With the recent accusations of fraud made toward the Cancer Fund of America, Children’s Cancer Fund, Cancer Supportive Services and the Breast Cancer Society, the past week has not necessarily been a victory lap for preventative cancer research.
But bring it down to a local scope and you’ll find that some charities still remain honest and sport a sense of integrity.
The Port Richmond section of Philadelphia is home to The Ladies of Port Richmond (LOPR), a charity organization that puts together events year-round in order to raise funds for local cancer research, education and awareness.
Though Ladies of Port Richmond isn’t a one-lady show, the organization would be nowhere near its current state if it weren’t for two-time cancer survivor and community figure Mary Louise Leuters.
During the recent Ladies of Port Richmond’s 11th annual Breast Cancer Walk, Philadelphia Neighborhoods sat down with Leuters to learn more about her and her organization’s success.
What can you tell us about Ladies of Port Richmond?
This is our 11th year. Our theme this year was ‘Women Who Are Making A Difference.’ Hopefully we will. We had the Phillie Phanatic here today. The police we here – the motorcycle cops took us through the neighborhood on our walk. They’ve been doing that for us for 11 years too. All our proceeds go towards the Kimmel Cancer Center of Jefferson Hospital, Nazareth Hospital and Holy Redeemer Hospital. All the money we take in at the end of the year is given out to these hospitals. Nazareth and Holy Redeemer use it for awareness and education. Thomas Jefferson Hospital uses the funds for research.
Out of all the ladies involved, not one of us gets paid. Everybody donates their time plus we’ve put a lot of our own money into the organization. I have my husband. He’s the one that who me around and does a lot. He’s the one with the backbone.
Up to this year, we took in $473,000 in proceeds. State Rep. John Taylor and City Councilman Mark Squilla come out and support us and we’re very fortunate to have them. ShopRite is our largest sponsor. Today alone, they gave us another check for $4,500, as well as Northeast Health System who gave us $5,000.
This has gone on for 11 years and the same people have come out and help us raise all this money for cancer research.
Is there anything unique about this year’s event?
One of our ladies, Maurine Janda, had passed away from lupus. She had been with us for the 11 years. The purple on the T-shirt is for lupus awareness. And all of her family showed up here today and carried the banner. She was always at the meetings and always at the walk no matter how sick she was, she was a special person.
Have you and your husband been involved since the beginning as well?
Yeah! I’m a two-time survivor. It was Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center that helped me.
So this is a family operation for you?
Well my daughter is involved, my grandson, my husband and even my neighbor, Katie.
Upon your first experience with cancer, how did that change your life?
Well, if it wasn’t for my daughter and my son, I don’t know what I would have done. They were the ones who helped me threw it. They took me to three different doctors before I made my decision to where I would go.
Do you handle the organization in just the Port Richmond area?
I’m trying to reach out to Bridesburg and I’m trying to reach out to Fishtown – or anybody who wants to join to make it bigger. We don’t want to go too far downtown. We want our money to stay here so our people can get the help they need. But for 11 years, we are doing great. We’re keeping it in the range, which is rare! So we must be doing something right.
Is this the only event you do annually?
Oh, no. We have a flea market coming up in September. We have a Ladies Night Out, which Nazareth puts together for us in October. And our Applebee’s event on November 21st. And before the walk, we have a big community breakfast, which is usually in March or April.
I work all year long.
– Text and images from Andrew Parent and Paul Imburgia.