Clearbrook supporters gather for Shining Star Ball

Clearbrook and its innovative opportunities and services for children and adults with disabilities were on full display Friday during the agency's Shining Star Ball in Chicago.

Nearly 300 people attended the black-tie gala at the Four Seasons Chicago, including families of clients, longtime supporters and corporate donors. WGN radio host Roe Conn returned as master of ceremonies.

Clearbrook officials described the fundraiser as crucial to delivering their services, and they expected to raise more than $1 million by the end of the evening.

"This is a very important evening for Clearbrook," said Frank ten Brink of Chicago, chairman of Clearbrook's board of directors. "Without a balanced budget in the state and with state cutbacks, this kind of support, year after year, is crucial."

Proceeds will help support Clearbrook's residential and day programs in 22 communities across the suburbs, as well as its therapies for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"What makes Clearbrook unique is that we serve people from birth to the elderly," said Tony Di Vittorio, president and CEO of Clearbrook.

A video demonstrated that continuum of care, showing toddlers receiving early intervention services, as well as a 12-year old with autism receiving behavioral therapy in his home, to an adult getting work support and an older woman living in a group home after her own parents had passed away.

"We serve the gamut of life through a gamut of services," Di Vittorio added.

In all, Clearbrook serves more than 8,000 individuals, offering personalized children's services and adult day centers, employment training and a range of clinical therapies at more than 50 locations.

The crowd gave Dr. Alan J. Acierno, a Schaumburg-based dentist, a standing ovation when he was presented with the agency's highest honor, its Shining Star Award.

Acierno is CEO of DecisionOne Dental Partners, which has 27 locations in the suburbs. Every other month on a Friday, he closes his office in order to provide free dental services to Clearbrook clients.

"Honestly, we get back so much more than we provide," Acierno said. "Every time a Clearbrook patients comes in, we get a hug, and it's so genuine."

A table of American Airlines employees talked about the mock flight they are hosting on May 4 for children with autism served by Clearbrook to help ease their fears. It will be American's eighth flight, and it has grown from 17 children the first year to more than 150.

"It's a labor of love," said Debbie Havens, director of administration for American. "We were not connected to the autism community, but there is such a need for this and it's so rewarding."

Another table was filled with members of Clearbrook's young associate board, who have begun to host their own fundraisers for the agency.

"To be able to make an impact on people with disabilities, who don't have a voice is something we're passionate about," said Caira Barbanente of Inverness.

Clearbrook's associate board members and their guests enjoy the cocktail hour. From left: Brooke Wils, Roberto and Caira Barbanente, and Jason and Marisa Biegelson. Courtesy of Robert Carl for Clearbrook
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