By Jenny Berg Posted December 16, 2008, 8:00 AM EST
CHICAGO Saturday night's Children's Ball, a fund-raiser for Children's Memorial Hospital hosted by the organization's Medical Research Institute Council, drew some 1,200 guests to the Hilton Chicago for a black-tie affair replete with cocktails, dinner, and dancing.
Jennie Steffus, the hospital's vice president of programs and events, headed up the benefit's planning efforts along with council development officer Renee Anderson and co-chairs Emily Emmerman and Meredith Bluhm-Wolf. “The ball has a 50-year history and guests expect a certain level of the grandiose,” said Steffus. “We worked hard to balance that with the fact that we needed to act responsibly with the budget.”
Steffus said this year's theme, “Seasons: A Year of Discovery,” helped maintain that balance. ”It didn't require a ton of decor to achieve the overall look,” she said, adding that theme ”allowed the co-chairs and committee a great deal of flexibility. We really looked at each individual element [of proposed decor] and asked 'is this critical to the event?'”
The analysis lead to some expensive ideas getting left on the planning-room floor. “There were many aspects that were presented to the co-chairs that sounded wonderful in concept,” Steffus said. ”But when it came down to the bottom line of the budget, we decided that some of those elements weren't necessary.” Among the nixed proposals: lucite bars and sofas at the cocktail reception. Steffus said that she and her team agreed that guests might not be comfortable lounging on sofas while wearing tuxes and gowns. “And while the [Lucite] bars look incredible all lit up,“ she said, “we were able to keep budget down by focusing on the specialty drinks rather than on the bars themselves."
More cost-saving measures included scaling back on lighting, which Steffus said brought down electricity and labor fees as well as the lighting bill. And by adding some 12-top tables to the dining room, planners were able to seat all 1,200 guests with fewer tables than they would have needed using only 10-tops. Reducing the number of tables meant forgoing additional centerpieces and linen, which Steffus said “also saved us a reasonable amount.”