The Pan-Hellenic Youth Ball brings together HSAs of Chicago-area universities. This year’s event will benefit a 7 year-old battling Ewing Sarcoma.
The Pan-Hellenic Youth Ball
The Pan-Hellenic Youth Ball traces its roots to 2004. Members of the Hellenic Student Associations from University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University, DePaul University, and Northwestern University communicating about how they could come together to not only celebrate their heritage, but to be able to impact the community in a positive way. In effect, they could throw a party for a good cause. The Pan-Hellenic Youth Ball was born. The first ball was held in 2005. University of Chicago didn’t have an HSA back then, but they immediately joined the effort.
Tori Kaloudis from Loyola University spoke about the importance of the event.
“Pan-Hellenic Youth Ball is a great event that connects the various college Greek students with the Greek community. It’s a great way for us to give back to the community and help out a family in need. The church has always been there for my family and me, and it’s a great way to help out another family.”
Spiro Tsirikolias, a student at DePaul University, said the Youth Ball has shown him what we can do when we work together.
”Being part of the Youth Ball committee for a second year in a row has given me the unbelievable opportunity of getting to experience the amazing things our Hellenic community can do when we work together. Not only are we able to support a member of our community that is need, but we are also able to foster the growth of a Hellenic network through new friendships and connections at this annual event.”
Proceeds from last year’s event benefitted Chris Ellis, a young boy who recently lost his battle with neuroblastoma. Past youth balls have provided assistance to Angela Malfas, who was severely injured in a car accident; The Hollywood House Assisted Living Community; Hellenic Heart Program at Children’s Memorial Hospital,the Asylo Aniaton, an establishment in Sparti that houses individuals with disabilities and mental illnesses; and more. This year’s Pan-Hellenic Youth Ball will benefit “Princess Warrior” Olivia Anagnostopoulos, a 7 year-old girl battling Ewing Sarcoma.
Princess Warrior Olivia
The daughter of George and Jessica Anagnostopoulos, Olivia has always been smart, compassionate, sensitive, and with a wisdom beyond her years. A good big sister to Lillian, like any girl, she loved princesses, playing with her dolls, and just having fun. The family from Champaign, IL attend the nearby Three Hierarchs Church. July 17, 2013 was a day that changed this family forever. That’s the day when Olivia was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma.
According to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Ewing Sarcoma is a cancerous tumor that grows in the bones or in the tissue around bones (soft tissue)—often the legs, pelvis, ribs, arms or spine. Ewing sarcoma can spread to the lungs, bones and bone marrow. It’s the second most common type of bone cancer in children, though it’s considered very rare. About 200 kids are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. The disease typically affects kids between the ages of 10-20, and is more common in boys than in girls. Olivia was just 4 years-old when she was diagnosed — and was diagnosed at stage 4.
Treatments are expensive, and the family set up a Go Fund Me page. There, her parents wrote about this life-changing experience.
“Our lives were forever changed. ‘You’re little girl has cancer.’ Words you think only other people will hear, but now it was happening to us. Our beautiful and deeply sensitive Olivia was diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric cancer, called Ewing Sarcoma. Usually a cancer of the bone often discovered in early adolescence, Olivia was only 4 and a half at diagnosis and she has the less common soft tissue involvement. She was considered stage 4, the most aggressive and progressed disease. What to do? Everything and anything to help our Princess Warrior Olivia fight and beat this disease that NO child should have to battle.”
Olivia’s first four months of treatment took place at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. There, she had surgery to remove the main tumor from her abdomen, which connected to her liver. After 7 hours of surgery, the family hoped Olivia would be cancer free. Then it was on to Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, for chemotherapy, radiation, and continual transfusions of blood and platelets. This treatment is one of the harshest and most toxic used to treat aggressive cancer. As a result of these therapies, Olivia suffers from permanent liver and kidney damage.
One morning when she woke up, her family discovered a change in her left eye. Tests revealed a new mass in her sinus cavity and possible lymph node involvement near her left clavicle. It was then back to St. Louis for more chemo and radiation.
Treatments have left her organ function compromised, which has disqualified her for many clinical trials. Therefore, the family had to pursue private treatments not covered by insurance.
Last year, the family traveled to Germany for innovative therapies. She’s suffered setbacks, but continues to fight.
Through it all, Olivia hasn’t lost her fighting spirit.
“Olivia remains a smart, compassionate, and wise girl beyond her years. Olivia has had to endure so much in her short time on this earth.”
In just over 3 years, Olivia has endured 8 surgeries, 66 radiation treatments, more than 160 chemotherapy treatments. She’s still fighting — and this princess warrior, now 7, is determined to win this fight.
13th Pan-Hellenic Youth Ball
Help Olivia in her fight, and have a good time, at the 13th annual Pan-Hellenic Youth Ball, February 17 at Embassy Suites, 511 N. Columbus Drive in Chicago.
Demetra Arianas, student at University of Illinois at Chicago, said it’s a must-attend event.
“Youth Ball is THE event that Hellenic young adults wait for every year. Not only is it a fun, social event, but it always benefits a great cause. Last year we were able to help the Elis family; being able to personally interact and help Chris and his family are moments I will never forget. This year we have the pleasure of helping yet another deserving young child and family. Youth Ball has strengthened my love for our Hellenic culture and community and I have no doubt it will continue to do so for those in the generations to come.”