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Imagining All Children Safe, Healthy at UNICEF’s Hope Gala

Imagining All Children Safe, Healthy at UNICEF’s Hope Gala

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Chicago-area philanthropists gather for an inspirational and magical night supporting the world’s most vulnerable children at UNICEF’s 9th annual Hope Gala.

Chicago’s “The Geraghty” transformed into a magical land full of promise on Saturday, April 9th, for UNICEF’s 9th annual Hope Gala. Over 600 guests to the event and its after-party were inspired to “Imagine”—this year’s theme—”a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause,” says Casey Marsh, Managing Director of the Midwest Region, U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Attendees were obviously moved to believe, considering the occasion raised more than $1 million under the leadership of co-chairs Mark Mitsukawa of Barneys New York and Kim K.W. Rucker, formerly of Kraft Foods Group, Inc.

Despite the serious nature of the organization and the evening’s theme, Marsh adds,
“The setting was intended to be fun, whimsical and reminiscent of childhood.”

UNICEF’s concept was brought to life by Kehoe Designs, event design experts led by The Geraghty proprietor, Tom Kehoe. The result was an urban playground ambience,”which incorporated childhood games, like hopscotch, into its décor. The atmosphere, however, wasn’t the only magical aspect. Guests were treated to a variety of routines from individuals of The Actors Gymnasium, who showed off their incredible stilt-walking, contortionist and juggling skills. Other entertainment included an artist doing canvas paintings, a silent auction and a live auction led by Vinnie Zaffarano. Packages included a stay at the luxurious Park City resort, The St. Regis Deer Valley; a four-night trip to Paris Fashion Week for two; seven nights of yachting around the Mediterranean for two; and two badges for two days attendance at the 2017 or 2018 Masters Golf Tournament.

Perhaps the most memorable entertainment was the performance of Vanessa Williams, singer, actress and mother of four. Williams, wearing a Pamella Roland gown, delivered her number one hits “Love Is” and “Save the Best for Last,” among other songs, including the multi-award-winning track “Colors of the Wind.” Though this was definitely a peak moment, the night didn’t end there.

Many stayed for the after-party, featuring the Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra, who had the dance floor “crowded as usual.” This portion also drew many newcomers to the evening and the event in general, having been arranged by the UNICEF Next Generation Chicago Steering Committee—a diverse group of young leaders committed to the organization’s mission.

The coming together of “so many passionate champions for children in one room” is “very special,” Marsh noted, and the Midwest region of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF certainly has many supporters. In fact, many board and committee members have been involved for years,and the 9th Hope Gala even commended one board member’s 20th year of service.

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Their efforts contribute to UNICEF’s work in over 190 countries and territories to “put children first.” This includes health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The Hope Gala is both a celebration and an extension of that work, with “some of the most important details tied directly to the mission and purpose of the evening.” For example, each place setting held a deck of UNICEF Inspired Gift Cards, allowing guests to contribute items in need by children around the world, such as “an emergency tent, anti-malarial bed nets and therapeutic food packets.”

Attendees also learned about the UNICEF Kid Power program, particularly the success of the Chicago team’s 30-day Kid Power Challenge, in which almost 6,000 local students earned points through activity to unlock over 33,000 packets of therapeutic food. According to Marsh, their initiative equated to “enough steps to walk the length of Millennium Park more than 1.4 million times!” Finally, the event wouldn’t have been complete without children, and UNICEF Youth Activists, ages 10-14, were on-site “to help educate guests about UNICEF’s lifesaving work.”

Though the magic and fun of the 9th Hope Gala are now but fond memories, the organization’s tireless efforts continue, with preparations for next year’s affair already underway. Details will be available in the coming months, but Marsh discloses that UNICEF’s 10th annual event will be held again at The Geraghty, tentatively scheduled for April 29, 2017.

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