MADISON -- For Cindy Alvarez, her passions in life have been faith, family, and football.
But in more recent years she's also become passionate about Gilda's Club, which offers social and emotional support for people affected by cancer.
Cindy, wife of University of Wisconsin-Madison athletic director and former football coach Barry Alvarez, talked about "Passions in My Life" at the Madison Catholic Woman's Club's 95th annual Spring Celebration held recently at Blackhawk Country Club.
Faith sustains her
A member of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison, Cindy said her faith has sustained her and helped her get through hard times in life.
She even remembers praying a special novena in 1993 for the success of the football team. "God answered my prayers," she said. "We went to the Rose Bowl that season!"
Busy coach's wife
The Alvarez family arrived in Madison in 1990. Cindy said her life as a football coach's wife was very busy at certain times of the year. She became almost a "single parent" to their three children and often entertained large numbers of people every week.
After football season, it was less hectic. But then her husband was involved in recruiting players. "That meant 40 people for brunch every Sunday with recruits, parents, and coaches."
Since Barry has been athletic director, Cindy said it hasn't been as stressful. However, she lamented, "I gained 17 pounds. I'm back on Weight Watchers."
The couple is still busy at least four nights a week with community or UW events. Being athletic director is a year-long commitment with no "off season," she noted.
In 2003, the Alvarezes were asked to be co-chairs for Gilda's Club Madison. "I said, 'we need to do this,'" said Cindy. "We've lost both of our mothers to breast cancer."
They helped raise millions of dollars to build Gilda's Club Madison, the 23rd clubhouse in North America inspired by Saturday Night Live comedian Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer.
Gilda's Club Madison opened in 2007 at 7907 UW Health Court in Middleton. "Along the way it became a passion," said Cindy of her involvement with the club.
"It provides an emotional and social support system for anyone living with cancer," Cindy noted. "It offers social groups, potlucks, art classes, networking groups, speakers, and support groups for children, survivors, and those grieving. Every service is free. We do not receive any government funding"
She told the women, "Everyone in this room will be touched by cancer. There is such a need for Gilda's Club." She invited them to tour Gilda's Club Madison. Donations are also welcome. For more information call 608-828-8880 or go to www.gildasclubmadison.org
Importance of family
Family continues to be a passion in Cindy's life, too. She and Barry have been married 42 years. They have two daughters, one son, and six grandchildren.
Two children live in the Madison area and the other lives in Pewaukee. Dealing with challenges has made the family stronger. "You need faith, good friends, and family," Cindy emphasized.
Also at the Spring Celebration, the Catholic Woman's Club gave its annual Christian Achievement Award to Jean Elvekrog of St. John the Baptist Parish in Waunakee. Pat Breunig, award committee chair, said that Elvekrog was nominated because of her involvement in activities at the parish, local, and national levels.
Elvekrog was formerly the librarian at St. John the Baptist School and worked at the Waunakee Public Library. She serves on the board of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Madison and has been involved in school and library organizations, including the Catholic Library Association. She has been active at her parish, including involvement in the recent church building project.
The plaque for her award honors Elvekrog for "her outstanding work and tireless efforts on behalf of all of God's children."
The Catholic Woman's Club also gave a total of $12,300 to educational, religious, and charitable activities.
Twenty-five women were welcomed as new members of the club.