A Day at the Races for Ronald McDonald House


BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS               



It was off to the races recently for more than 750 guests who gathered at The Geraghty to celebrate a true winner—Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI), which for 41 years has provided incredible hospitality, care, and resources to critically ill children and their families. The annual gala presented by Wintrust made guests feel they were celebrating Derby Day at Churchill Downs, not only the $1 million raised for Ronald McDonald House, Ronald McDonald Family Room, and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs that night.


Alan Krashesky.

ABC7’s Alan Krashesky, the evening’s emcee, shared his own experiences with the charity noting that his niece’s family spent six months at Ronald McDonald House while their daughter was hospitalized. Holly Buckendahl, RMHC-CNI’s CEO, related the impact the organizations have for families in our community and thanked guests for their generosity and continued support. Also in attendance was Charlie Marino, one of RMHC-CNI’s founders 41 years ago.

Marino remembered that very important year:

When the Ronald McDonald House near Children’s Memorial Hospital open its doors on April 28, 1977, the founders, Dr. Edward Baum, Bill Chunowitz, and myself, had a feeling of great exhilaration. The Chicago Ronald McDonald House was inspired by the first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia and went on to inspire four more Ronald McDonald houses in the Chicago area and over 350 Ronald McDonald Houses around the world.”

During the program guests were moved by a powerful video featuring the Anderson family who told of their own journey of joy, loss, and triumph, as well as the positive impact RMHC-CNI had on their family.


Africa Anderson, Amyre Anderson Bellamy, Antoine Bellamy, and Holly Buckendahl.

Guests in fashionable florals and big-brimmed hats or seersucker suits enjoyed signature Derby cocktails and Southern-inspired gourmet chef stations provided by Paramount Events. Late night cheeseburgers and the music of the Spoken Four kept partygoers mingling in the space elevated by Kehoe designs.


Spoken Four.


Decor by Kehoe Designs.


Christine Marzullo, winner of Ramona’s Hat; Ramona Lapp Whitt; and Holly Buckendahl.

A custom-designed Derby hat, made by seven-year-old Ramona whose family is currently staying at Ronald McDonald House as she undergoes treatment for pediatric brain cancer, was one of the most cherished items in the silent and live auctions.


Auctioneer Adam Jokisch.


The live auction.


Silent auction items.

The non-profits’ mission is to care for families of children with complex medical needs by providing comfort, compassion, and a sense of community. Each night 153 families receive care and resources through five area Ronald McDonald Houses and three Ronald McDonald Family Rooms, allowing families to stay close to their child in the hospital. The charities support the health and wellbeing of the child and save families more than $10 million in hotel and food costs each year.

They are located near Advocate Children’s Hospital, Loyola University Medical Center, UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Edward Hospital in Naperville, and Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. RMHC-CNI also operates the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program that provides medical care to children in underserved areas.


Derrick and Christine Lott.


Peter and Gretchen Peluso.


Chuck and Candace Jordan with friends.


Barbara Rook, Kayla Roth, and Alex and Amanda Rook.


Charlie and Heidi Stone.


Latherin and Maria Thomas.


Kevin and Marge Cmunt, Elissa Cmunt, Christina Clewlow, Mary Wagoner, Tim Cycyota, and Maggie and Ross Burger.


Mark and Barb Johnson.


Pete and Beth Bensen.


Holly and Kraig Buckedahl with Jeff and Nicole Cantalupo.


Ryan and Erin Smith with Joe Endress.


Wayne and Caren Wittman.


Wintrust: Steve and Linda Schneider, Matt Doubleday, Linda and Mike Bishop, and Susan and Dennis Jones.


Paul Huebner and Maryanne Nugent.

For further information, please visit  rmhccni.org.

Photo credit: Miss Motley Photography