Former MLB pitcher Dave Dravecky to speak at Cancer Survivors Day celebration

Former MLB pitcher Dave Dravecky to speak at Cancer Survivor's Day celebration

June 2, 2008

Dave Dravecky, a former Major League All-Star pitcher, will be the keynote speaker for the 18th annual Cancer Survivor's Day, sponsored by the University of Chicago Medical Center. The event, the largest of its kind in the Chicagoland area, will be held Sunday, June 8, from noon to 3 p.m. in the Wellington Ballroom of the Westin Hotel, 909 N. Michigan Ave.

Dravecky, who was also the keynote speaker in 1997, pitched for the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. He appeared in the 1983 All-Star Game, played in the 1984 and 1987 National League Championship Series and in the 1987 World Series. 

While pitching for the Giants, Dravecky was diagnosed with soft-tissue cancer and had the tumor and half his deltoid muscle removed from his pitching arm. After months of rehabilitation and against incredible odds, he returned to the team and made a courageous return to the mound on August 10,1989.

Sadly, 5 days later, on August 15, millions of fans saw, and about 50,000 heard, Dravecky's miraculous comeback crash abruptly to an end. While pitching against Montreal, his arm snapped with a crack that could be heard throughout the stadium. The cancer had returned and Dravecky was forced to retire from baseball. His left arm and part of his shoulder were amputated and he sank into a severe depression.

The stories of his recoveries from cancer, from the loss of an arm and the lucrative career it had brought him, and from the emotional collapse that followed, has inspired millions who have also battled cancer.

Survivors Day is a free event for anyone who has had cancer, family and friends. It is a celebration of survival and life and an afternoon of sharing, encouragement and hope.

Chicago media personality Tom Shaer will be the afternoon's Master of Ceremonies. Olufunmilayo Olopade, MD, oncologist and Director of the Cancer Risk Genetics Clinic at UCMC will provide the program's opening remarks. Chicago Blues singer Lynne Jordan and the Shivers will provide entertainment. Jordan and the Shivers play locally and have also traveled around the world. Chicago Blues legend Buddy Guy is a fan of the performer and her band.

"Cancer Survivors Day means so much to all of us," stated Dravecky. "Celebrating each year is a very special milestone...but I've learned that each day is a celebration of life.  I look forward to once again celebrating this special day with all of you at University of Chicago Cancer Center."

Dravecky and his wife Jan founded the Dave Dravecky Foundation, a nonprofit organization which helps those whose lives have been devastated by cancer and other adversities. They also chronicled their story in "Comeback," "When You Can't Come Back," and "The Worth of a Man" -- describing Dave's journey to regain his identity and to come to terms with adversity and loss.

The afternoon's activities include a special kids' program, featuring face painting, balloons and a magic show.

Noon--12:50 p.m. Exhibit booths, hors d'oeuvres and refreshments
1 p.m. Welcome remarks from cancer survivor Larry Baran and introduction of Master of Ceremonies Tom Shaer
1:05 p.m. Remarks from Olufunmilayo Olopade, MD
1:20 p.m. Performance by Lynne Jordan and the Shivers
1:50 p.m. Keynote Speaker Dave Dravecky

Admission is free, but participants are encouraged to RSVP by June 4 to (773) 702-9200 or 1-888-UCH-0200.