BAPA residential member profiles

Special Recreation in Mount Greenwood Gives Back

By Kristin Boza

With the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics is this July, the participants in the Special Recreation program at Mount Greenwood Park are gearing up for the competition while maintaining their mission of giving back to the community. 

The program serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities in the Chicagoland area, and currently has 115 participants ranging in age from 7 to 65, according to Special Recreation Coordinator Lisa Mulcrone. Mulcrone has been a part of the program in some capacity for the last 27 years, beginning as a volunteer when her sister, Sioban, was enrolled in the Special Recreation program. 

While the program accepts community volunteers to help out, the participants in the Special Recreation program have become great partners to other community groups as well. 

“We have volunteered by baking cookies at the Oak Lawn Ronald McDonald House, we assist BAPA with the Ridge Run and Home Tour, and we volunteer with Special Children’s charities in various jobs, such as assisting with 5K runs, the annual Duck Derby fundraiser, and the Polar Plunge, to name a few,” Mulcrone said.  

The Special Recreation group has been essential in helping BAPA with the Ridge Run by stuffing goody bags, handing out fliers along the race route, and passing out refreshments and finishing medals to the Ridge Run runners. 

Mulcrone and the team is especially looking forward to participating in the Special Olympics July 17 through 21 at Illinois State University in Bloomington, Ill. Athletes will compete in power lifting, track and field, gymnastics, swimming and bocce, according to Mulcrone.  

“We are extremely excited about being a part of the 50th Anniversary of the Special Olympics. We will be attending as a group, hoping to make it to the majority of activities that Special Olympics has planned,” Mulcrone said. “We compete year-round in 14 different Special Olympic sports.” 

To get involved as a volunteer with the Special Recreation program in Mount Greenwood, contact Lisa Mulcrone, To volunteer at a Special Olympics event, contact Eileen Guinane, 


Local Mountain Biker a Champion

By Abby Johnson 

Jim Pittacora is not the kind of person to fill his fireplace mantle with medals. He doesn’t want anyone to know that he has more than 100 of them for mountain biking. And even talking about the shiny prizes makes him anxious; he waves his hand in the air as if to say that particular piece of information isn’t important. 

But there is no hiding that Pittacora is a champion.  

He has won four state titles since his first big race in 2012 and twice finished first place in the Breck 100, a 100-mile cycling course climbing more than 13,700 feet that took Pittacora 12.5 hours to complete. This race is the most challenging, he says. And he’s training to do it again in August. 

One hundred seems to be the magic number for Pittacora: One hundred plus medals, 100-mile courses and his participation in more than 100 races. It’s a funny coincidence, the frequency of this number, because it’s also a reflection of Pittacora’s dedication to the sport. He gives everything his 100%.  

He’s currently preparing for a 15-miler that will take place in West Virginia on July 19. When asked if it’s a relief to be riding such a short distance, he shakes his head. In fact, this race will keep him up the night before, he says. 

“There is zero room for mistakes when you’re riding such a short distance,” he said. “You mess up one time, everyone flies by you and that’s it. You’re done for.” 

To lessen the possibility of any mistakes, he will spend every night for the next few weeks practicing his starting position, so it can be as close to flawless as possible when the starter pistol fires.  

For Pittacora, training isn’t a chore, it’s just part of a hobby. One that began in 2005 and accelerated in 2010 when he retired from his job as a Chicago Police Officer and began preparing for competitive cycle racing. Of course, it’s a good way to stay in shape, he says. But it’s not about the exercise. Pittacora does this because he enjoys it. 

“It’s tiring,” he said. “But that’s not something you notice if you like what you’re doing.” 

Sometimes he will ride to Dan Ryan Woods and time himself racing up and down the toboggan slides.  

Pittacora surely has the stamina, the endurance to excel at something so mentally and physically demanding. But his response when asked how he got to this point is surprising, considering he has certainly earned his bragging rights. It wasn’t hard, he says. Anyone could do it. 

“There’s no magic formula. Just ride.” 

Fire Up Your Smoker With Tips from a BBQ Expert

By Kristin Boza 

Beverly/Morgan Park resident John Fitzpatrick has been honing his BBQ skills for years and shares some of his best tips to ensure your ribs are the best at every backyard BBQ and block party this year. 

Fitzpatrick is an amateur rib smoker who dedicated many summers to replicating his favorite restaurant-quality recipes, until he ultimately began concocting his own way of smoking racks of ribs.  

He’s taken his hobby to the competitive level, participating in the Memphis in May World BBQ Championship Cook-Off as the Smoke n’ Beers team, competing against BBQ masters from around the world. 

“I had a big custom rotisserie pit mounted on a trailer that I could jam about 16 racks in at a time,” he said. “But it looked like a toy compared to the huge rigs, some two stories high, that the guys in Memphis were using… but overall, it was just an awesome experience.” 

When he first discovered ribs as a kid, Fitzpatrick loved the classic Homestead restaurant at 122nd and Vincennes. “They closed down when I was in high school and left me with the same feeling the ’85 Bears did after their one Super Bowl victory,” he said. “I kept waiting for them to reopen and they never did!”  

That disappointment sent Fitzpatrick on a life-long quest to find ribs just as good as Homestead’s. About 15 years ago, Fitzpatrick and his wife stopped at the 17th Street Bar & Grill in southern Illinois and he was swept away by the ribs he ate there. After chatting for over an hour with the owner, Fitzpatrick was inspired to buy his own smoker and start creating his own ribs at home.  

For those embarking on the home smoker/BBQ rib experience, Fitzpatrick recommends first heading to County Fair to pick up some great ribs. His favorite commercial sauce is Dreamland Bar-B-Que from Birmingham, Ala., and his favorite commercial dry rub is Ploughboys BBQ Yardbird Rub. Or, check out the recipe below to make your own dry rub, courtesy of Fitzpatrick. 

Once the ribs are ready to cook, the challenge is to make sure they’re cooked through without having them dry out or char. Sometimes, Fitzpatrick warns, people will take the ribs off and they’ll be perfect, but they will dry out and taste burnt after 45 minutes on the buffet table. To combat this problem, he advises cookers to wrap the ribs in aluminum foil for the last third of the total cooking time. 

“If your total cooking time is 3 and a half hours, foil the ribs for about the last hour and a half. The lower your cooking temp, the longer your cook time, and the longer your cook time is, the more important it becomes to foil your ribs. If you like sauce, it’s a great idea to brush them with a little just before you foil.”  

Fitzpatrick cautions against putting a can of water into the cooker or partially pre-cooking the ribs in a pan with water on the bottom since the ribs “will taste like you pulled them out of the dishwasher.” 

To get Fitzpatrick-worthy ribs, check out his carefully crafted rib cooking schedule; 


Best Homemade Dry Rub from John Fitzpatrick
1 cup turbinado sugar  

3/4 cup kosher salt 

1/2 cup paprika (highest quality you can find) 

6 tbsp. chili powder 

2 tbsp. cumin seeds, freshly ground 

4 tsp. mixed peppercorns, freshly ground 

3 tsp. onion granules 

2 tsp. MSG (or Accent) 

1 tsp. chipotle powder 


Mix together and rub on ribs before cooking. 


John Fitzpatrick’s Rib Competition Cooking Schedule for Perfectly Smoked Ribs 

5 hours, 25 minutes before serving: Start smoker and get it to 250 degrees 

4 hours, 40 minutes before serving: Slather and rub ribs 

4 hours, 25 minutes before serving: Put ribs on smoker, meat side up 

3 hours, 10 minutes before serving: Rotate ribs 

1 hour, 55 minutes before serving: Foil ribs, meat side down and add braising liquid 

1 hour, 45 minutes before serving: Put ribs back in smoker 

45 minutes before serving: Take ribs out of smoker and vent. Reseal foil. Let rest in liquid. Heat sauce. 

30 minutes before serving: Drain liquid. Rub and sauce ribs. Re-foil. Put ribs in smoker at 200 degrees. 

10 minutes before serving: Cut, select and re-sauce ribs 

5 minutes before serving: Plate the ribs then serve.  

Your Attention Please! Family Fun Nights Now Arriving at Your Station

By Abby Johnson

Spice up your daily home commute with live music, fun activities and good food at BAPA’s 3rd annual Family Fun Nights. The celebratory summer kick-off is coming to a station near you on Thursdays, June 14, 21 and 28 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. 

“It’s a great opportunity for people to spend time with their families and mingle with their neighbors,” said BAPA Executive Director Susan Flood. “You’re on the same train with the same people every day, but how many times do you actually talk to each other?” 

Family Fun Nights was started in 2015 for this exact reason: To encourage neighbors to get to know each other. To make friends of what may be only friendly faces. Now the festivities are in their third year, and their popularity, their symbolizing of Beverly as a familial neighborhood, are what make Flood proud of continuing this tradition.  

“One of our goal’s at BAPA is to make our community more than a place where people live,” Flood said. “We want the Beverly Hills/Morgan Park neighborhood to feel like home. We want residents to love where they live.” 

Of course, these events must be planned with the children in mind. That’s why the “Meet Mom ‘N’ Dad at the Metra” is the theme for the third year in a row. With a bouncy house, face painting and sidewalk chalk available at every station, there are plenty of activities to keep the kids busy. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from the Calabria Imports food truck and Sweet Freaks Chocolates will be selling desserts. 

While the event hasn’t wavered from its original purpose, its location has changed. For the first time, Family Fun Nights are “on the move”, advancing from one Metra station to another, much like the trains that run alongside them. This year, the festivities will take place at three locations, as opposed to the previous years’ steady 103rd St. spot. Flood said the move is an attempt to bring attention to other gathering places throughout the neighborhood. The fun nights have been so popular, they begged for expansion, she said. 

“We want people from all across the neighborhood to have the chance to join in the fun,” Flood said. 

The festivities will take place at a different Metra station every Thursday, beginning Jun. 14 at 91st St Station/Maggie Cosme Park, 9201 S. Longwood Dr., where guests can participate in soccer drills with Kics United, listen to a performance by the Chicago Children’s Choir and practice tennis drills with the Beverly Hills Tennis Club. Kids can also learn about animals and nature with Erin Yanz of Nature’s Creatures. 

Commuters of the 99th St Station can enjoy the festivities Jun. 21, which will feature Live Music with Bridget and Garrett at Tranquility Stage, an arts/crafts table and Nature’s Creatures. The caboose arrives at 111th St. Station for the final gathering on Jun. 28, where children can enjoy a petting zoo from Miss Jamie’s Farm. 

Sponsors of this year’s event are Little Company of Mary Hospital, Mike Haggerty Buick GMC, Beverly Bank & Trust, Office of the 19th Ward, Beverly Improvement Association, AT&T, Shops of Walden, and Beverly Ridge Homeowners Association. 


Know Your Neighbors: Kevin & Karen O’Malley

By Kristin Boza

Community Involvement with a Splash of Coffee

Kevin and Karen O’Malley made a huge splash on the neighborhood small business scene when they opened B-Sides Coffee + Tea, 9907 S. Walden Pkwy., last summer. The family moved to Beverly/Morgan Park three years ago and are raising their children, Cassidy, 2 and Aiden, 6 weeks, in a neighborhood that they’re committed to contributing to.

“We chose to move to Beverly because it’s close to downtown, it’s a supportive community, and there are many beautiful homes and young families like ours,” Karen said. “The thing we like best about living here is definitely the people. Everyone is so friendly and it is a true sense of community.”

Eager to get out and walk with their stroller, the O’Malleys realized how important amenities are to a neighborhood.

“We want Beverly to be the best neighborhood possible; we thought the shops at 99th and Walden provided the perfect location for a coffee shop. It is convenient for commuters, parents dropping their kids off at school, salon customers, and those wanting to work away from the office,” Karen said.

For the O’Malleys, the location also had some special perks.

“The advantage to working so close to home is being close to the kids, as well as shorter days since there is no commute,” Karen said. “With our daughter at All Day Montessori, across the street from our shop, it is very convenient to drop her off and pick her up before and after work.”

The O’Malleys take pride in showcasing their inviting atmosphere, friendly staff, and quality food and drinks at B-Sides. The shop also offers an extensive collection of vinyl records, so customers can enjoy great music while caffeinating. Karen says their customers are eager to enjoy their Instant Karma latte (made of dark chocolate and caramel), pistachio muffins from Iversen’s Bakery in Blue Island and Turmeric Ginger herbal tea. B-Sides Coffee + Tea is a BAPA Business Member.

In addition to contributing to the build-up and buzz around 99th and Walden, B-Sides will be making appearances at the 95th Street Farmers Market this summer, selling coffee and 12 ounce bags of Metropolis beans to brew at home. For and hours, call 773-629-6001.

Beloved Visionary Retires from Little Company of Mary Hospital after 53 Years of Dedicated Service

Joan Murphy recently retired from Little Company of Mary Hospital (LCMH) after 53 years of dedicated service. Murphy spent her time at LCMH changing the lives of women with her unique blend of Christian humor, faith-based nursing and love of life. Murphy is a registered nurse with an MS in Management and a PhD in Behavioral Psychology. Murphy served at LCMH as an ICU Nurse, Director of Community Health and, most recently, Leadership Mentoring Specialist.

During her time as Director of Community Health, Murphy cultivated many relationships and health and wellness opportunities for women and the community through the hospital’s Health Educations Center and the Women’s Wellness Consultants. Murphy began teaching community wellness classes in the early 1970s, which included disease prevention, diet, medication, stress management and exercise. She knew 30 years ago that the female presence in the household was the most influential in the family’s healthcare decisions. These programs were so well recognized that LCMH received national acknowledgment from the American Hospital Association. Murphy’s efforts also were awarded by the State of Illinois with the Illinois Governor’s Council on Health and Fitness Award in 1991.

Over the years, Murphy and her community wellness team created numerous programs for the entire family. Murphy has been an innovator of community health and continues to utilize her PhD in Behavioral Psychology, focusing on humor and its powerful impact on health. Murphy developed CHEER (Choices, Humor, Enhancement, Education, Renewal), which is a free program that works by bringing community members who have life-threatening diseases together to interact and heal through laughter and positive attitude.

In 1985, Murphy developed LCMH’s first annual Women’s Wellness Weekend. This popular event gave women a chance to get away for the weekend and be in the company of other women, focusing on themselves, renewing their spirits and learning better ways to care for themselves and their families. Murphy also was instrumental in creating an annual Women’s Event at LCMH that features an expert physician who focuses on women’s health issues.

Murphy transitioned to her role as Leadership Mentoring Specialist in the fall 2015. She offered positive support and provided both individual and cohort counseling sessions to leaders in the LCMH organization.

In addition to her career at the hospital, Murphy is involved with other laity supporting the work of religious women of the Little Company of Mary. As a Little Company of Mary Associate, Murphy carries on the mission of Venerable Mary Potter, founder of the Little Company of Mary Sisters, in the Sisters’ institutions, in their communities and in their own lives. She also is a national public speaker and has been a past presenter for the American Hospital Association, American Association of Nurse Executive Women, American Cancer Society, and American Heart Association.

“Murphy brings love and laughter to all who know her,” said Mary Jo Quick, Vice President of Mission and Spirituality at LCMH. “Even through nursing a family member through a chronic illness, she never revealed that her day’s events might be the slightest bit stressful. Murphy is known for reminding others to ‘let your performance be bigger than your applause.’ She has touched the lives of thousands and has played a large role in ensuring the southwest Chicago area is a healthier place for women to grow and succeed.”

Murphy is a loving mother of three and grandmother of seven. Her children Colleen, Peggy and Vince are in the helping professions of special education, nursing and social work. Since the passing of her beloved husband Vince nearly a decade ago, her four-legged love, Oliver, has given her a new “leash” on life and many laughs.

BAPA Names New Executive Director, Expands Programming

The Board of the Beverly Area Planning Association is delighted to announce that Susan Flood has joined the staff as the new BAPA Executive Director.

A longtime Beverly/Morgan Park resident and active volunteer and supporter of BAPA for many years, Flood brings expertise in business development, non-profit management and strategic planning to the organization.

Margot Burke Holland, who recently completed her three-year commitment as BAPA Executive Director, has moved into the newly created position of BAPA Program Director. In that role, she will focus on developing and enhancing programs that fulfill BAPA’s mission in the areas of supporting local schools, small businesses, community safety, beautification and quality of life.

The addition of Flood at BAPA’s helm and transition of Holland into an important new role fulfills BAPA’s recent efforts to reorganize the staff and reenergize the programs and services that benefit the Beverly/Morgan Park community.

“I could not be more thrilled to welcome Susan Flood to BAPA as the new Executive Director,” said BAPA Board President Maureen Gainer Reilly. “BAPA will benefit from her years of experience and strong non-profit, event and fundraising background. The neighborhood is so fortunate to have yet another talented, dynamic executive director to ensure BAPA’s success. With Margot Holland transitioning to a newly created program director role, the staff is poised to continue their ‘back to basics’ approach which has strengthened the organization.”

Flood began her career doing business development in the tech industry, then took a break to raise three children and pursue some personal development. She dabbled in Chicago’s improv scene at Second City and Improv Olympic and on weekends embarked on training new runners for their first races and marathons. Her first experience with BAPA was through the Ridge Running 101 training program where she trained to run then signed on to train others. “I trained more than 200 women for the Ridge Run and another 200-plus to run marathons to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association,” she said. Flood was also on the committee that organized the first Beverly Hills Cycling Classic, setting a course for this popular annual summer event.

When she reentered the work force, Flood joined the staff at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, taking a leadership role in fundraising. Among the many successful programs Flood spearheaded during her ten years at Mercy Home were the “Mercy Home Heroes” Chicago Marathon team program and Legacy of Learning, an endowment campaign that raised money for the education of Mercy Home’s youth in perpetuity. Susan remains committed to the kids at Mercy Home through service on their Leader Council, a women’s board that funds the home through their Graduates Luncheon, held in the spring.

Flood has shared her expertise for many years as a member of BAPA’s Development Committee. She has served on Christ the King’s Family and School Association and began the parish Moms and Tots group.

“I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to lead BAPA into the future, building on the dynamic and extremely successful formula of solid programs and talented staff,” Flood said.

In the past three years, BAPA’s mission-based programs have been expanded and special events have grown to attract bigger audiences and more engaged participants. These trends are expected to continue and realize even better growth with the addition of Susan to the team.  .

In her tenure as executive director, Holland introduced successful programs including the recent Author in the Schools at local public elementary schools, the community safety survey, and the popular Meet Me at the Metra Family Fun Nights.

Work Out to Wipe Out Domestic Violence Benefit Day is March 24

The Morgan Park Junior Woman’s Club will present the 7th annual Work Out to Wipe Out Domestic Violence (WOWO) Benefit Day on Sat., Mar. 24, raising awareness about the serious issue of domestic violence, and raising funds for the local domestic violence agency, A New Direction Beverly Morgan Park (AND).  The agency provides counseling, legal advocacy, education, and support at no charge to families affected by domestic violence.

As the event organizer, the Morgan Park Junior Woman’s Club recruits Benefit Day partners among local fitness businesses and professionals.  One goal for this year’s event is to add new fitness centers and activities, including a center and activity for elementary and high school students. Morgan Park Junior Dena O’Reilly said, “Last year several parents wanted their children to be able to join them. This is a great idea.” St. Barnabas Parish and Bethany Union Church will be the designated sites for family exercise with an all-ages Zumba class as the group exercise event.

Several new partners who will be hosting WOWO events this year. Mother McAuley High School’s National Honor Society (NHS) and Action Reaction Club are hosting WOWO activities around their annual Ice Cream Social, which will be held at the school on Mar. 22.  Students will help to raise awareness about domestic violence and raise funds for A New Direction.

“We love the idea of supporting Work Out to Wipe Out Domestic Violence Benefit Day,” said Cathy O’Grady, World Languages Faculty and McAuley’s NHS moderator. “Using our Mighty Mac strength to give strength to other women makes for a great day.  Exercise is a fantastic tool to help both physically and mentally.”

In addition to Mother McAuley’s participation, Cathy O’Loughlin, the 2018 facilities coordinator for the Morgan Park Juniors, said several new businesses will offer classes on the Benefit Day this year, including Treadfit Beverly, Barre It All, Blazin’ Cycle, Fit4Mom-Palos-OrlandPark, Light House Yoga and Fitness, Running Excels, Sculpt and Shred and Stone Age Cross Fit.

“It’s amazing how every year we are able to offer participants a great variety of workout sites.  There truly is something for everyone,” O’Loughlin said.

Through a generous sponsorship, Marquette Bank provided funds for WOWO T-shirts. Morgan Park Junior Karen Meyer, chairman for this year’s event said, “This is the second year in a row that Marquette Bank has sponsored WOWO.  We are so grateful for their commitment and their help in raising awareness and funds to end domestic violence in our community.”

Meyer added that Bullpen Sports, a baseball and training facility in Crestwood, and Beverly Therapists, donated funds for the event’s printed materials.

A New Direction Beverly Morgan Park is in its seventh year of providing confidential counseling and legal advocacy services for victims of domestic violence, many of whom live in the neighborhood or surrounding suburbs.

“Domestic violence is a reality in every community and we need to work together to create awareness and quality programs to fight it,” said Jessica McCarihan, AND Board President. “WOWO is our second largest fundraiser of the year, thanks to the efforts of the Morgan Park Juniors. With no state or federal funding, the monies raised are critical to the agency maintaining services.”

To participate in the Work Out to Wipe Out Domestic Violence Benefit Day, visit to register online for a suggested donation of $25 and select an activity offered by one of the many fitness centers, churches, schools and businesses on the Benefit Day schedule. Onsite registration on the day of the event is welcome if space at the facility permits.

For those who can’t participate on Mar. 24, donations to AND and purchases of the mint-green event t-shirt ($15) can be made at the same website.  T-shirt supplies are limited. T-shirts will be available for pick up on Mar. 21, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Belle Up Boutique, 1915 W. 103rd St.

The GFWC IL Morgan Park Junior Woman’s Club is a group of women dedicated to making a difference in their community through volunteer service. Since its inception in 1934, the Club has actively initiated various service projects contributing to the quality of life in Beverly/Morgan Park. To learn more about membership and volunteer opportunities visit


Photo: From left to right, Donna Dalton, President of the Morgan Park Junior Woman’s Club, Karen Truitt, Regional Sales Manager for Marquette Bank, and Jessica McCarihan, AND Board President.  


Know Your Neighbors: McGarry Family

By Kristin Boza

When Marty McGarry passed away after a long fight with Familial Amyloidosis in January, the whole community felt the loss. Proud Irishman and supporter of the South Side Irish Parade, McGarry and his family were named as the special honoree of this year’s parade. The family includes his wife Kathleen, and their children Theresa (Jim) Lakawitch, Morgan (Meghan) McGarry, Molly (Michael) McAlinden and Nora (Jim) Winters.

“Being this year’s honoree is incredibly humbling. My dad felt truly honored to be able to spread awareness of his disease through this parade, which he loved attending each year,” Theresa Lakawitch said. “It means that the hard work my parents fought for the last six years hasn’t gone unnoticed. We will continue to follow that path and work to find answers to end this disease.”

Marty McGarry was intent on spreading awareness of his disease that not only affected him, but many members of the extended family throughout the U.S., Ireland and England. “It makes us proud to know how much awareness he has single-handedly brought to Amyloidosis, because of the incredible person he was. He had touched so many lives and the generosity of those who love him will help to benefit the future of this disease, and hopefully end it altogether,” Theresa said. “We have to advocate for ourselves and for those who aren’t able to themselves.”

The clan plans to walk or ride a trolley down Western Avenue, and will be joined by numerous family members, even a cousin from London who is travelling to Chicago for the event. After the parade, they’ll head back to the McGarry house and spend the rest of the day in the Irish bar in their basement, per years of tradition.

The McGarry children carry on their father’s legacy of helping others through their advocacy and their chosen professions. Theresa is a CPS bilingual teacher; Morgan is a Chicago firefighter and took over for his dad at McGarry’s Boxing Club; Molly is a retired hairstylist and part owner of Beverly Barre; and Nora is a hair colorist. Mom Kathleen is a retired early childhood educator with CPS.

Fond memories of Marty are sure to be shared in abundance on Parade Day. Theresa says that they all treasure his stories and memories of Ireland, and his dedication to the kids through coaching their soccer teams and travelling with him back to Ireland to visit family.

“He loved to be out and about in the neighborhood and would love running into people. He had a charming personality and a great sense of humor, he would light up a room with his smile or a joke,” Theresa said. “Nora always says she was fascinated by how he ‘knew a little about a lot’; he was very humble and wise.”

Act of Kindness Welcomes New Neighbors

By Kristin Boza

Sometimes, one simple act can create a ripple of goodwill throughout a community. One act of kindness by a local business truly made the day of one Beverly/Morgan Park mom and demonstrates the generosity that our neighborhood is known for.

Joanne Carstensen, her husband, Alex, and two-year-old daughter, Daphne, moved to Beverly/Morgan Park from Lakeview last October. As the young family settled into their new neighborhood, a pregnant Carstensen was also dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis. She shared a poignant story on the ‘Moms of Beverly’ Facebook page, where she wrote about the diagnosis she received during her first trimester of pregnancy, and the kindness of Capsule, a women’s clothing and accessories boutique at 9915 S. Walden Pkwy.

As Carstensen wrote on Facebook, “… on a day I was feeling well, my mom and I went to Capsule … My mother put a purse on hold, but I got incredibly sick and had to be hospitalized that week. My mom informed Maura [Conine, owner of Capsule] to stop holding it for us, as I would be unable to return to make a final decision. After hearing about my health, Maura and the Capsule family surprised me by dropping off a box with the beautiful purse wrapped up inside and an extremely kind card wishing my family good health and happiness for 2018. This act of kindness and generosity is one my family and I will never forget.”

When she found out about her second pregnancy, Carstensen was ecstatic, but wary when she felt a lump in her breast in June 2017. Ultimately, her doctor ordered an ultrasound and a biopsy, confirming a breast cancer diagnosis on Carstensen’s 32nd birthday in July.

Carstensen underwent a sentinel node biopsy, a lumpectomy, and four rounds of chemotherapy, the last of which was on Dec. 14, 2017, approximately one month before she was due to give birth to a boy.

On Jan. 25, 2018, Theodore Francis Carstensen was born, and his birth thrilled his entire family, all of whom have pitched in to help in any way they could. Recently, Carstensen began seven weeks of radiation. Amazingly, she was able to breastfeed baby Theo.

“I’ve learned a lot through this process, but one of the most surprising things is just how amazing a woman’s body is in adjusting to her baby’s needs,” Carstensen said. “The side effects from radiation won’t kick in for a couple of weeks, so right now the hardest part is just coming to terms with leaving my babies every day. But knowing that they are in amazing hands has helped, including my mom, mother-in-law, and nanny Katrina.”

As she fights breast cancer, Carstensen looks forward to the day when her family can get out and enjoy the neighborhood. “We were blown away by the generosity of Maura and the Capsule team, but also the kind words sent from others in the area after I posted on the ‘Moms of Beverly’ page. Our neighbors have been extremely welcoming,” she said.

“Joanne’s story resonated with me so deeply and immediately,” Conine said. “That someone so young and vibrant, a mother expecting her second baby, had to deal with something so scary and exhausting.”

Conine and another store employee, Natalie Baldacci, wanted to do something to brighten Carstensen’s day, hoping to ease her stress and worry for at least a moment. Conine called the purse designer, Primecut, and had a special-made bag, which was shipped within a week. “I wanted Joanne to understand that she is part of a wonderful community with people that are there for each other, especially during hard times,” Conine said.