UIC Police Helping Cancer Center Bake Up Cure

The University of Illinois Chicago Police Department has added another service to its long list – helping find a cure for cancer.

To commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the police department held a bake sale on the grounds of the St. John Paul Newman II Center. Leaders from the UICPD presented the $1,800 in proceeds to Cancer Center officials in November.

“Bravery is a common denominator between police officers and cancer patients, as it takes brave men and women to keep our community safe and bravery to face cancer,” said Cancer Center Director Jan Kitajewski, PhD, Sweeney Professor of Basic Science and Head of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. “We are grateful to the UIC Police Department for their support and dedication to further our mission.”

The UIC Police Department hosts numerous events throughout the community during the year, including Coffee for Champions, benefiting Special Olympics athletes; Wall of Inspiration, a campaign to enhance awareness around mental health resources; and Secret Santa, where the department supports underserved students around the holiday season at John M. Smyth Elementary School.

With breast cancer affecting many officers’ family members, the department wanted to initiate a fundraising event that could defray costs. In 2019, Officer Margaret Chiczewski’s unit decided to host a bake sale, with proceeds benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

 “A lot of people have a favorite baked good, and this was something that would not only get our entire department involved, but it was important to include all of the university community, especially the students,” said Chiczewski, whose grandmother died of breast cancer before she was born. “We have had a lot of fun with it.”

During the sale, officers also distributed cancer-related brochures. The department plans to host the bake sale biennially.

About one in eight (13%) women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2021, an estimated 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 49,290 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.

There are significant breast cancer disparities in incidence and mortality rates in Cook County, with the highest incidence rates found in predominantly white communities while the highest mortality rates occur in Black-majority communities. The highest breast cancer mortality rates are found in Oakland, Fuller Park, and Washington Park. Breast cancer mortality rates in those three communities are up to 50% higher than rates in the city of Chicago overall.

Breast cancer has impacted the life of UIC Police Sgt. Terry Williams in many ways. A sister-in-law is a cancer survivor, and a 40-year-old cousin succumbed to the disease. In addition to the Komen Foundation and the Cancer Center, the department has supported numerous officers whose families are battling cancer. Donating the bake sale proceeds was an easy decision for the department, according to Williams.

“We wanted our donation to be used locally, so we can see a difference,” said Williams, a 10-year veteran of the police force. “When we learned more about the Young And A Survivor program at the Cancer Center, and how it supports young women affected by breast cancer, we felt this was a perfect fit. Some of our students may be affected by breast cancer, and we want to help them not only through our law enforcement efforts but through our service efforts as well.”

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