Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation

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Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation.  Everyone was more than ready to leave the winter weather outdoors and join like-minded friends and advocates dedicated to making a positive difference for children affected by cancer and support this year’s event “Into the Wild, A Road to the Cure.”

As soon as guests entered the UIC Forum the theme’s playfulness got everyone in the mood. Leopard print fabric and safari helmets decorated the registration tables.  Life-size cutouts of tigers, hippos, and elephants hugged the wall space while monkeys swung from vines cascading from the ceiling. Miniature wild animals guarded each guest place card.

During the cocktail hour, guests started bidding on the large and diverse silent auction. Emcee Peggy Kusinski, from NBC5 Chicago and Event Chair Candace Jordan spoke about the organization’s mission which is dedicated to eliminating pediatric cancer and providing hope and support to those who are touched by it.

Live auction items included a custom-designed evening gown by Mark Roscoe Design, a Punita Mita resort trip which included three nights at the Four Seasons, two nights at the St Regis, a round of golf plus other amenities, a dinner party given by Tracy and Russ Scurto going to the lucky winner for $15,000; and an adorable Labradoodle puppy who pulled on everyone’s heartstrings and raised $12,500. Guests also had the opportunity to donate through an interactive online platform.

Kathleen Casey, the founder and CEO of Bear Necessities, who lost her son Barrett “Bear” Krupa to Wilms Tumor at the age of eight, said less than 3% of the federal funding dollars, designated for cancer treatment, goes towards helping children with cancer and how Bear Necessities is in the forefront of awarding medical research grants towards a finding a cure. She introduced a video. The room was silent as these children spoke about their cancers and their challenges, with several children expressing their hope; “I just want to live to grow up.”

Foundation Vice President Courtney Krupa and her mother Kathleen, presented the 2014 Hope Awards to Dr. Stewart Goldmanan Associate Professor of Pediatrics, and the Medical Director of Neuro-Oncology and a faculty member of the Felk Brain Tumor Center at Children’s Memorial Hospital, and to the Magellan Corporation, a long time vital funding partner whose contributions have made significant impacts to Bear Necessities programs and services.  Magellan’s President Bob Arthur accepted the award.  Twenty-five year old Abigail McDonald, the honorary Bear Hug Ambassador, spoke about how her life and the lives of her family were turned upside down when she was diagnosed with cancer at age 13. She said the support they received from Bear Necessities and the Bear Hugs Program during her treatment had been in itself life-saving.

The $650,000 which the gala raised, funds two programs: the Bear Discoveries Program awarding medical research grants nationwide to researchers who make meaningful advancements and discoveries towards finding a cure and therapies for various types of pediatric cancer; and the Bear Hugs Program which supports current cancer patients (ages 0 –19), as well as their immediate families that face the many challenges that accompany the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric cancer. Last year the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation served over 350 children with 70% of the monies raised funding Bear Discoveries and the remaining 30%, Bear Hugs. For more information please visit

Photography: Jon Recana

About Margaret O'Connor

Margaret J. O’Connor is the founder/owner of MarCon Communications, a public relations and special events firm which handles the publicity and event needs for a diverse range of clients. She’s involved with numerous charities in Chicago and is active in its lifestyle and social scene. She grew up and was educated in Africa, Australia and America and holds degrees in marketing and finance from the University of Illinois. She is a contributing writer to many print and digital publications and her focus is lifestyle, culinary and nonprofit events. Read more from this author.