Pink Party celebrates 6 years of NWI Breast Care Center - October 22, 2018

Courtesy of The Chicago Tribune

Written by Sue Ellen Ross

Cloudy skies on a recent Saturday didn’t deter dozens of people from participating in the 5K walk/run that kicked off the Pink Party at Methodist Hospital Southlake.

The occasion was to celebrate six years of operations for the hospital’s Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center, which advances women’s health.

“We’re in this race in memory of my mother, who recently passed away from breast cancer,” said Tashanda Okoe of Gary, who headed to the start line with her daughters Alicia, 8 and Adjanay, 15. “This is a wonderful way to honor her.”

After the walk/run, participants headed to the Breast Care Center in the hospital to partake of free health screenings, shop with vendors and take advantage of complimentary spa services.

Students from Paul Mitchell The School in Merrillville offered hand massages for visitors.

“I didn’t expect this, what a treat,” said Doreen Harris of Gary, as she settled in a comfortable chair. “I love this hospital … since moving from Chicago two years ago, I come here for everything.”

Setting up in the vendor area was Teresa Cruz to display her handmade wares, such as dish towels and other household items. But she wasn’t there to benefit herself. Her sales proceeds went directly to the Foundation for Breast Cancer.

The Merrillville resident is a breast cancer survivor, after being diagnosed in 2015.

“The Foundation was there for me, in many ways,” she said. “This (donation) is one way I can give back.”

Visitors also were treated to back massages and waited in line for bone density screenings, lipology consultations and free bra fittings.

“I’m in between jobs and trying to find affordable health insurance,” said Patricia Valkan of Merrillville, as she waited her turn for the bone density testing. “Whenever I have an opportunity to get free screenings, I jump at the chance.”

She added that keeping on top of your health should be a priority for everyone — no matter what their age.

“We can’t use the excuse that we don’t have time or money to do this,” she said. “Many health fairs — and like the event today — show there are helping hands out there, free screenings are available. We just have to look for them.”

Sisters Debbie Jachim and Pat Kaczmanczyk took advantage of all the free services available at the Pink Party.

“I’m from Crown Point and my sister is from Dyer, but we feel the hospital needs the support of the whole community, that’s why we’re here,” Jachim said. “This (event) is one way to reach out to everyone.”

Many of the day’s visitors echoed those thoughts.

“It’s a shame that many people have to have some kind of serious health issue before they realistically look at how they are taking care of themselves,” said Lynda Fortner of Merrillville, as she took home many of the health pamphlets available at the party. “After my cancer scare, the world looks different — I’ve made a promise to myself to go for all my checkups and keep a closer look at what’s going on in my life.”

The Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospitals offers many free events for the community throughout the year.

For more information, call 1-888-909-3627 or visit online at

Sue Ellen Ross is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.