Clearbrook's major fundraiser, its Shining Star Ball, celebrated its 25th anniversary Friday, and guests delivered.
The black-tie event, held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago, raised a record-breaking $1.2 million for Arlington Heights-based Clearbrook's therapeutic care and autism services.
"It was absolutely fantastic," said Gloria Drake, Clearbrook's vice president of communications. "We've been inching toward the million mark in the last few years, but this year definitely took us over the edge."
Guests came prepared to support the 55-year old agency, the largest provider in the state of services for children and adults with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Much of the money raised will support the Clearbrook clinic, which offers physical, occupational, speech and behavioral therapies and provides 20,000 hours of therapeutic care to clients each year.
"The clinic is one of the programs that sets us apart," said Clearbrook President Carl La Mell. "Proceeds from the ball are vital to helping us underwrite its costs, including its staff members."
The event also raised funds for Clearbrook's newest site in Northbrook to meet the growing demand for autism services. The Clearbrook Autism Program (CAP) is a day program that provides a highly structured schedule with opportunities for community-based employment and recreational activities.
After viewing a video on the site, which opened in November, guests participated in a reverse auction, where they pledged dollar amounts specifically for autism services.
"There are certainly more and more persons diagnosed on the autism spectrum than ever before, so the need for services keeps growing," Drake said. "And because we have such a high client-to-staff ratio (one staff member for every three clients) it's a very expensive program to fund."
The gala event has taken place at several Chicago locations, but this year it returned to the Four Seasons, site of the first Shining Star Ball.
"There was so much energy in the room," Drake said. "People really came with excitement and were looking for ways to support our services."
Ravi Baichwal, news anchor and reporter for ABC 7 in Chicago, returned to emcee the evening, which drew more than 300 people.
The ball was designed in 1988, in part by members of the Chicago Bears organization to benefit the Clearbrook clinic.
"This event raises a lot of funds which enables Clearbrook to fulfill it's mission," said board member Arly Guenther of Buffalo Grove. "These types of fundraisers are critical as public funds alone are not enough."
While Clearbrook's administrative offices are located in Arlington Heights, the agency serves more than 3,400 clients- from home-based support and day programs to its residential treatment options -- in 45 facilities located in 13 northern Illinois counties.