Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Raises Funds Through Diamonds, Roses, and Heart-String Tugging

At its Grand Chefs Gala, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation employed everything from diamonds to emotional speeches to help raise funds for medical research.

The Fairmont Chicago's Imperial ballroom

Photo: © 2009 Kristin Bernice Gulick/Chris Guillen Photography

At Friday night's Grand Chefs gala, a fund-raiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation that took place at the Fairmont Chicago, tuxedo- and gown-wearing guests pulled marinated carrots out of a tub of soil. The unusual fare was one of more than 30 hors d'oeuvres on offer during the evening's two-hour-long cocktail reception, which featured tasting stations from a slew of local eateries—including Avenues at the Peninsula Hotel, from whence the carrots came.

If guests wanted champagne to go along with those hors d'oeuvres, they had to enter a “Sipping for Diamonds” raffle. By purchasing a painted champgne flute for $100, gala attendees were entitled to endless refills of Perrier Jouet bubbly throughout the evening; the fee also put them in the running to win a one-carat diamond, which was hidden in a small red bag tied to the base of one of the flutes. (The rest of the glasses came with identical bags that contained Cubic-Zirconia studs.) Amy Giraldo, the foundation's director of development, oversaw planning efforts for the gala and said that the evening's theme, “Vivid: Color, Cut, Clarity, Cure," helped inspire the diamond-centric raffle.

Along with jewel-bearing champagne flutes, the evening's raffle tickets took the form of long-stemmed roses. A volunteer from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation circulated the cocktail reception with a basket that contained exactly 65 flowers, which, according to the gala's program, was inspired by the story of a four-year-old cystic fibrosis patient who thought his disease was called “65 roses.” Purchasing one of the numbered flowers made guests eligible to win a trip on American Airlines.

During the three-course meal that followed the cocktail reception, fund-raising efforts continued with a live auction that featured prizes such as tickets to an Aretha Franklin concert at the Horseshoe Casino. A segment of the auction also allowed guests to donate directly to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. To introduce that portion of the evening, three speakers took to the stage to talk about living with Cystic Fibrosis. The stories left guests in tears—glasses came off and tissues were yanked out at seemingly every table—and that part of the auction pulled in $110,000.

The gala ultimately raised more than $500,000.

Correction: The caption on the picture of the dancers has been updated to state that the dancers were from Impulse Talent, not Energy Productions.

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