Boys & Girls Club’s 75th Anniversary Ball



By Judy Carmack Bross




Colette Smithburg welcomes guests to the 75th Anniversary Summer Ball with Ellen O’Connor on the left

Elizabeth and Michael Cole


Legendary leaders all, the mother-daughter Co-Chair duo of Ellen O’Connor and Elizabeth Cole and Woman’s Board President Colette Cachey Smithburg recently welcomed 400 people, the absolute maximum number of attendees, to the Woman’s Board of the Boys & Girls Club’s 75th Anniversary Diamond Ball held under a magnificent tent at the Museum of Contemporary Art. For a year, they had worked closely with Woman’s Board members producing extraordinary results–more than $2.4 million to support BGCC youth.

Tom and  Colette Smithburg, Ellen O’Connor, Elizabeth and Michael Cole

Beth White with her daughter Corinne White Troise

These funds will directly benefit the thousands of youth aged five to 18 at all BGCC locations, where kids can have a safe place, with nurturing staff and countless beneficial programs.

Karen McEniry, Betsy Bradley, and Cindy Chereskin

Linda Gantz with Caroline Gantz Burns

Ellen O’Connor and Liz Stiffel (Woman’s Board member)

We asked this dynamic threesome—Colette Smithburg and Ellen O’Connor and Elizabeth Cole—to describe this enchanted evening.

Ellen O’Connor, Colette Smithburg and Elizabeth Cole

Elizabeth Cole told us some of the highlights: “Guests being greeted upon arrival by members of the Clubs singing “Shine Bright Like a Diamond” and during cocktails to the the sounds of the Cubs very own, Johnny Vincent. If you closed your eyes you might have really thought Frank Sinatra was at the MCA!

Jenn Gambates performing

Ken Arlen Music Productions performing

 “A highlight for sure was the amazing performance by Broadway star Jenn Gambatese who sang a gorgeous moving melody while a retrospective of the last 75 years of galas played for the audience on the large screens.  It was truly a fitting tribute to a Women’s Board that has done so much good for such an important and beloved organization in our great city.”

Ellen O’Connor speaks at the beginning of the program

Ellen O’Connor told us afterwards:

“I’ve been on the Boys and Girls Clubs Board since 1977, and in all those years I have never witnessed such tremendous participation from such a high percent of Board Members: 40 of our 47 members were actually in attendance and we had a Board participation rate of almost 98 percent. In earlier years, support for the Ball came mostly from Corporations.  Now, the great bulk of our contributions come from individual, generous Board members, many of whom have been friends for decades!

Lisa Aronin (Woman’s Board member) and Robin Loewenberg Tebbe (Woman’s Board member and past President)

“It has been such fun and such an honor to work with my daughter, Elizabeth on this special 75th BGCC Ball. In fairness, she did the heavy lifting, and I was her aide.”

Carol Walter and Lindsay Walter Carlton with family

 Colette and Tom Smithburg

Colette Smithburg told us:

“The 75th Annual Diamond Ball not only radiated with glamour but also illuminated the transformative impact of the Boys and Girls Club mission. Co-Chair Elizabeth O’Connor Cole’s poignant visual that the children and teens served by the club would fill the United Center truly deepened the understanding of the impact BGCC provides in our City. Among the gorgeous attendees, the palpable energy and strong fellowship ignited a shared dedication to support and empower the next generation of both philanthropists AND members of the BGCC Clubs. Having served as President of the Woman’s Board has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my adult life. I am grateful to my fellow Board members who believed that I was up for the task.”

Lisa Aronin with friends

Crowd inside of the MCA

Elizabeth Cole told us about the live auction conducted by Brett Sherlock from Christie’s:

“We were blown away by the generosity of so many who helped us raise a staggering $2.4 million through sponsorships and the auction and paddle raise that evening!  We were able to raise an additional $500K through the tremendous donation of a special trip to Brush Creek Ranch for a two night retreat featuring renowned doctor and best selling author, Dr. Peter Attia, who is the hottest thing going in the world of wellbeing. Thanks to WB member Beth White for her vision in creating and underwriting such a unique offering with 100% of the proceeds going to The Boys and Girls Club.  We were able to sell nearly all 30 packages which pushed us to the $2.5 million mark, making this year’s event one of the most successful fundraisers ever for the organization.  

Maureen Sippel and Lenore Cameron (Woman’s Board members)

“It was my absolute honor and privilege to co-chair this special anniversary Ball with my mother, Ellen O’Connor.  No one throws a gala like my mother we had such fun working together in the year leading up to the event!  She is truly the best of the best!” 

Robin Loewenberg Tebbe, Jenni Sorenson Holmes, Kelly Rosen Lagrange, and Genevieve Hillis

The Live auction also included golf at Bandon Dunes, named the “world’s best golf course”; a suite for 20 guests at the June 27th Soldier Field Rolling Stones concert, a Parisian luxury getaway at the historic Hotel Plaza Athenee with dining and a behind-the-scenes experience at Christie’s Paris; and a Cubs package, including tickets to the Wrigley Field Concert Series, and a dinner for 10 at the Clubhouse, featuring John Vincent singing during cocktails.

Group photo of many of the Woman’s Board members in attendance

Robin Loewenberg Tebbe and BGCC President and CEO Michael Crowley

Colette Smithburg told us:

“As chairs of the 75th Boys & Girls Club Diamond Ball, Ellen and her daughter Elizabeth will illuminate the night, their radiant spirits dedicated to helping children in need. A torch passed from mother to daughter, their commitment to philanthropy, service to others and Chicago’s welfare shines brightly, guiding the way for a better tomorrow.”

Photo credit: Robin Subar Photography
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