The Breakthrough Ball: Wow Was the Word




By Judy Carmack Bross



Breakthrough Board President Elizabeth Luttig with Dr. Sola Olopade and Dr. Funmi Olopade


“The Breakthrough Ball came on the heels of the University of Chicago Medicine breaking ground to build Illinois’ first free standing cancer care and research pavilion, because of the discoveries of our faculty that Wow. I was inspired by all the amazing women and men who showed up at the Ball and dressed to Wow to raise funds for such a great cause.  For 30 years the board has been a staunch ally for cancer research and I loved every minute of the evening being with them.”  Dr. Funmi Olopade, internationally renowned cancer specialist on the Breakthrough Ball.


Program book


Elizabeth and Michael Luttig


“Wow” raffle ticket saleswomen


What wowed us most about the recent Breakthrough Ball was the enthusiasm and love alive all evening at one of chicest of Chicago’s private clubs, filled with food, cocktails, and dancing to DJ Sasha’s music as well as inspiring remarks and a mission-driven film highlighting that the funds raised at the event have great life-saving potential.  


Kristi and David Nuelle


Bidding for the cause


Auctioneer Gary Metzner


Alexandra Nikitas, CRF Board Chair, and Barbara Sessions


While most non-profits tie the benefit to their mission, no one could possibly do it better—or engaged the commitment of guests more–than the Breakthrough Board which funds innovative programs with high breakthrough promise across the spectrum of innovation in cancer research, diagnosis and treatment.  WOW was the invitation’s advice on dress code, but it turned into an evening of awe where WOW fit for everything.


In welcoming guests to the evening President Elizebeth Luttig said:


“Speaking of WOW, our board is one of the oldest charitable boards in the city supporting the University of Chicago’s Comprehensive Cancer Center for over 75 years.  We are 56 galas in and $22 million strong, and we are still at it.  It is an honor to support the scientists and researchers who have been such good stewards of our funds and whose life’s work is making a difference in the lives of so many.”


President Elizabeth Luttig with Co-Chairs Barb Sessions and Cheena Chandra


Cheena Chandra and Barb Sessions, who modeled dazzling diamond earrings during the Live Auction, were the evening’s chairs.  Handmade in Italy by Bulgari craftsmen, Breakthrough Board member Molly Curley designed the floral earrings in honor of her mentor Barbara Parker, who died of cancer in 2021.  Other amazing live auction prizes put out for bidding by Sotheby’s Gary Metzner were four nights at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Big Sky country, a weeklong tour of Kerala and the Maldives, and caviar and champagne tasting led by celebrity sommelier Philippe Andre. 


The board is composed of 89 members, including 20 new members and those who have served for many years.  The host committee included Platinum Sponsors Kimberly Duchossois, Elizabeth and Michael Luttig, and Joan and Paul Rubschlager, and Gold Sponsors Tom and Connie Duckworth and Liz Stiffel.


Patrick Garvey and Robin Josephs, Dan Kelly and Judi Katz-Kelly, Laura and Michael Werner, and Barbara Sessions


Elizabeth and Michael Luttig


Alexandra and David Fox


Tricia and Ben Cox


The board’s longtime partner. Ogilvy, has created inspirational videos for over 10 years which demonstrate how research at UChicago impacts the lives of cancer patient. “The highlight of the evening was Ogilvy’s film, featuring examples of UChicago’s successes with clinical trials. It was an emotional moment when, at the end of the video, the crowd began singing along with the song “I Can See Clearly Now,” Luttig said. ’On the event itself, I thought that it was really special to gather at the lovely Casino Club in celebration of this wonderful cause. The guests seemed to enjoy the social aspect of the evening and the opportunity that the venue and format afforded them to visit with friends.”


At the end of her remarks, Luttig said.


“At this time of national and international uncertainty and upheaval, how refreshing to gather together in unity, woven together by the fabric of this cause, celebrating lifesaving work. We are all better for it. ”


Lidia Devonshire, Barbara Sessions, Liz Adams and Diane H. Reilly


Kristi Nuelle and John Hall


Jack and Kimi Werner with Jane and Teddy Chun


For further information on the board’s philanthropic efforts, please visit