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The Power of Philanthropy

Chicago is best known for its food and sports, but when it comes to helping others, We’re at the top of our game. Take a look at our list of the most inspiring people, places and parties the windy city has to offer.

Robbie Gould

Lyric Opera’s Fantasy of the Opera 2013

Inside the Chicago History Museum’s exhibit, Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair

Stylist Heidy Best


Lema Khorshid

Lindsay Avner

Marcus Lemonis 

Neapolitan Collection

A Better Chicago founder Liam Krehbiel

Venue One’s new all-inclusive event space

Venue of the Season: Venue One
West Loop event space Venue One debuts some serious upgrades this fall. The all-inclusive, high-tech, 33,000-square-foot space is customizable to suit the needs of a sit-down dinner for 500 guests or cocktail reception for 800. Almost everything is handled in-house, thanks to husband-and-wife culinary team James and Rachel De Marte, full-service event design firm Event Creative, and an on-site staff of technicians and event managers. In other words, no more coordinating 10 different vendors to plan a killer party. And state-of-the-art technology is seamlessly built into the decor to convey an event’s message in a chic, modern way through 30 HD video screens, LED color-changing lighting, a built-in sound system and a seamless plasma display wall. Plus, gala chairs can take advantage of the separate Innovation One Club, which provides tech-equipped meeting suites, Internet access and a print center—perfect for pre-party planning sessions.

Where to Shop: Neapolitan Collection
This Winnetka boutique was already one of our go-tos for stunning, one-of-a-kind gowns from designers like Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Christian Dior and Saint Laurent, but owner Kelly Golden’s new program, Gala Get Give, has us even more inclined to put down the plastic. When a gala chair purchases a dress from Neapolitan, Golden donates 20 percent of its price to the event. “We are excited to continue Neapolitan Collection’s long history of giving back with this program,” she says. “It allows us to focus our support on Chicago’s many worthy charities, while helping dress the city’s most philanthropically involved women.”

Marcus Lemonis: Lemonis Bridge Program
When he was a very young man, Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis received a memorable lesson in giving back: “My grandfather and Danny Thomas were part of the original group who started St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital,” says Lemonis. “So they would do the Miracle Ball at the Fountainbleu in Miami, and they put me, as a very young child, in charge of security. And one year for entertainment we had Frank Sinatra. So I went up in his room in my red velvet tuxedo to tell him it was time to go on, and in the elevator on the way down I asked him, ‘Do you enjoy these events?’ And he said, ‘You know, I get paid a lot of money to do events, but this is one I don’t get paid to do because, as you get older, it’s important to make sure you do things because they’re right, not just because there’s money involved.’ I thought that was really something, coming from a guy like that.” Lemonis never forgot the advice. Though he’s extremely busy running his company and filming his CNBC reality show, The Profit, on which he invests his own money in distressed businesses, he still finds plenty of outlets for philanthropy—most recently by underwriting the Joffrey Ballet’s Lemonis Bridge Program, which teaches ballet to kids in Chicago Public Schools. “What I’m passionate about is the discipline and the focus it provides for the kids,” he says. “Kids need structure.” That’s far from his only goodwill effort in Chicago, though. Among other initiatives, Lemonis also sponsors a program for young musicians at Ravinia and was responsible for bringing in the surprise musical guests to the Zoo Ball for the last two years. Hey, who doesn’t love a guy who pays for a Village People or KC & the Sunshine Band concert? “I mostly do youth programs,” says Lemonis. “I find them to be the most enriching. It’s easy to write checks, but you really want to get involved in the things you have a passion for.”

Local Celeb: Lindsay Avner
After she became the youngest patient in the country to opt for a preventive double mastectomy at age 23, Lindsay Avner founded Bright Pink with a simple mission: to focus on risk reduction and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women while providing support for high-risk individuals. Since 2007, the fast-growing nonprofit has spread to 15 cities, is the only one of its kind on a national scale and has garnered a celeb cult following, including Giuliana Rancic, who has openly spoken about her fondness for the charity as she recently battled breast cancer. “When I started this organization, it was because there was nothing out there focused on the 52 million women who have never been diagnosed,” says Avner. “No one was talking to them in a way that was relevant, approachable and action-oriented.” This fall, Bright Pink announces its Women’s Philanthropic Initiative, which will launch in 2014. It’s an opportunity for professional women to join the board with an annual $2,500 donation and become a vital part of fueling the org’s mission and shaping key decisions as it continues to grow. Avner also is fostering a partnership with the Chicago Bulls to initiate outreach efforts targeting young African-American women. “We know African-American women in the Chicago area are 116 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, and that’s a really startling statistic,” she says. “I’m proud of the foundation we’ve built, but now it’s about exponential growth—the kind of massive growth and impact that doesn’t just save dozens of lives, but thousands.”

Three Boards To Be On
The Board Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum The Mission Founded in 1974, the Costume Council maintains the museum’s exhibitions and collection of costumes and artifacts, the world’s second largest with pieces dating back to the 1720s. The Board The Guild of the Chicago Botanic Garden The Mission Its direction enables the Garden to maintain its grounds, provide educational programs, and execute the scientific research necessary to enhance and preserve our environment. The Board Founders’ Board of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago The Mission The board helps Lurie provide the most advanced and compassionate health care for children and their families through philanthropy and fundraising, and helps foster the hospital’s growth.

Number Crunch: 87
The number of years the Woman’s Board of Rush University Medical Center has hosted its annual fashion show, making the event the longest continuously running charitable fashion show in the country. Each year, local philanthropists and socialites take to the runway in designs from Ralph Lauren, Max Mara, Neapolitan Collection and more at this benefit, and for this year’s event, which took place Oct. 17 at The Palmer House Hilton, the Woman’s Board committed to raising $500,000 to benefit the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.

Top Five: Five of our favorite annual galas raised impressive funds at their most recent affairs.
1. Fantasy of the Opera transforms Lyric Opera House in opulent style for an evening of cocktails and performances. $450,000

2. Maestro Riccardo Muti and Chicago’s who’s who open the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new season each year at Symphony Ball. $1.2 million

3. The Museum of Contemporary Art’s nontraditional benefit Art Edge is always full of surprises. $900,000

4. What could be better than privately touring Lincoln Park Zoo with Champagne in hand at its summer soiree, Zoo Ball? $1 million

5. The Shedd Aquarium’s annual black-tie gala includes dinner and dancing amid aquatic flora and fauna. $1.2 million

Robbie Gould: The Goulden Touch
As Bears placekicker Robbie Gould jokes, “Being a kicker, I have a lot of time to think.” And those thoughts range from football—he is the third most accurate kicker in NFL­ history—to thinking up new events and activities for his popular charity, The Goulden Touch. Gould and his board of directors follow the four “Goulden” rules, which focus on making a local impact in the areas of education, social services, health and wellness, and medical research. “The sky is the limit for this charity,” he explains. “The intent is to balance the importance of giving to others while making charitable giving enjoyable.” Which means no black-tie galas for this Penn State grad; instead, he hosts events like the Run for the Gould 5K, the Strike Gould bowling tournament and the Goulden Touch Invitational golf tournament, which, this year, raised funds for Goulden Touch Field, a turf soccer and football field in the West Lawn neighborhood. (Each year, more than 12,000 children will use Goulden Touch Field.) “Anyone can put together a gala,” Gould explains. “I like the ability to fundraise and work with a lot of things.” So, does he ask his teammates to work on his projects? “A lot of them have charities, as well,” he says. “But I will always let them know what is coming up.” After all, this business major thinks it’s his privilege to help others, and he loves making life better for as many people as possible.

“Truly I will never be able to give back as much as football gave me,” he says. “But with this charity, I want to exceed all expectations.”

Fast Growing Local Charity: A Better Chicago
When former Bain & Company management consultant Liam Krehbiel started A Better Chicago in 2010, his goal was simple: to provide funding and management support to high-performing nonprofits that advance opportunities for the region’s low-income population. Goal accomplished. Since launching, A Better Chicago has raised more than $5 million, built partnerships with companies like Bain & Company, Latham & Watkins and Accenture, and most importantly, impacted the lives of more than 5,500 low-income Chicagoans (just in 2013!) in partnership with its grantees. “It’s been an exciting three years,” says Krehbiel. “We set out to build a more impactful way to move the needle for low-income Chicagoans, and we are doing that. When you are building something from scratch, there is a lot of learning along the way. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned. That said, I’m fired up about where we are headed. We are helping some truly incredible organizations to scale up their impact, and we are enabling donors to get the accountability and results that they want from their philanthropy. Lots more to do, but I feel like we are on the right path.”

Gala Style: BeClothesMinded
When Heidy Best recently left Neiman Marcus after eight years as a personal shopper, she admits the decision was daunting. But focusing full-time on her fashion consulting firm, BeClothesMinded, has equipped her as the ultimate resource for event shopping for clients. “The big retailers—Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Nordstrom—they have trunk shows year-round of designers offering evening options,” she says. “So for a client who likes to know what she’s wearing next season, she can pick out an item the store didn’t buy to ensure she has something unique.” Oftentimes, the store will even specify the client and event so that no one else will be wearing that gown. For women who aren’t chairing the event, says Best, a shorter dress is acceptable, and she recommends brands like Hervé Léger and Alice + Olivia from Intermix. But not surprising, Neiman Marcus is still her haven. “They have a great high-low range for the client who’s just starting her gown circuit, as well as an amazing floor of Oscar de la Renta and Valentino for the veteran philanthropist who wants to invest in great pieces knowing how many events she has throughout the year.”

Lema Khorshid: Bizover
To call Lema Khorshid’s résumé impressive would be an understatement. Highlights include nine years in the fashion industry producing fashion shows for Kenneth Cole, DKNY, Guess and Rebecca Taylor, which led to founding her own production company at age 22; six years consulting hospitality, fashion and entertainment clients on public relations and marketing strategies; and currently acting as one of the managing partners at Fuksa Khorshid LLC, where she handles corporate transactional and intellectual property legal matters for small to midsize businesses in Chicago and New York. And that’s just on the business side of things. She also sits on the board of directors of The Light Project and the University of Illinois Entrepreneurship Advisory Council, was honored by the Daily Herald Business Ledger in 2009 as one of 22 influential Chicago women in business and has chaired several large-scale fundraisers to support educational initiatives for underprivileged communities. Not surprisingly, her charitable marketing initiative, BizOver, highlights the two facets of being a successful woman in business: “It’s a networking platform for women entrepreneurs to grow their network, gaining mentors and contacts,” says Khorshid. “And the second part [focuses] on the things women entrepreneurs tend to forget about, like taking care of themselves—to do good in business, you still have to look good.” Through retail partners such as Neiman Marcus, BizOver’s events create a platform for fascinating women to interact over cocktails, usually with a beauty or fashion element to the evening, like makeup tips from the pros or a fashion show of the newest trends. “People always say, ‘When women become really successful, they don’t help other women,’” she says. “Finding these women who are really successful but also give back to the community—that is so important.” And connecting them with the next generation has become her passion. “If you’re a woman entrepreneur, and you have a small business idea, it’s sometimes such a far-reaching goal,” she says. “But if you’re in the room with a woman who’s also juggling a lot and has grown a really successful business, then you’ll leave the event saying, ‘Oh my god, I met a really great person, and she’s inspired me.’ That makes the goal so much more reachable.”