Candace Jordan is involved in many local organizations, including some whose events she covers