BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Champion philanthropists Karen Z. Gray-Krehbiel and Trisha Rooney have invited chairs of the Bears, Bulls, Cubs, and Blackhawks to celebrate the WINGS Program that provides housing, integrated services, education, and advocacy to end domestic violence at a benefit luncheon March 16 at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Moderators John Canning, Chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners and a part owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, and Greg Brown, Chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions, are holding their questions close to their chests for optimal spontaneity they quiz Bears Chair George McCaskey; Michael Reinsdorf, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Bulls; Cubs Executive Chair Thomas Ricketts; and Rocky Wirtz, Blackhawks Chair later this month.
“People in Chicago don’t have any idea of all that our sports teams have done to help youth in [this city] through the Boys and Girls Clubs and other organizations. Recently George McCaskey asked to tour our facilities and so impressed our families with his genuine interest. One five-year-old boy in the residence he visited was playing hide-and-seek all around him and got up the courage to ask if he could play for the Bears one day,” Rebecca Darr, WINGS CEO, told us. “Key to our luncheon program will be appearances by high school star athletes who have grown up in our program.”
This is the second annual WINGS luncheon that Gray-Krehbiel and Rooney have co-chaired. Last year’s guest speaker was Condoleezza Rice. Board Chair Rita Canning, John Canning’s wife, herself a board member for 25 years, recruited both Rooney and Gray-Kreibiel for the board. Although both chairs have worked together for years on Art Institute and Lyric Opera events, small organizations with live-saving missions play a great part in their philanthropy.
Gray-Krehbiel recalled, “Several years ago Rita invited me to tour WINGS’s suburban safe house. No wonder [she] was so passionate about the program. When you see the desperate straits these families are in, children who have seen abuse or been abused themselves, you just can’t turn your back. To know that, with the help of WINGS, this cycle can be broken and that the entire family can go somewhere else and begin again, means the world to us.”
Such family members share their stories at WINGS luncheons, providing a window into their experiences.“WINGS works to find homes and jobs for all. We can see the impact of those who become involved firsthand. This luncheon’s success is also a tribute to Chicago, the sharing and caring that goes on to help people. Friends in New York and Los Angeles can’t believe what non-profits in this city can accomplish by bringing people together. It takes a lot to protect and then re-launch families. These sports teams really understand the message we are trying to deliver,” shares Rooney.
“WINGS serves more children than adults each year, and our services are available to all people regardless of gender,” explains Darr. “In our 35 years of existence, we have provided close to 900,000 nights of shelter through our two Safe Houses and 60 homes and apartments making WINGS the largest domestic violence agency in the state of Illinois.”
Supporters include former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Governor Pritzker, and many other legislative leaders.Amy Rule, former first lady of Chicago recently joined the Board of Directors. Darr adds, “We have grown the agency from $600,000 in assets to $22 million. This event will enable WINGS to grow even more with recognition by professional sports teams in Chicago. Greg Brown is known to be a dynamic interviewer and with John Canning as an owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, the dialogue will definitely be lively.”