This is South Side, some said. This is who we are.
Nearly 2,000 Southland residents filed into 115 Bourbon Street to show support for one tiny member of the community—8-month-old Mary Cate Lynch.
Mary Cate, whose family resides in Beverly, was born with Apert Syndrome. She is one of 25 children born in the U.S. each year with the syndrome, which is visible in malformations of the skull, face, hands and feet. Friends and family organized the fundraiser to help offset medical costs for Mary Cate, who will face up to 60 corrective surgeries and numerous therapies into her 20s—some of which have already begun.
Mary Cate's mother Kerry, an Evergreen Park native and father Chris, an Oak Forest native and St. Damian graduate, were overwhelmed by the show of support. But neither was surprised by the unity and compassion of their fellow South Siders.
"I'm going to keep thanking you, Kerry and I are going to keep thanking you, because it really does mean that much," said Chris Lynch. "To the whole South Side—do you guys know how to throw a benefit, or what?"
Kerry also expressed her gratitude in a blog entry.
"Seeing our family, friends and community unite in such an immense way has been profound! Flying in from Denver, Florida, New York, Shreveport, Boston, Dallas, Tulsa ... driving in from all over the midwest, it was incredible!
"Friends that we see daily, friends that we hadn't seen in 15–20 years, brand spanking new friends that we have only met since joining the special needs community just 8 months ago!"
Mary Cate made a brief appearance, during the family's speech. "MC" will undergo the first surgical steps of separating her fingers and toes soon, and was kept away from the crowd to limit exposure to any germs or illness. But the crowd got a brief glimpse of their heroine as she reached for the microphone—and tried to eat it.
"This has been eight months of a very long journey, and it's going to be a longer journey, but having all of you with us, is making all the difference," Kerry told the audience.
"Creating awareness, creating acceptance—I've never seen so much love in one room, and I'm forever grateful for that."
For more on the family's account of the event and updates on Mary Cate, visit Kerry's blog.