Chicago\'s Top Benefits 2008

Brookfield Zoo 's annual Whirl Ball
Brookfield Zoo\'s annual Whirl Ball
Photo: Eric Craig

1. Chicago Gateway Green’s Green Tie Ball
This rollicking annual outdoor event usually draws nearly 3,000 of the city’s young residents. Celebrity attendees, casino gaming tents, live music, and food from more than 65 Chicago restaurants are slated to be featured at the 2008 Green Tie Ball on September 13. Held at private event space
Chicago Scenic Studios, the ball will be produced this year by Denise McGowan and Michelle Durpetti of McGowan Durpetti & Associates. The “Greenivale” theme will feature bands re-creating the sounds of Carnival in Rio. The 2007 ball raised $500,000.

2. After School Matters Gala
This organization will celebrate its mission of expanding out-of-school opportunities for Chicago teens with a gala on September 19 at Runway 9 Left/27 Right, a new runway set to open in November as part of the O’Hare Airport modernization program. More than 2,000 guests are slated to attend the gala hosted by Mayor Richard and Maggie Daley. The organization’s in-house team is planning the event, with catering by Food for Thought and decor and lighting by Event Creative. Last year’s gala raised $2.8 million.

3. American Cancer Society Discovery Ball
This annual ball draws more than 1,500 guests each year. The 2008 benefit on May 17 was held in the new Skyline Ballroom at McCormick Place and was chaired by Glenn Tilton (chairman and C.E.O. of United Airlines parent company UAL Corporation) and his wife, Jackie. Kehoe Designs provided decor, and jazz icon Herbie Hancock performed.

4. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Chance of a Lifetime Gala

The 28th annual gala was held last December 8 at McCormick Place. Chaired by Karen Case and Rick Poulton, it raised $2.7 million for diabetes research. Nearly 2,000 guests attended. The evening consisted of a silent auction, a dinner, a live auction, and a performance by the Steve Miller Band. The 2008 event is planned for December.

5. Chicago Auto Show First Look for Charity

Eighteen Chicago charities were the beneficiaries of the 2008 First Look, the Auto Show’s preview night on February 7. Close to 10,000 people attended the event, which raised $2.7 million and was planned by the Chicago Automobile Trade Association’s Erik Higgins. Food and beverage stations from McCormick Place’s exclusive caterer, Chicago Restaurant Partners, dotted the auto show floor.

6. Children’s Memorial Hospital Children’s Ball

More than 1,000 guests are set to attend this annual event sponsored by the Medical Research Institute Council of Children’s Memorial. The December 13 ball will be held at the Chicago Hilton & Towers, and will be chaired and planned by Meredith Bluhm-Wolf and Emily Emmerman.

7. Museum of Science and Industry’s Columbian Ball

This ball is a fund-raiser for the MSI’s Annual Fund. On October 4, some 1,000 guests are slated to celebrate the museum’s 75th anniversary with honorary co-chairs Mayor Richard and Maggie Daley and Mr. and Mrs. W. James Farrell. The ball will feature decor by Heffernan Morgan, catering by Jewell Events, a live auction called by Bill Kurtis, and music by the Stu Hirsh Orchestra. The 2007 ball raised $1.56 million.

8. Make-a-Wish Foundation’s Wish Ball

Ellen DeGeneres headlined the 2008 Wish Ball on May 3 at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Debbie Purcell, special events manager for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Illinois, spearheaded the planning of the event alongside Blue Plate Catering. Kehoe Design carried out the “Where Wishes Are King” theme, and more than 1,000 guests enjoyed entertainment by DeGeneres, the Chicago Children’s Choir, and the Dennis Keith Band. The benefit raised $900,000.

9. Lincoln Park Zoo Ball

Featuring the theme “An Evening in the Emerald City,” the women’s board of the Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual ball will be held on July 11. More than 1,000 socialites and philanthropists—many in animal-print gowns—are expected to gather on zoo grounds for dinner, dancing, and rides on the carousel. Co-chairs Susan Erler and Karen Peterson will work with the women’s board to execute the Emerald City theme. Catering will be provided by Limelight, and entertainment will be by the Ken Arlen Orchestra. The Zoo Ball raises an average of $800,000 annually.

10. The Field Museum Aztecs Gala

The women’s board of the Field Museum’s ball for 1,000 guests on October 25 offers a chance to preview the “Aztec World” exhibit. Overseen by women’s board manager Trish Farrell, the Latin-themed event’s guest list includes dignitaries from the Mexican government. Co-chairs are Renee Crown and Jacky Ferro.

11. Shedd Aquarium’s Close Encounters Gala

A private viewing of the Shedd Aquarium’s sea creatures is among the highlights of this annual board of trustees fund-raiser, which was held May 31 and chaired by Nancy Tague. The event featured a coral-reef palette brought to life by Kehoe Designs and Frost, as well as a twilight dinner catered by Sodexho, a chocolate lounge, and a jazz club on the north terrace. Close to 900 guests attended.

12. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s Butterfly Ball

The 10th annual Butterfly Ball on May 2 celebrated an eco-friendly “Living Green in Chicago” theme. More than 600 corporate and civic leaders attended. Calihan Catering served farm-fresh and sustainable foods, and the Flower Firm provided sustainable arrangements from local nurseries.

13. Brookfield Zoo Whirl
The Brookfield Zoo hosted its annual gala on April 26. Sponsored by American Airlines and CBS2 Chicago, the event was chaired by Jill Javors and drew more than 700 guests. The Flower Firm executed the evening’s “All Eyes on the Whirl” peacock-inspired theme. Food for Thought catered the cocktail reception and dinner, and guests were invited to the Bear Grottos for tours. The event raised $1.4 million for Conservation Leadership Training initiatives at the Chicago Zoological Society.

14. Adler Planetarium’s Celestial Ball
The women’s board of the Adler Planetarium hosts this annual gala, which typically draws 600 guests and features auctions, star shows, dinner, and dancing in the Sky Pavilion. This year’s event on November 1 is being planned by Pat Hurley and Associates, with a theme of “Night and Day.” Food for Thought will cater, and the band the Business will entertain. Pat Cramer is chairing the evening with help from co-chairs Michelle Vanderlaan and Meg Prendergast, and astronaut Captain James A. Lovell Jr. will serve as honorary chair. The 2007 ball raised $735,000.

15. American Heart Association Heart Ball

“Hot and Cool” was the theme of the 2008 Heart Ball held in the grand ballroom at Navy Pier on April 12, which drew close to 700 attendees. The event raised $1.3 million for research, education, and community service programs., and was sponsored by Humana and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Anna Davlantes of NBC5 served as M.C.

16. Alzheimer’s Association’s Rita Hayworth Gala

Planned by Ann Marie Arzt of EventScape Inc., this gala was held on May 10 at the Hilton Chicago. It was hosted by Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, whose mother, actress Rita Hayworth, had Alzheimer’s. Kehoe Designs executed the decor, with linens and flowers in spring hues offsetting framed images of Hayworth and Fred Astaire. More than 600 guests attended the event, which was chaired by Alzheimer’s Association founder Jerome H. Stone and his family and raised $1.4 million.

17. The Mayor’s Halloween Ball

Mayor Richard Daley celebrates Halloween each year with this gala benefiting the Chicago Cultural Center. On October 24, some 500 costumed guests are set to mingle at the cultural center and enjoy seasonal decorations, a dinner, Halloween-themed cocktails, and live music. The event is planned by the cultural center with support by Event Creative for lighting, sound, and decor. Last year’s ball raised $500,000.

18. Common Threads World Festival
Celebrity chef Art Smith’s charity event is one of Chicago’s top events for foodies. Held on March 17 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, celebrity chefs Rocco DiSpirito, Paula Deen, Ming Tsi, and a contingent of well-known Chicago chefs served guests their signature dishes. The evening was underwritten by Event Creative, which created a V.I.P. lounge on the stage of the museum’s theater. An auction led by Top Chef judges Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons also took place.

19. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Grand Chefs Gala 

On February 1, the Fairmont Chicago hosted this annual gala, this year with the theme “Safari: A Culinary Journey.” Sylvia Margolies of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Wayne Harth of the Fairmont, and Renee Barricklow of Kehoe Designs planned the event, which drew 720 guests. The Muntu Dance Theatre Chicago performed, and the benefit raised $655,000.

20. Parkways Foundation’s Galapalooza 

Last year’s first Galapalooza—a night-before-Lollapalooza fund-raiser for the Parkways Foundation—featured performances by Paolo Nutini and Spoon. At the 2008 event on July 31, more than 1,000 guests are slated to gather at the Petrillo Band Shell in Grant Park for cocktails, a buffet dinner, and a concert by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. C3 Presents will produce the event, and proceeds will benefit the Buckingham Fountain Restoration Project.

21. Ronald McDonald House Charities’ Big Mac Under Glass

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s 800-guest gala took over the Lincoln Park Zoo for its 2008 installation on April 26. Cathy Berk, manager of events for RMHC-CNI, had to keep the zoo animals’ sensitivities in mind when planning music and other details of the evening, which raised $300,000.

22. Breast Cancer Network of Strength Gala

The Chicago chapter of the Breast Cancer Network of Strength will commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as well as its 30th anniversary, with a pink-tie benefit for 1,000 guests in the Fairmont’s ballroom on October 17. The event is chaired by McDonald’s Corporation president Ralph Alvarez, McDonald’s chairman Andrew J. McKenna, and Reyes Holdings chairman J. Christopher Reyes. The gala is planned by the Breast Cancer Network of Strength’s Chicago director of special events, Liz Klug.

23. Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Bearcat Ball

The associate board of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago will host the 10th annual Bearcat Ball at the Merchandise Mart on November 15. Associate Board manager Bridget Vrba is planning the event, which is set to garner 500 business and civic leaders and will feature casino gaming, tastings by top Chicago restaurants, and live music. The Tree of Life award will be presented to an individual who has made a difference in the world for people with disabilities. Josie Croll, Inga Stenta, and Margie Stineman are the 2008 co-chairs.

24. Chicago Botanic Garden’s Antiques & Garden Fair Preview

At the Chicago Botanic Garden’s annual preview benefit on April 17, more than 1,000 attendees explored fantasy gardens imagined by Bill Heffernan of Heffernan Morgan and co-producer Donna LaPietra. Jewell Events Catering served a buffet, and the event raised more than $300,000. The 2009 event is set for April 16.

25. Hedge Funds Care Open Your Heart to the Children Benefit

Event Architects planned this party for 500 hedge fund industry professionals on May 15 at the Rooftop Terrace in Millennium Park. The evening included a buffet, music, and auctions. Co-chairs were Elizabeth Foster and Melinda Kramer, and the event raised close to $850,000.

26. Rehabilitation Institute Medicine Ball

The women’s board of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago hosts and plans this annual gala, which aims to raise $500,000 for the Cancer Rehabilitation Program. About 500 civic and business leaders will gather at the Chicago History Museum on September 6 for the 2008 event, whose theme is “Medicine Ball: An Evening of Gatsby.” Film critic Roger Ebert and his wife, Chaz, are the honorary chairs.

27. Boys & Girls Clubs Summer Ball

Chaired by Anne Reyes and Barbara Speer, the 2007 ball was held June 6 at the Hilton Chicago. Erin Doyle, manager of special events for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, planned the event, which featured decor by Heffernan Morgan and drew a crowd of 600.

28. Chicago House World Tour

Jeremy Hilborn, special events manager for Chicago House, will team up with Daniel Stober of Sylvia’s Flowers and Tony Abruscato of Special Events Management to plan this annual gala on September 27. With dinner and dancing at Macy’s on State Street, 600 guests are expected to attend. The 2008 co-chairs are Ron Huberman of the Chicago Transit Authority and John Carroll of Modern Luxury Media.

29. Children’s Place Association Benefit Gala

Held on April 5 in Union Station’s great hall, the 2008 gala sported the theme “Once Upon a Time … On the Starlite Express” and drew some 460 guests. The event featured decor by Joseph Leigh Designs, dinner by Jewell Events Catering, music by the Stu Hirsch Orchestra, and a performance by the Windy City Roller Skaters. Kathy Nowlin and Suzanne Meder chaired the evening, and $400,000 was raised for programs for children and families affected by H.I.V./AIDS.

30. Lupus Foundation’s Orchid Ball

Held at the Peninsula Hotel on June 27, this third annual fund-raiser included a cocktail hour, silent auction, dinner, and dancing to the Ken Arlen Orchestra. Peninsula special events planner Greg Hyder teamed with Kehoe Designs to mastermind the lilac-hued setting. Last year’s ball raised $260,000.

31. Midwest Eye Banks Gift of Sight Gala

The 10th annual gala at the Peninsula Hotel on April 25 drew 150 high-profile Chicago supporters. Randy Hano and Amy Wimer co-chaired. Winger and Associates provided PR and event planning support for the gala, with further planning and catering provided by the Peninsula. The benefit raised $70,000 for the Eye and Vision Research Program.

 32. Heartland Alliance’s Art Against AIDS

The junior board of the Heartland Alliance hosted this party for Chicago’s art-minded social set at the River East Art Center on February 28. The event featured auctions of artwork in a variety of mediums, and proceeds benefit Heartland Alliance’s H.I.V./AIDS programs. The 2009 event is set for February 26.

Correction: This version has been updated to correct the date and the chairs of the Museum of Science and Industry's Columbian Ball.

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