The Rochelle Police Department has partnered with the Pink Patch Project to sell pink patches and apparel to raise money for breast cancer awareness. All proceeds are being donated to the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center at the end of October. Already, more than $5,000 has been raised!
Rochelle Police Department Officer Ryan Kovacs spearheaded this project as a way to honor his mom, Tammy Kovacs, who passed away in 2015 after a five-year battle with breast cancer.
We caught up with Ryan Kovacs to learn more about this passion project and his mom, Tammy.
How did this fundraiser in honor of your mom come together?
Last year, my wife and I were living in Marengo while our new house was being built and I saw that Marengo Police Department had partnered with the Pink Patch Project to sell pink patches and shirts in support of breast cancer. This really appealed to me because I had been wanting to do something in memory of my mom. We already make a yearly donation toward breast cancer but I had been wanting to do something more, so I set a calendar reminder for Aug 1, 2021. When the time came, I began the process of gathering information and getting everything set up. It’s been a lot of work but it’s something I’m very passionate about. I want to help support others struggling with cancer just like my mom was supported throughout her own struggle.
What was your mom, Tammy, like?
She was one of the kindest, most positive people I’ve ever known. My mom always looked for the good in people and always had hope that everything would be all right even in the face of adversity. She fought very hard during her battle, but she never gave up hope or her positive attitude. She was the treasurer at South Elgin High School and loved every minute of her job. Our T-shirt design with the words “HOPE” on the front was inspired by the original fundraiser her coworkers held for her. Her coworkers were like a second family to her. They designed T-shirts with “HOPE” on the front that was filled with positive words along with her TK initials on the sleeve. They were able to raise a lot of money for my mom. She used the money to take a much-deserved trip to Arizona to see family that she hadn’t seen in a long time. It was great to see how happy she was with the outpouring of support and how excited she was to be able to go to Arizona. Since this fundraiser is in her memory, I thought it was fitting to connect it back to the original fundraiser for her.
How old were you at the time of her diagnosis?
I was 25 years old when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was at the Police Training Institute going through the Police Academy when I received a phone call from my mom telling me of her diagnosis. From then on, she underwent many rounds of radiation, chemotherapy and surgeries. My mom beat cancer, but it eventually came back. During her entire fight, she always remained positive and had hope that everything was going to be all right. I don’t know how she did it, but my mom was one of the strongest people I’ve ever known so if anyone could do it, it was her. The Living Well Cancer Center was a place she loved to visit throughout her battle. She felt welcomed and had people to lean on who were going through a similar journey, along with the fantastic resources available to her. That is why I chose to support the Living Well Center. I want others to be able to experience the positive support that my mom had received.
What do you think your mom would say about this fundraiser?
I would hope she would be proud of me for organizing this fundraiser. I try to live every day wanting my mom to look down and be proud of the son she raised. Those who knew my mom also knew she lived every day by her own “life lessons.” One of those lessons was to always do good, and good will come back to you. I hope to do good with this fundraiser and the good comes back to support those fighting cancer.
Can you tell us about the outpouring of support?
The support has been outstanding and has far exceeded my expectations. The support I have received from not only the department but the whole community has been extraordinary. I have to give a shout out to my chief, Eric Higby, for everything that he has done for the fundraiser. Without Eric’s support, I’m not sure I could have gotten the fundraiser off to the fast start it has had. When I first approached Eric about doing a fundraiser for breast cancer through the department, he was 100 percent on board. Chief Higby gave me everything and anything I needed, which has allowed me to exceed my goals and it’s not even October yet. The support from the department has extended from the top ranks down to every officer in the department. Everyone has done their part to help support the fundraiser in one way or another. Whether it is sharing a social media post or collecting orders. Everyone has chipped in, and it’s been great to see the whole department come together behind a cause.
Initially, we ordered about 100 T-shirts for the fundraiser, and those sold out in less than two weeks. We have received orders from Florida, Arizona, California, Minnesota, Tennessee, South Carolina and Utah. I never imagined our fundraiser in Rochelle, Illinois, would reach across the United States. It’s been awesome to see the impact we have made so far! Our goal was to raise $5,000 but we reached that before October so we might have to increase our goal to something a little higher.
Thank you to Officer Kovacs, the entire Rochelle Police Department and everyone who purchased pink patches and HOPE apparel! Your support will help so many LivingWell participants navigate a cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. 💗
For more information about the HOPE fundraiser, visit the Rochelle Police Department Facebook page.