Gift for Life Gala


By Judy Carmack Bross



“A good friend donated a kidney to a stranger – that is TRUE philanthropy”— Joan Rubschlager

Through themed activities, raffles and dinner stations, guests at the National Kidney Foundation’s 34th Annual Gift of Life Gala October 24 at the Drake Hotel, will experience a night in “Old Chicago”. Benefiting the NKFI’s mission to improve the health and well-being of those at risk or affected by kidney disease through free screening programs and community health initiatives, the evening will recognize extraordinary Chicago leaders and philanthropists Joan and Paul Rubschlager.

Regina Waldroup is a reporter for NBC5

NBC5 reporter Regina Waldroup, am adjunct journalism professor and longtime public supporter of organ donation, will serve as mistress of ceremonies.

Windy City experiences throughout the gala include a battle off in a Chicago Cubs versus Chicago White Sox showdown. Famous! DJ Entertainment will entertain.

Among Chicago’s leading supporters of medicine and medical research, the Rubschlagers will receive the Harold & Molly Schwartz Founders Award” for their outstanding achievement and commitment to NKFI.

Inspiring humble about her accomplishments and continuously energetic in her humanitarianism, Joan talked to us recently about her work in the community.

You and your husband live philanthropy every day. Where does your passion for philanthropy stem from and how do you balance your ongoing involvements?

“We both remember participating in March of Dimes fund drives in grade school which then supported research for polio. That mission was accomplished, polio was eradicated, and March of Dimes found a new mission. We became interested in medical research at an early age and realize that we are here today because someone whom we do not know supported medical research that saved both of our lives. Paul is a B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor and I am a colon cancer survivor. We want to pass that gift on by supporting various kinds of medical research. Balancing our involvements…. we probably don’t do that well and thus stay very busy, often busier than we like.”

 The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois is one of our illustrious organizations in the state. What drew you to supporting this organization?

“We were supporting the Kidney Foundation with annual contributions when a staff person at the foundation one year called our attention to the need for support for the Kidney Mobile. We contributed to that for a couple of years to help get that program running. We were made aware of the need for kidney organ donations and the problems of living with dialysis when a key employee’s wife at our company was on dialysis, awaiting a kidney, when she passed away..”

What are you most looking forward to at the Gift of Life Gala?

“We look forward to sharing the evening with others who are passionate about the work of the Kidney Foundation and to raising lots of money to support the Kidney Foundation’s work.”
In addition to your most-deserved award at the Gala, CPD Chief Superintendent Eddie Johnson and his son Daniel will be receiving the “Gift of Life” award for Daniel’s generosity to his father. When people literally give of themselves in this manner, do you feel that it is an example for all?

“Donating a body part to another person while one is still living is truly the epitome of philanthropy and generosity. It is impossible to imagine the gratitude of the recipient after truly receiving the gift of life. Everyone can at least sign to be an organ donor. At that point, the organs are of no use to the donor and can help multiple other people go on with a near-normal life.”

 The evening’s program is entitled “Old Chicago.” Are you from Chicago and what are some of the aspects of our city of which you are most proud?

“Paul was born in Chicago; I was born in Pontiac, in Central Illinois, but I has been here since my graduation from college. Both of us love the city for its cultural opportunities—theater, concerts, and museums. Chicago has some of the top hospitals and medical institutions in the world. The city is clean and beautiful. When people ask, “Where will you retire?” we quickly respond “Chicago!”

 What are some of your hobbies and main interests? Are there favorite travel places?

“While we were working, our travel was for trade shows. Since our retirement five years ago, we have been trying to see as much of the world as we can while we are still reasonably mobile. We are active in many non-profits that keep us busy—sometimes too busy. We have yet to be bored!”

The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois improves the health and well-being of people at risk for or affected by kidney disease through prevention, education and empowerment. The NKFI is a lifeline for all people affected by kidney disease. As pioneers of scientific research and innovation, the NKFI focuses on the whole patient through the lens of kidney health. Relentless in its work, the Foundation improves lives through action, education and accelerating change.

Purchase tickets for the 2019 Gift of Life Gala at