Wouldn't Mary Peabody of Elgin be surprised if she learned that a center she indirectly helped create for nurturing individuals with behavioral and emotional needs was finding great success in raising funds by auctioning potential dates with local bachelors and bachelorettes?
Peabody would have never heard of such a concept in 1896, when her willingness to take care of baby twins after their mother had died after childbirth led to the creation of the Mary Peabody Home for Babies and evolved over time into what is now the Larkin Center, 1212 Larkin Ave., Elgin.
If you goWhat: Street of Dreams, the Larkin Center's 15th annual Sweetheart Auction, featuring dancing, appetizers, dessert bar, a 50/50 raffle, live and silent auctions
When: 6:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 5
Where: The Marriott Chicago Northwest, 4800 Hoffman Blvd., at the corner of I-90 and Route 59.
Tickets: $30 in advance and $35 at the door
Details: (847) 695-5656, ext. 263 or larkincenter.org
But it's a concept that means a lot 115 years later, as Larkin Center prepares for its biggest fundraiser of the year when "Street of Dreams," the 15th annual Sweetheart Auction, will unfold at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Marriott Chicago Northwest in Hoffman Estates.
The Larkin Center, which cares for state wards requiring intensive mental health services, also offers an adult transitional facility, outpatient family counseling and a special education school for first through 12th grades.
A center board member had the idea 15 years ago that it could be fun for local single people to represent date packages, collect pledges of support and put those packages out for bid at a fundraising event.
The concept took hold and draws more than 300 attendees while netting the center up to $35,000 a year, said Claudia VanDelinder, public relations director for Larkin Center.
Volunteer bachelors and bachelorettes get sponsors to pledge money, while the Larkin Center board seeks donations from the community that would fit into a date to be bid on by attendees. As a side competition, the volunteers with the most pledges get to pick the donated items that will make up their date package.
It hasn't hurt the cause that winning bidders can use the date package in any way they would like.
"We have tried to dispel the notion that we are a dating service," VanDelinder said. "The individual who wins the date package can invite whomever they want to share in the date package.
"There have been occasions when the person who won the date package has asked the participant representing that date package out on that date," VanDelinder added. "It is explained to all the participants that the date package can be bid on by anyone -- married or single."
No matter which way an auction winner decides to go with the date package, there is no doubt that Cupid is at work on this Valentine's Day themed event.
"We have had participants find their sweethearts because of the event," VanDelinder noted.
The date packages consist of dinner, show or game tickets, or various other date-related items.
The volunteer bachelors and bachelorettes, ranging in age from 24 to 51, include Amy Daum, Adam Garcia, Dale Spencer, Amy Ross, Jeff Klein, Brianne Murphy, Jimmy Mauro, Erica Mason, Kyle LaMay, Michael Sobel, Nyla Whitehead, Nicholas Crear, Sean Simmons, TJ Gilboy and Joe Gotlibowski.
Attendees will be offered appetizers and desserts, as well as an evening of dancing. A silent auction, 50/50 raffle and bids for a "Mini Grand Prix Package" and wine tasting for 10 people are also offered. The event goes until 12:30 a.m.
Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door and can be purchased by calling Sharon Prizy at (847) 695-5656, ext. 263.
The Marriott Chicago Northwest is at 4800 Hoffman Blvd., at the corner of I-90 and Route 59.
One such couple was Adam and Manuela Fiedorowicz of Dundee. The couple met at the 2007 Sweetheart Auction, began dating, fell in love and married in June of 2008. They recently welcomed a baby boy named Lucas to their family.
But there was a different twist for Adam and Manuela.
"I was a bachelorette and he was a bachelor and we got introduced to each other the day of the event," Manuela explained. "When the auction started, and it was time for me to do my dance to 'Night at the Roxbury,' he came out played the role of the guy in that scene of the movie, and it was just hilarious."
Manuela said they agreed afterward to exchange phone numbers.
"It was really kind of funny, because when he called I didn't remember who he was," Manuela said. "So it was kind of like a blind date, but it was fun and he was really nice and we just hit it off."
Manuela said she and her husband still laugh about their meeting at the Sweetheart Auction, but more importantly, "We both think about Larkin Center a lot and believe they just do a wonderful job with kids there and this is such a fun event and a great cause."