Celebrities highlight Marklund's virtual 'Top Hat' gala

  • Actors Jenny McCarthy and husband Donnie Wahlberg will toast Marklund during its upcoming livestream "Top Hat Ball" event on Saturday, Feb. 6.

    Actors Jenny McCarthy and husband Donnie Wahlberg will toast Marklund during its upcoming livestream "Top Hat Ball" event on Saturday, Feb. 6. Courtesy of Marklund

Updated 1/22/2021 9:10 AM

On Saturday, Feb. 6, Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg will be among celebrities to toast Marklund during a livestream gala experience, "Top Hat Ball Upside Down: Our Ball, Your Ballroom."

During the event from 7 to 8 p.m., viewers will tune in to special appearances by the Wahlbergs, comedian Pat McGann, and actor Patrick John Flueger (Adam Ruzek on "Chicago P.D."), as well as given opportunities to bid on auction items and donate.


Since 1954, Marklund has been making everyday life possible for children and adults with profound developmental disabilities. It has three residential, therapeutic and education campuses in Bloomingdale, Elgin, and Geneva.

Typically, Marklund's "Top Hat Ball," the nonprofit's signature fundraising event, attracts 500-600 guests and is held in a downtown Chicago hotel ballroom. However, because an in-person gala event of this magnitude wasn't possible this year, it is still possible for people to make a difference from a distance.

"It's still our 'Top Hat Ball,' but in your ballroom," said Jeannine Zupo, Signature Events Director for Marklund.

"Many people wanted to know how they could do something for us this year since we could not get together for a traditional gala," Zupo said. "Our committee, led by event chairs Catie and Max Schmidt and vice chairs, Kelly and Tom Roule, designed this exciting, one-hour livestream experience with celebrity participation, live and silent auction opportunities and more.

"We also have a solid lineup of sponsors who have stayed tried and true to the cause in this unconventional gala year, which is critical to reaching our financial goals," she added.

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The chosen celebrities seemed to be a natural fit since each has ties to Chicago and suburban areas.

Guests who register will enjoy complimentary access to the hourlong show from the comfort of their home or private venue space.

Watching Marklund's livestream gala experience is free, but registration is required to receive the link to the show. Visit www.marklund.org/tophatball to register. Each guest must be registered to participate in the event activities on their smartphones.

In addition to bidding on auction items, participants can extend their fundraising by creating personal fundraising pages to gain support from their social network and those who are not able to attend the event. The team with the highest fundraising total will win a choice of a Pizza Party and Wine Tasting for 20 guests at Aspen Lane Wine Company in spring/summer 2021 or $1,000 Apple gift card.

During this event, Marklund also will honor this year's "Friends of the Year: Peg and John Haskins."

The Lombard couple have been longtime supporters of Marklund, both personally and through their travel business, Viking Travel Service in Westmont.


"The Haskins were first introduced to Marklund in 1997 when they began supporting the very first 'Top Hat Ball' with a cruise donation," Zupo said. "Over the years, they have become champions to the cause by not only their continued in-kind and financial contributions, but by introducing countless travel partners to Marklund, who have donated to our auctions.

"The Haskins' combined personal and corporate giving spans almost 24 years, making Viking Travel one of our strongest Corporate Partners."

For information about the "Top Hat Ball" livestream event, visit www.marklund.org/tophatball.


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