By Jenny Berg Posted May 3, 2011, 11:15 AM EDT
CHICAGO On Saturday night, garden statues, sunflowers, and cypress trees filled the Civic Opera House for the American Cancer Society's Discovery Ball. Lee Kite, director of distinguished events for the society's Illinois division, oversaw the planning process and brought in new vendors to breathe life into the event's Tuscan countryside theme.
For the first time this year, Heffernan Morgan Ronsley handled decor and Calihan provided catering. Kite said the vendors were selected by the event planning committee “after the R.F.P. process was completed and finalists were selected for viewings.” The chosen vendors, Kite said, “did an extraordinary job of representing our theme.”
Also new this year: “We opened the program with very moving segments that featured six members of our associate board of ambassadors, who shared why they are there supporting the work of the society,” Kite said. Reps from companies such as Boeing and Abbott shared personal connections to the cause—one woman, for example, had lost her mother to cancer three weeks before her wedding day. At the center of the stage, an oversize cake topped with a candle played off the society's “official sponsor of birthdays” slogan.
The event's fund-raising goal was more than $2 million, and planners partially relied on auctions to help rake in the dollars. Ranging from a Swarovski necklace to a Lake Geneva getaway, the more than 230 lots for the silent auction topped canopy-draped tables in the foyer. New sponsor Cisco Systems donated 100 flip video cameras, which were awarded to the first 100 guests to meet the opening bid threshold of $100. Reps from the company were on hand to show guests how the cameras work.
A live auction also took place. As with last year, “we encouraged syndicate bidding,” Kite said. “We had at least three items that can be shared by four to six people,” including accommodations for six at the Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming. The silent auction raked in about $140,000, while the live auction raised $213,000. The pledge drive, called “Raising Hope,” brought in more than $200,000.