Nearly 450 people attended the Les Turner ALS Foundation's 27th annual "Hope Through Caring" award dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago Saturday, March 15. The foundation announced that $700,000 was raised through the gala, which honored Harvey Gaffen, president of the Les Turner Foundation.
Hosted by author Jonathan Eig, the event featured dinner, dancing, a silent and live auction, a paddle raise and video presentation. Proceeds from the award dinner help fund medical research, clinical care and support services for people with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).
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As the dinner chairman, Randy Green, president of the Bank of Highland Park, helped secure support from sponsors and donors. Green, along with other presenters during the evening, spoke about Gaffen's commitment, passion and leadership, all of which have helped the Les Turner ALS Foundation grow from a "mom and pop" organization to a world-renown nonprofit that is making an impact in the global ALS community.
In June, after 35 years of service, Harvey Gaffen will transition from president to president emeritus.
Speakers included Ina Turner Jones, Les Turner ALS Foundation Executive Director Wendy Abrams, longtime supporters Mary Ann Childers and Jay Levine, and president-elect Ken Hoffman. In addition to Jonathan Eig, other foundation spokesman Lin Brehmer of WXRT-FM and former Chicago Bears player Keith Van Horne were in attendance.
Auctioneer Matt Goebel inspired guests to bid on live auction items, including vacation packages in Switzerland and Mexico. Additionally, through the paddle raise, Goebel helped raise $202,250 to support critical patient services such as respite care and a transportation program.
An anonymous donor issued a challenge: If guests donated a minimum of $100,000 through the paddle raise, he/she would match the contribution. The challenge was met and surpassed.
The video presentation, produced by Kathy Giangreco of Focal Point Productions, Inc., featured patients and families who spoke about Gaffen's impact on the foundation's success and the importance the foundation has had in their lives.
Gaffen and his wife Bonny shared stories of Les Turner, how the foundation was started and the journey it has followed over the past 37 years.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease or motor neuron disease (MND), causes motor neurons to gradually stop working and die. The result is loss of nearly all voluntary movement and other muscle functions such as speaking, swallowing and breathing.
In the United States, approximately 35,000 people are living with ALS. There is currently no cure for ALS, though treatment of the symptoms often improves quality of life.
The "Hope Through Caring" Award was established in 1988 to honor those whose commitment to the fight against ALS has helped raise funds for research, provide services for patients and their families and increase public awareness. The award was created by local artist John David Mooney in memory of his brother, Father Harold Mooney, and A. William Haarlow III.
Founded in 1977, the Les Turner ALS Foundation is Chicago's leader in research, patient care, and education about ALS. The foundation serves 90 percent of the ALS population in the Chicago area with an array of services. The foundation is affiliated with Northwestern Medicine, where it supports two world-class scientific research laboratories and a multidisciplinary clinical program.
For information, call (847) 679-3311 or visit lesturnerals.org.