The 4th annual Winnetka East Elm Wine Walk on Sunday, September 22 is a win-win for everyone involved. Attendees get the opportunity to stroll from shop to shop in downtown Winnetka, taste wines, sample food from local restaurants, and listen to musicians from the North Shore’s Music Institute of Chicago perform. Meanwhile, all the proceeds benefit a very worthy cause. One hundred percent of ticket sales, and a percentage of wine sales, benefit Boys Hope Girls Hope of Chicago (BHGH).
For nearly 40 years, this Illinois affiliate of the international organization (based in Wilmette) has offered scholarships to Chicago-area children who are academically capable—many who come from families impacted by poverty, homelessness, gang or domestic violence, drug use and other life challenges. BHGH is a privately funded, nonprofit, multi-denominational organization that provides at-risk children with a stable home, high quality education and the support they need to reach their full potential.
“This is the third year we will direct proceeds to Boys Hope Girls Hope,” says co-chair and founder of the Wine Walk, Debbie McMahon. “We team up with Tom Boyle of the Wilmette Wine Cellar each fall to produce the event. In addition to soliciting the wine merchants, he curates a wine for each stop that pairs with food offered and provides a knowledgeable representative to speak about the wine being sampled.”
The walk typically features around 16 stops, creating a moveable feast of shopping, wine tasting, food pairings and socializing. McMahon says there will be even more musical acts this year, plus a fun lounging area to savor the evening. “This event is only possible with the support we receive from Tom, the Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce, the Village of Winnetka, Compass Real Estate and Northview Bank and Trust,” she adds. “It really showcases all the area has to offer by including all different types of businesses. If they are not a stop, they may have something in the swag bag or have provided food.”
Even more inspiring, the partnership with BHGH has had some incredible outcomes.
Three of its homes are in Evanston—two for boys, and one for girls—housing 24 children ranging from junior high through high school age. The high school boys attend Loyola Academy; high school girls attend Regina Dominican. Junior high students go to St. Athanasius in Evanston. Living in group homes, with full-time adult staff supervision, provides a stable and nurturing environment for BHGH scholars who want to go on to college after high school graduation. The organization boasts an impressive success rate: 100 percent of its scholars who graduate high school go on to college.
Within the community of Evanston, residents of the group homes enjoy time at the beach and the YMCA (with passes provided by McGaw) and participate in community events such as the annual Race Against Hate run and walk. In their group homes, the residents enjoy family-style meals and learn responsibility by helping with household chores.
“On behalf of our hard-working, talented scholars, I would like to thank co-chairs Rachael Mann and Debbie McMahon for once again, choosing Boys Hope Girls Hope as the benefactor of this event, as well as the Winnetka shop owners who generously give of their time and treasure to make this wonderful event happen,” says Karen Croteau, executive director at Boys Hope Girls Hope of Illinois’s Wilmette location. “We are amazed at the generosity and giving spirit of this community.”
In addition to the costs that running three households for teens entails, Croteau says there are two other initiatives that the Winnetka East Elm Wine Walk will support.
“We have just completed a full audit of our homes, and have a list of rehab projects we’d like to complete this year—from a new roof for our girls’ home to painting the interior of all three houses and fixing a leaking basement in one boys’ home,” she explains. “Also, we would like to offer more tuition support to our collegians so they can focus on their school work versus their tuition bill. This event will go a long way in supporting this work. Drink wine, shop, and support some very hard-working scholars … what’s not to love?”
This year’s East Elm Wine walk will take place on Sunday, September 22 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $50. For more information, visit chamber.winnetkanorthfieldchamber.com/events. For more information about Boys Hope Girls Hope, visit boyshopegirlshope.org/Illinois.