Local Family Named Southern Suburbs Lupus Walk Ambassadors
Jennifer Finley and Michael Rakoczy, longtime advocates of LSI, lead 2019 South Suburbs Lupus Walk
CHICAGO, IL, May 13, 2019 – A brother and sister were chosen as the 2019 Southern Suburbs Lupus Walk ambassadors in honor of their mother, Gayla, who lost her battle to lupus in 2001.
Gayla’s Gang is the name of the team Jennifer Finley and Michael Rakoczy formed in memory of their mother. Every year since 2008, the family has come together to remember and celebrate the family matriarch, Gayla Rakoczy.
“In addition to being a fundraiser and awareness builder, the Illinois Lupus Walks are an opportunity for families to honor their loved ones,” says Mary Dollear, President of the Lupus Society of Illinois. “Mike and Jenny have made the lupus walks more important by using the opportunity to remember a lupus warrior who was so obviously a wonderful mother.”
Jennifer and Michael were introduced to the Lupus Society of Illinois shortly after Gayla passed away from lupus complications. They were seeking an outlet for grief and an opportunity to raise awareness about lupus. Since 2008, Gayla’s Gang – lead by Jenny and Mike – has walked at the Illinois Lupus Walk to show support for the lupus community, raise funds for research and educate those who may not know what lupus is or how to find support to deal with the disease.
“You may never know someone is suffering and this might be a resource for them,” Jennifer said. “LSI is a great organization and has a wonderful staff that gets back to us at a moment’s notice. We have gained so much from volunteering – from friendships to bringing our families closer.”
Lupus is a difficult disease to diagnose because there is no single test for the disease and the symptoms can often be misinterpreted as something else. Lupus can impact virtually any organ system in the body. People with lupus often don’t look sick – which contributes to the challenge in diagnosing the disease.
The Lupus Society of Illinois provides programs and services to improve the quality of life of people living with lupus as well as the family and friends that care for the person living with the disease. Educational events, support groups, individual peer support and the Lupus Community Navigator Program all exist to serve the people of Illinois.
For Gayla’s family, part of teaching the world about lupus is spreading the positivity with which Gayla faced her disease. “She was a fighter. Many people would say that she was dealt a bad hand, and that may be true,” Michael said. “Most people would’ve folded, including myself. But she played the hand she was dealt like a professional poker player, and in my opinion, that’s what matters.”
Both Jennifer and Michael will be speaking at the 11th annual Southern Suburbs Illinois Lupus Walk alongside LSI’s President Mary Dollear
Over 500 participants are expected to attend in the hopes of raising $60,000 toward LSI’s mission: to promote lupus awareness and complement the work of health care professionals by providing personalized resources for the lupus community while supporting research.
Along with raising awareness, the Lupus Walk will also be full of fun activities, such as a DJ and entertainment, a raffle and a team t-shirt contest. There will be a festival area with a stage and tents for LSI sales, kids’ activities, top teams and sponsors. Light refreshments will be served.
About the Southern Suburbs Lupus Walk
WHEN: 9:00am-12:00pm, June 1, 2019
WHERE: Prairie State College, 202 S Halsted Street, Chicago Heights, IL 60411
Day-of registration begins at 9am – adults: $30, kids (12 and under): $10
Online pre-registration HERE – adults: $25, kids (12 and under): $10
All registered participants receive an official 2019 Lupus Walk t-shirt and personal fundraising page.
1 or 3-mile routes are available
About the Lupus Society of Illinois
The Lupus Society of Illinois (LSI), formed in 1973, is the Midwest’s leading non-profit health organization dedicated to finding the causes and cure for lupus.
LSI’s mission is to promote lupus awareness and complement the work of health care professionals by providing personalized resources for the lupus community while supporting research.
With the help of informed volunteers, lupus medical experts, and committed and caring supporters, we:
· support research and conduct education programs so everyone affected by
· lupus can have an improved quality of life;
· provide information to
· ensure people with lupus and their families get answers and health
· professionals know about new means to diagnose and manage the disease; and,
· conduct activities to increase awareness of lupus, rally public support for those who are affected by lupus, and advocate on their behalf.
Lupus is an unpredictable and misunderstood autoimmune disease that ravages different parts of the body. It is difficult to diagnose, hard to live with, and a challenge to treat.
For more information about lupus or the Lupus Society of Illinois contact Mary Dollear, President, at (312) 542-0002.
MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Dollear, LSI, (312) 648-6053, email@example.com