Derby gala coming up roses for Hesed House
By Denise Crosby email@example.com April 21, 2012 10:46PM
donnell collins/staff photographer. Mary Ensor of Oswego holds a picture of herself with her beloved horse Peaches. Peaches was killed when a fire destroyed the barn where the horse was being boarded in Elburn late Tuesday afternoon.100505
Updated: May 23, 2012 8:13AM
Mary Ensor knows a thing or two about throwing a party. I met her years ago when she was pulling together a huge fundraising gala for Mutual Ground: an organization close to her heart because she served as board president for the Aurora domestic violence shelter during its capital campaign for a new building — and had herself been a victim of domestic abuse.
Mary is also a horse lover. But when a fire destroyed a Maple Park area barn in 2005, her beloved Peaches was killed. And since then, Ensor says she’s not been able to get back in the saddle, much less buy another horse.
Other things had changed, as well. Ensor went into retirement, then began volunteering for Hesed House. But when the shelter was looking for a director of volunteers, Mutual Ground’s then executive director, Linda Healy, suggested getting Ensor back in the saddle, this time figuratively. Eventually, she became division director of resources.
And all the while a thought had been “noodling around” in her brain. While she’s no longer riding, Ensor hardly lost her passion for all that is equestrian. So why not create a huge fundraiser centered around “the most exciting two minutes in sports?” she asked herself.
On May 5 — when the Run for the Roses is broadcast worldwide — The Kentucky Derby Annual Signature Gala to Benefit Hesed House will take place at the Chicago Marriott Naperville Hotel.
It’s an event that, even out of the gate, is sure to rival any other party.
That’s because, like the hats worn at the Kentucky Derby, Ensor tends to do things big.
Ray Kinney, Naperville philanthropist, will serve as master of ceremonies. In addition to an afternoon of horse racing action, there will be live music and a live auction featuring some pretty classy prizes — like a private yacht package on Lake Michigan; a week’s stay at an ocean-view condo in Palm Coast, Fla.; a cocktail party for 30 at the Naperville Carillon; wine and restaurant packages and more.
This Derby event will feature plenty of top-rated food and libations, including mint juleps, of course. There will also be a Derby Trivia game and a Derby Diva Red Carpet hat competition to be judged by honest to gosh beauty queens, including former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and vocalist Nikki Hale, who will lead the group in singing “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Also featured will be the work of the Expressions Art Group, which is comprised of former and current residents of Hesed House. Among the items auctioned off will be a specially commissioned Kentucky Derby painting made by Stephanie, a young formerly homeless woman featured in today’s Storyteller. Bill and Karen Garlough, owners of My Chef Catering in Naperville, will also be honored for their humanitarian deeds.
The goal of this spectacular event is not only to raise lots of much-needed money for this largest homeless shelter in the state outside Chicago, but to raise awareness that Hesed House is so much more than an “eats and sheets” shelter with its myriad programs to help clients get — and stay — on their feet.
The sad fact is, need is greater than ever. Ensor says Hesed House gets a new homeless person every 10 and a half hours. And with the state threatening to slash funding 52 percent, “it’s imperative we create and implement new revenue.”
Tickets are $125 per person; tables of 10 are $1,250. For more information, call Ensor at 630-914-6428 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m betting this Derby gala is going to be a winner.