Suburban foundation going for gold in fight against pediatric cancer
FRANKFORT, Ill. — In the heart of Frankfort, a giant heaping of positive vibes is served.
September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month and Opa Modern Greek Cuisine co-owner Maureen Karuntzos told WGN News they are always happy to participate in the recipe for a cure.
“It’s a good feeling and all of the customers love it,” Karuntzos said.
Opa Modern Greek Cuisine is one of 100 Chicago area businesses raising money for the ‘Go for Gold’ effort. Gold is the chosen color in the battle against pediatric cancer. Organizations like the River Valley Youth Football League are also throwing in.
On Sept. 11, a Frankfort Square Wildcats game left 3-year-old Isla, diagnosed with stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma in May, and mom Danielle Dorsey feeling all the love.
Flavia Moylan is helping spearhead the ‘Go Gold’ campaign. For Moylan, the sobering reality of research is personal.
“We learned very quickly about cancer and one of them is how underfunded childhood cancer is,” she said. “It’s brutal.”
Moylan’s son faced the same diagnosis in 2015. One day, her always energetic boy couldn’t muster up his typical get-and-go attitude at wrestling practice.
“Right when football season ended, he started wrestling and the coach called us and said this is not the same aggressive super intense child. He can’t even run a lap around the room,” Moylan recalled. “I thought, ‘well, he is 12. Maybe he is just being lazy.’ So we took him to the doctor.”
Soon after, the words no parent ever wants to hear were told to Moylan and her husband.
“Your world just stops,” she said.
Joe would undergo the rigors of pediatric cancer treatment with so few drugs, which in most cases are meant for adults.
“I don’t think that is acceptable,” she said.
Cal Sutter came to understand the trials and tribulations of fighting pediatric cancer all too well.
In June of 2005, a 12-year-old Cal was also diagnosed with leukemia. Stepmom Stacey Wahlberg said she and her husband, Tom Sutter, quickly discovered the trying process.
“We jumped right into chemotherapy,” she said.
Wahlberg and her husband founded Cal’s Angels. After a brief period of remission, his cancer returned. So it was on to experimental treatment in Minnesota, which worked for a month until it didn’t.
“When it came back, we were out of options and there was nothing more they were able to do,” Wahlberg said. “So we were flown home and unfortunately, he passed away at the age of 13 in 2006.”
His passing gave birth to Cal’s Angels.
“We wanted to take the information that we had as hard as it was and to give back to others and that is truly how the foundation started,” Wahlberg said.
Based out of St. Charles, Cal’s Angel has raised a lot of money for clinical trials and pediatric protocols. Because there are many forms of kids’ cancer, the market for big pharma is small and thus not profitable. So the bulk of research money comes from the private sector, such as non-profits like Cal’s.
“We have raised over $18.5 million in 15 years,” Wahlberg said. “When people are educated, they are more willing to donate.”
The money has gone to Chicago and suburban hospitals for research and Big Ten college football hospitals like Iowa and Michigan.
Moylan donated and her son, now 19 and cancer free, believes the sky is the limit.
“He is doing fabulous and he is now a sophomore in college and doing great,” Moylan said.
A motivated Moylan said she wants to continue her fight for pediatric cancer awareness, where Opa Modern Greek Cuisine fits in perfectly. Moylan and Karuntzos are close friends. So dining at Opa Modern Greek Cuisine will leave one’s tummy filled and one’s soul well-nourished.
“All of the tables have tents on them that you scan,” Karuntzos said. “We are giving an item away and all we ask is that they make a donation.”
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