Balloons by Tommy will be noticeably absent from this year's Chicago Pride Parade

Tue. June 20, 2023 10:01 AM by Ross Forman

balloons by tommy, 2013

photo credit // provided

Cancer battle continues for owner Tommy DeLorenzo; colorful, creative parade message will be missed

When the annual Chicago Pride Parade steps off on Sunday, June 25, one of the most popular, colorful, photographed entrants will not be participating, ending an 11-year run as one of the most memorable entrants.

Balloons By Tommy is not joining the 2023 parade, ending an eye-catching run that dates back to 2010 and was highlighted by the 2015 parade, which occurred two days after marriage equality passed – and the balloon bunch celebrated with one simple, festive word: VICTORY.

“The Chicago Pride Parade is the most loving and accepting place in the world,” said Tommy DeLorenzo, the owner/operator of Balloons by Tommy LLC, along with his husband, Scott. “People are free to be their authentic selves and are celebrated, which is beautiful. It also is amazing to see our art appreciated by a cheering crowd.

“Last year, we talked to parade organizers and expressed that it may be our last year because of the cost and work it takes to create (what we do), which is overwhelming for a small business. I don’t want to overwhelm our staff this year with our orders for several other floats and locations along the parade route.

“It really is sad (to not officially be a part of the 2023 parade). Last year I missed out because I was in the hospital the entire week of Pride. I was proud of our team for carrying out our plans, but it was a huge bummer not to be there. I’m hoping to ride along with our staff to pass out our client balloons this year and maybe even get to watch the parade for once.”

DeLorenzo, 36, who lives in Bensenville, was admitted to the hospital last June 19th and three days later was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma.

“I was so sick (last June that) it was hard to process a lot of emotions. Within four days of going to the ER I already had surgeries and started chemotherapy. I just wanted to feel better and didn’t think much about what was actually happening,” said DeLorenzo, who had six cycles of chemotherapy along with intrathecal methotrexate (injections into his spine).”

Last Halloween, he was told his cancer was in remission.

But, during his six-month scan this past May, he was told that the mass had grown back.

DeLorenzo was devastated.

“I feel fine physically this time, so it is harder to process that something is very wrong,” he said. “It looks like I will be undergoing CAR-T cell therapy in July, but I have a surgical biopsy on June 19th to get through because the first biopsy was inconclusive. I will be out of commission for most of the summer.”

DeLorenzo, who has brought smiles to millions over the past decade with his balloon messages at Chicago’s Pride Parade, said staying positive is very hard. But he’s trying.

“I’m trying to live life as normally as possible until I won’t be able to,” he said. “I’m still going to work every day because I love the work and I love our employees. I’m making lots of plans with friends and family. I generally have a positive mindset so I’m looking at this as just another bump in the road. It is just something I have to get through because what other option do I have?  Humor is also a great tool. I make way too many jokes about my own situation.”

Chicago’s LGBTQ community has rallied around DeLorenzo. The suburbs too, and beyond.

For instance, the organizers of Buffalo Grove Pride participated in a meal train for him when he came home from the hospital last year and are planning to do it again this round.

BG Pride earlier this month also had DeLorenzo and his husband serve as its official grand marshals – and Balloons By Tommy brought a smaller version of what it does for the Chicago Pride Parade to northwest suburban Buffalo Grove. “They have always been such a big supporter of Balloons By Tommy,” DeLorenzo said. “It was such an honor to be the grand marshal. BG Pride is such a great organization; it meant so much to be chosen.”

DeLorenzo said he is taking things day by day after treatment begins. “It sounds pretty intense, so (I’m) hoping I can get through it OK and then get back to a semi-regular life.”

The Chicago Pride Parade steps off at noon Sunday from Broadway and Montrose Avenue in Uptown. The route winds south through Lakeview, ending at Diversey Parkway and Cannon Drive.

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