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Greek-Americans Against Breast Cancer

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I remember it like it was yesterday but as I write this blog, I am reminded it was almost four years ago. I will never forget the feeling as my mom and I waited for her doctor to come into the room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

It was a beautiful fall day in September. The kind of day where you are supposed to leave with a clean bill of health and then stop to enjoy a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte on your way home. Not the kind of rainy day where the doctor walks in and delivers the frightening news that instantly changes your life forever.

Well, needless to say, the weather did not do a very good job of foreshadowing on this sunny afternoon, because the way home was not filled with laughter, music and delicious fall drinks, but instead with tears and a feeling in my stomach that can't even be put into words.

"Marianthi, you have stage II breast cancer and we need to operate and treat immediately," are the only words that kept replaying in my mind as I wondered, "What are we supposed to do now? How am I supposed to come home to my two siblings and our dad and deliver this news?"

Coming from a big fat Greek family, my mom was always our rock and the one who took care of everyone. Suddenly, my life was turned upside down and our roles were reversed, something she is still having a hard time accepting. Now, one mastectomy, 20 weeks of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation and almost four years later, my mom continues to fight the fight and continues to amaze my siblings, me and everyone else who's lives she touches.

Some of these lives I speak of are her students at Greek-American school Plato Academy in Des Plaines, IL, where she serves as director. Besides her three children, anyone who knows my mom knows that the most important thing in her life is Plato Academy. For the past 15 years, my mom has been one of the driving forces behind keeping this small parochial school alive and keeps in touch with each and every graduate that has ever left Plato Academy. They all refer to her as "their second mom" and "one of the most significant people in their lives!"

One of the very unique things about Plato Academy is it altruistic and humanitarian approach to education and to the world itself. Through Marianthi's guidance and role modeling, the students take on multiple service learning projects a year and strive to do good in the world on a big scale, despite their tiny size. My mom's illness not only affected her health and her family, but also her second family at Plato Academy. This is when parents and students alike came together to create something special to honor someone who made such a difference in all of their lives. In keeping with my mom's philanthropic tradition, they didn't just honor her; they went bigger! This was the birth of the Greek Americans Against Breast Cancer Gala -- Pink... It's More Than Just A Color.

"We wanted to do something to show her we were all there for her but we know her personality and so we didn't want to make it just about her," said school board president and mother of three Eleni Zarkos Moutidis, "What better way to honor her than to hold an event that brings awareness, raises funds for breast cancer research and education, and brings people together to show their support for a disease that affects so many people across the globe?"

The First Greek Americans Against Breast Cancer Gala was held in September of 2010 and its success was a pleasant surprise to all of its committee members. What started as an idea at monthly student council and PTO meetings, turned into a 250-person gala complete with a live orchestra, dinner, dancing, drinks, a silent auction and, most of all, a very honorable guest speaker all the way from Maine, Senator Olympia Snowe. Among many other things, Senator Snowe's heartwarming speech mentioned her efforts in passing legislation that would require health insurers to cover mammograms for women ages 40 to 49, something that has improved care for millions of Americans.

This event raised funds to benefit Breast Cancer and Plato Academy, two causes that are very dear to Marianthi's heart. Specifically, the committee chose the Lynn Sage Foundation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as their charity for the first event and every year the charity will change in order to strive to make more of a difference across various breast cancer efforts. Its goal is to bring people together in a shared mission to fight breast cancer and bring awareness to Greek-American women and all women, everywhere.

As we are now in the final stages of planning the second gala on September 15, 2012, we have named A Silver Lining Foundation as the breast cancer charity for this year's event. We are pleased to announce Emmy-winning breast cancer survivor and founder of A Silver Lining Foundation Dr. Sandy Goldberg as our guest speaker. The event will be held at the new National Hellenic Museum, "the first and only major museum in the country dedicated to the Greek journey, from ancient times to the modern Greek-American experience," which just opened in Chicago this past December. We anticipate that this year's event will attract nearly 500 attendees, almost double what we had at the first event. Stay tuned for more information, details regarding the silent auction and additional guest speakers -- we hope to see you there!

For more information or to purchase tickets or make a donation please visit: http://www.platoacademy.org/GAABC.html

Plato Academy: www.platoacademy.org

National Hellenic Museum: www.nationalhellenicmuseum.org

A Silver Lining Foundation: www.asilverliningfoundation.org