By Kristin Boza
The Ginger Rugai Y-Me Softball Tournament returns to St. Christina Fields/Mount Greenwood Park, 3724 W. 111th St., for the 25th straight year on Sat., Aug. 24. This annual event raises tens of thousands of dollars in a single year that is gifted directly to a University of Chicago breast cancer researcher, Dr. Kay Macleod. This is one of the most collaborative neighborhood events, and honors the 19th Ward’s former alderman, Ginger Rugai, and the struggle of every breast cancer survivor, their families, and those who have lost their lives to the devasting disease.
Dr. MacLoed’s U of C research lab works on how the metabolism of cell organelles that break down nutrients is linked to the spread of breast cancer with the aim of finding a way to block cancer from advancing. Funds from last year’s Y-Me Softball tournament paid for a centrifuge, a piece of equipment that’s essential to MacLeod’s research.
The softball tournament is the brainchild of Kathy O’Shea, a former Rugai staffer and owner of Schools R Us in Mount Greenwood. O’Shea had the idea to honor Rugai’s battle with breast cancer; Rugai is now a 30-year survivor.
“We had eight teams that first year,” Rugai said. “I can’t recall how much we raised, but it was a great day and a lot of fun. The next year, we had 16 teams, and now we’ve grown to 64. It’s unbelievable. We operate on a very lean budget; only t-shirts, insurance and sanitation are paid for by us — everything else is donated by the great local businesses. We offer food and water and pop to the players; and even the little things like golf carts to get the food to the players on various fields are donated to us by the Ag School and Marist High School. It’s those kinds of little things that make it all work.”
Despite the fun, the day has a lot of ups and downs for the players and their families. “It’s wonderful to hear the success stories of people who are doing well, but it’s also so sad to hear about the diagnosis of a player or someone’s relative,” Rugai said. “The great thing is to see the families of survivors on the sidelines during our ceremony with tears in their eyes and joy in their hearts. They’ve all fought with their faith and tenacity. It’s also great to see the generosity of the women who play who are just there to support the cause and compete and have fun.”
Local businesses have been in on the action since the start. This year, Open Outcry brewed a special beer, and the proceeds support breast cancer research, and countless other small businesses have donated money or goods.
“It is always awesome to see a small business donate to the cause. It means so much and we’re lucky to have so many local supporters,” Rugai said. Another new addition to the event this year is local business associations that are encouraging their members to participate in the Shining a Pink Light on Breast Cancer initiative. The 95th Street Business Association, the Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Association, and the Mount Greenwood Community and Business Association are all taking part.
“We can celebrate all the advancements and treatments, but we still can’t celebrate a cure,” Rugai said. “That’s why we’re still moving along to raise money to get that cure.”
To sign up or donate, go to Y-MeSoftball.com.