The Junior League’s Masquerade Ball



February 25th was “a night veiled in elegance,” with over 350 guests in attendance at the Lyric Opera to celebrate the Junior League of Chicago’s Annual Gala, A Masquerade Ball.

Excitement, glamor, and the spirit of Mardi Gras were in the air, as masked ushers with full capes greeted the crowd there to celebrate the accomplishments of the Junior League. Most guests also wore masks, adorning their black tie finery with a little mystery, in keeping with the masquerade theme.


Former JLC President Ann Brinkman Carstensen and husband, Brent Carstensen.


Colleen Norton with Gala Co-Chairs Margaret Janovsky and Melissa Schumacher.

Gala co-chairs Melissa Schumacher and Margaret Janovsky created an evening of Venetian carnival sophistication and splendor, with Italian hors d’oeuvres, the music of Green Fourteen, drinks created by Tito’s Vodka mixologists, and a silent auction featured more than 50 packages available for bidding. A VIP floor allowed guests a chance to mingle off the dance floor and offered a bird’s eye view of the Lyric’s stunning Grand Foyer.


Lauren Boyle, Kelley McGrath, Michelle Caley, Katie Kowalski, and Marshall Lund use their phones to donate in real time to the JLC Annual Fund.


JLC Fundraising Director, Heidi Thornton; Gala Emcee and NBC 5 anchor, Lauren Petty; and JLC President, Ruth Gallagher Nelson.

The night’s emcee, NBC 5 anchor Lauren Petty, spoke on the League’s continued dedication to serving women and children in Chicago and provided an introduction for JLC President, Ruth Gallagher Nelson, who gave a short address highlighting the League’s mission and current initiatives, spotlighting one of their longest-running programs, GALS. In partnership with Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago, GALS provides girls with after school programming, homework help and mentors through their entire middle school and high school careers.


The Ask: President Ruth Gallagher Nelson and Fundraising Director Heidi Thornton (at left).

All proceeds from the evening will benefit the JLC’s signature community programs in Chicago. Since 1912, the organization has been providing valuable volunteer service hours and critical funding to area nonprofits, with more than 1,500 JLC members slated to contribute more than 50,000 hours annually of volunteer service focusing on at-risk families, especially women and children.

Guests who danced the night away for this great cause were grateful when a special gift was revealed from featured sponsor, Mercedes-Benz, at the end of the evening: slippers for tired feet ready to take off their dancing shoes!


The crowd.


Back Row: Mike Gemkow, Kristi Skowron, Dominika Ciasnocha, Matt Whitesel, Kyle Hacker, and Augustin Ruta.
Front Row: John Beringer, Jennifer Oliver, Caitlin Spear, Annie Whitesel, and Lauren Tavel.


Masked servers contribute to the evening’s intrigue.


Skyler Harrah, Nandini Kalakota, and Ashley Leavitt.


Photo credit: Kathleen Virginia Photography