Give a Gala Two



       . . . carve out an exclusive date for your annual benefit? And reserve it.

            No one would dare schedule a major social event for December 22; The Passavant Cotillion and Christmas Ball has held the date for seventy years.

           The Lincoln Park Zoo commands the second Friday in July and The Service Club holds the first Friday in November, just as Children’s Home & Aid–when it was a major force–controlled the Friday after Labor Day.

           Once you have decided upon the annual date and ascertained that no one else owns it, register the date publicly, in writing and well in advance.

           Classic Chicago’s DateBook will publish a date a year or more in advance to secure it—in effect reserving it.




Designs by Jody: Design dynamo Jody Elting, selected by leading Chicago families to create their most memorable moments, uses flowers, lighting, backdrop and whimsy to set a marvelous mood and make sure your every wish is carried out.


Kehoe Design: Always with allure and often awe, for 20 years Tom Kehoe has been all about creating a reaction.  Entertainment, custom furniture, and technical production can be part of your package.


Green Inc: From their Wells Street shop Inara Carroll and son Luke. Carroll create the lushest of arrangements in the most vibrant of colors.  The go-to destination for discerning families who wish to gift their guests with beauty, Green Inc creates the arrangements you want to take home after the party.


HMR: Weaving the legendary magic of three of Chicago’s most celebrated design firms—Heffernan Morgan, Ronsley and Botanicals–HMR also boasts a warehouse full of ever-expanding selections of custom furniture and décor pieces.  Memorable graphics and 3-D artwork are also offered.


Bunches (A Flower Shop): Known for well-produced floral decor that reflects the seasons more than elaborate prop decorations, Bunches (A Flower Shop) is always a visual celebration of the imagination and design sense of its owner Marc Waters. 


Virginia Wolff Inc.:  Frequent customer Brian White shared: “you can work with Beatriz Mercado, the owner, to come up with amazing, creative decorating ideas you have never seen before and they always figure out how to make it happen. From our Palm Beach theme with pink & white striped awnings to Venetian gondolas, Beatriz and her team can do anything.” 


Cordelia McNamara Flowers and Parties: Many of the gorgeous flowers in a Cordelia McNamara arrangement come from their own urban flower farm of extraordinary and long-lasting flowers.  Part of the US grown organic flower movement, McNamara’s natural designs range from historical to avant garde.


Fill It With Flowers: Owner and designer Sarah McCool promises to exceed your expectations with her distinctive floral designs for special occasions in Chicago and on the North shore.  Personal service is her hallmark.


Nancy Chase Arrangements: Chase pairs her passion for flowers with lush tablecloths, couture containers and that perfect chair to make galas feasts to the eye.  Her design background fuels her artistry.




      From The Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago


In each Give a Gala celebrated Chicago party givers let you in on their top-secret formulas for success.  Learn from our experts on creating a mood, choosing the perfect date, seating a challenging table, and insuring the fun.


By adding new twists, turning up the glamor and maximizing the mission, The Women’s Board of The Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago mixes a Formula for Success for its triumphant Summer Balls that enhance funding for this impactful provider of opportunities for Chicago’s youth.


Cindy and Ben Chereskin at 2017 Summer Ball


While Women’s Board leaders Cindy Chereskin and Caroline Burns are already hard at work on “2020 Summer Ball” at the Four Seasons on May 15, which will spotlight the future and visionaries of the Women’s Board, past chairs shared their tips.


Mimi Murley and Charlene Huang Olson – 2016 Summer Ball Co-Chairs

Mimi Murley, co-chair of the Dream Big Ball:

“Never forget the importance of authentically connecting with the mission, highlighting it, and making an institution be more human.

“There is a lot of competition chasing after finite dollars as well as competing benefit opportunities so the event must be distinctive.  Capture the imagination beginning with a theme, translate into a save the date, then an invitation with clever verbage and clear connection to the institution.  Build from there with constant communication and PR opportunities.

“Because our Board is a critical resource for donations, attendance, and support, we wanted to remind our members of the connection with the kids by holding meetings and doing creative projects in the clubs.  They could sell their friends on the heart of the organization because they were experiencing the programs first hand.  Our theme ‘Dream Big’ was an expression of aspiration of both kids and Board members.  The Ball committee structure was an important way to maintain and build the excitement of the Board members throughout the course of the year.”

“Invest in the quality of a benefit as the guests expect to be appreciated for their time and expense and will be more willing to extend themselves further if feeling comfortable.  Menu, bar/wine, decor, location, service, music, transportation are basics, and set the tone upon which creativity, fashion, celebrity, and program can be distinctive.  Our ‘celebrities’ were our BGCC kids who greeted guests upon arrival. The silent/super silent auctions held surprises of excellent quality and the live auction items were limited to six hard to obtain items and had exciting bidding around them.  Our honoree was a former BGCC club member who had risen to a position of responsibility in the Chicago Ambulance Corps and we created a movie around her to profile the heart and soul of the Clubs in the community and the ability to Dream Big.”

Charlene Olson, her Dream Big Co-Chair:
”We’ve all heard ‘it’s the people that make the party’. I truly believe this is what also makes the BGCC Summer Ball such a success each year.

“The ‘people’ are the ball chairs, board members, sponsors and supporters, and the fabulous guests who make the event a priority to attend. What brings them all together is their passion for the mission of the organization and the belief that collectively they can make an important and life changing impact in our community.

“So much of the ‘success’ of the Ball happens before the big night itself. A majority of support is rallied before the tux and ball gown come out of the wardrobe. The Ball is really a yearlong collaboration and inspiration, connecting board members to one another and connecting friends, colleagues, and corporations to the mission of the organization.

“Of course, once the ballroom doors open, the actual ‘party’ begins, and guests are treated to the ‘wow’ factor of the Ball’s theme artfully imagined through fabulous decor, the delightful details and special surprises, recognition of deserving honorees, and thankful consideration of guests and sponsors as they are thanked and appreciated. People and passion truly do make the party!”

Nancy Santi and Barb Speer – 2019 Summer Ball Co-Chairs

Nancy Santi, Co-Chair of the 2019 Mirror Ball:

“Last year’s ‘Mirror Ball’ theme was named so, because we are helping Chicago’s youth look into their bright futures. We were able to then showcase all the activities the BGCC kids experience to help plant seeds for a future including STEM activities, leadership workshops, music, fashion design, among many.
“Creating enthusiasm by dangling surprising, unique elements to prospective supporters and guests up front results in much ‘buzz’ before the event even begins!  For The Boys and Girls Clubs ‘Mirror Ball’, we hinted at some of the whimsical elements ahead including mirror-covered dancers holding disco balls, and guests looking through lit up mirrors at their table mates–very fun, whimsical and surprising.  Hearing just a little about these features ahead generated much enthusiasm as the event ‘not to be missed’!”

Nancy, who co-chaired the Art Institute’s Masterpiece 19 Gala, added some of the surprises of this event:

“We featured live artists high up on scaffolding, painting on huge canvases, as well as creative food offerings such as appetizers served on lucite candelabras!   You always want them coming back the next year, not knowing what’s in store!”

Caroline Burns, co-chair of the 2020 Summer Ball gave us this preview:

“We follow some amazing chairs over the years!  With that being said, a big part of the success of a gala is the board itself. The board members at BGCC are a special and dedicated group and everyone must get involved for it to be a success.

“This year we are honoring two long standing women’s board members for their commitment and vision. Both Kim White and Karen Gray-Krehbiel have been inspiring with the work they have done with two important programs, Share Chicago and the Ann Milligan Gray Scholarship. I think people like to support people as well as causes.
“I also think a big part of the formula for success is obviously the cause itself. BGCC is focused on the next generation of kids in Chicago, our future! The kids will be highlighted in the invitation, materials and during the evening. After all, that’s why we are all there and raising money. For example, once again, we were the only option for many kids to have a safe outlet during the most recent CPS strike.”

Compiled by the Editors of Classic Chicago with

Andrea Aguilar and

Jonah Nink