Like many other charitable organizations on the North Shore, The Junior Board of the Auxiliary of The Woman’s Board of Rush University Medical Center was forced to cancel its spring fundraising event due to COVID-19. But that didn’t stop the board from raising almost $60,000 for the Center’s COVID-19 Fund, including matching funds from the hospital.
The Rush Junior Board organizes a group of 100 volunteers—all young women from public and private high schools on the North Shore—who put on three fundraising events each year, and who also volunteer at the medical center facility. It’s the only junior board in Illinois that places volunteers in hospitals.
Because of coronavirus, this year’s spring fundraiser—usually a fashion show held at the Kenilworth Club—was held as a virtual event. Part of the success stemmed from being able to expand the audience for the fundraiser by taking the event online.
“Usually you have to buy a ticket to go to the show and we have a raffle for a few items like a gift box,” says Grace Magner, President of the board and recent graduate of New Trier High School. “So we decided to do a virtual raffle. We weren’t sure how it would go, because obviously everything is uncertain at this time, but it actually went extremely well.”
Magner adds that the board is particularly proud to make its contribution to the hospital’s efforts to treat patients with COVID-19 and other medical services related to the virus.
“At the end of our year, the Executive Board has money allocated for organizations that we are close to. But this year, we had the opportunity to re-allocate the money we raised from the fashion show to the COVID-19 Fund because Rush was really involved in responding to COVID in Chicago,” Magner says. “That was really special.”
Michelle Boardman, Director of Development in the Office of Philanthropy at Rush University Medical Center, says the Junior Board makes an important contribution to the work of the institution.
“The sense of purpose, energy, compassion and work ethic of the Rush Junior Board and its Auxiliary Board parent advisors exemplify excellence,” Boardman says. “The Junior Board’s dedication to Rush’s mission is helping to change lives, reduce health disparities, and increase access to health care. We are grateful to have their incredible support. They are truly the next generation of change agents.”
Magner has been on the Executive Board for three years, serving as President her senior year. The board and its volunteers are all sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Juniors and seniors volunteer at the Rush University Medical Center, while all of the students participate in organizing fundraisers. In addition to the fashion show, these include a car wash in the fall and a Holiday Tea held at Sunset Ridge Country Club. Along with monies raised from the virtual fashion show, the board raised a total of $140,000 for the 2019-2020 school year’s events.
Magner was inspired to join the board by an interest, at the time, in medicine, and also by an older sister who was on the board. Her mother and grandmother served on the Rush University Medical Center Board.
“I thought it would be really cool to meet other girls, especially from other schools, because I was still younger in high school and trying to meet new friends,” she says. “I had a passion for wanting to possibly go into the medical field, and I got to work hands-on with patients and spend time on the rehabilitation floor.”
Magner also notes the opportunity, through a Rush-sponsored education program, to be able to teach science to elementary school children from low-income families in Chicago.
“It’s called Mini Med School; kids from the inner city are able to participate who might not get the opportunity to learn science in their schools,” says Magner. “I was able to teach them about the cardiovascular system, and it was a really neat experience.”
As Magner looks back on the success of the board this year she reflects on how her own experience was both satisfying in the moment and also beneficial for her future.
“This year has been extremely special because I took a leadership role that I couldn’t imagine a few years ago. I never thought I would have the opportunity to lead this amazing board,” she says. “We have a group of parent advisers, who help us run the board and organize the big events. So, by communicating with them, and also my peers, about how to be a leader for over 100 girls, I learned a lot of life lessons.
” Like many seniors, Magner, a member of the New Trier girls volleyball team, is aware that her class will go down in history as the COVID-19 class, but there may be a silver lining in the exponential growth and maturity gained from summoning the fortitude to make it through difficult times.
“At times I would try to put the situation in the back of my head, but you couldn’t really do that for very long because this is the life that we were living and it was really devastating,” she says. “We had to put the coronavirus patients and the whole world ahead of ourselves because of the concern that people were dying.”
She adds, “That’s how I tried to look at it, with a positive aspect. But there were so many times when I was Facetiming my friends on Friday night when we started crying because we weren’t going to prom or having a graduation. There were ups and downs.”
One of the ups, both during the virus outbreak and throughout the year, was the work she was able to do as leader of the Rush Junior Board.
“I think it’s just amazing to see all of these girls come together for a common purpose and common goal,” she says. “When it was time for our Holiday Tea, you walked into the country club and it was just crazy to believe that we all did this together. That was a really special moment.”