By Ryan Gierhahn ‘23

Alderman Matt O’Shea, 19th Ward, hosted the ninth annual Get Behind the Vest pancake breakfast in Kane Hall at St. John Fisher Elementary School on Sunday, Feb. 19. The event aims to raise funds to purchase new bulletproof vests for Chicago Police officers.

A big day was expected as this was the first year since 2020 where the fundraiser was open to the public. Due to the pandemic, O’Shea was forced to operate with a “to-go” and delivery method the past two years.

Matt O’Shea’s son, Patrick, said, “It’s always fun helping out at the breakfast, and the food is amazing every year, too.”

The event ran from 8 a.m. to noon, and cost $5 per person and $25 per family. Volunteers prepared meals for the big crowd, including pancakes and sausage from The Original Pancake House in Beverly.

When asked about how the breakfast went, 19th ward employee Patrick Carmody said, “There was a good turnout from the neighborhood and I saw a lot of familiar faces. It was great to finally get back to an in-person breakfast to talk with the officers themselves. Paul Vallas even showed up and was talking to people as well.”

When new officers become a part of the CPD, they receive their first bulletproof vest at no charge. However, vests only last for about 5 years, and officers must pay for their own replacement. It may not seem like a big deal, but the cost for a new vest is well over $500.

Since 2014, the breakfast has raised over $500,000 in proceeds toward the vests.  These funds go to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, which has replaced close to 11,000 vests through the fundraiser.

Chicago Police officers showed their thanks by attending the breakfast and greeting and talking with guests. Members of the community were able to reconnect for a great cause; it’s always exciting to show support for police officers who don’t always receive the appreciation they deserve.

The breakfast was a success and continues to be a smart and important way to advocate for our officers. O’Shea and the CPMF are hoping for another extraordinary turnout next year too, as they celebrate the 10th anniversary of this event.