When Eileen Bennin founded Glenkirk’s Annual Brunch Benefit Bash in 1997, finding quality services for children with disabilities was a difficult task—one she knew first hand. She and her husband, Dr. Bruce Bennin, were raising their two sons, Steven and Howard (both diagnosed with autism), in Highland Park.
Discovering Glenkirk, a Northbrook-based nonprofit supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, was a game changer. Founded in 1954, Glenkirk’s mission is to provide quality lifetime supports that empower individuals with developmental disabilities to participate fully in all areas of community life.
“Other agencies said that our sons would fail, they would be too much of a challenge,” Eileen says, “but Glenkirk created a program that met their needs.” Best of all, she says,
“Steven and Howard are able to live, work, and recreate in the community in which they were raised, only five minutes from us.”
Eileen created the inaugural event for Glenkirk more than two decades ago with a mission to bridge the gap between inadequate state funding and the cost of providing these services. It has since grown to become one of the most popular fundraisers on the North Shore, raising over $3.6 million in benefit of Glenkirk’s programs.
She was honored for her 25 years of service at last September’s 25th Annual Benefit Bash, where she was presented with Glenkirk’s Community Impact Award. Held at Ravinia Green Country Club in Riverwoods, 200 guests enjoyed cocktails, dinner, live music, and a raffle. Also awarded at the event was John Lipscomb, Former Glenkirk CEO, in honor of his retirement and in acknowledgement of his contributions to the organization.
The first year Eileen ran the fundraiser, she raised $25,000. Over the years the benefit has grown in size and scope to raise approximately $200,000 per year, featuring such guest speakers as Hillary Clinton, Scott Turow, and Tipper Gore.
In that time, the event’s proceeds have helped Glenkirk launch new recreation and enrichment programs in the community, increase disability employment at local businesses, purchase accessible vehicles, and renovate Glenkirk group homes to ensure those with disabilities can live full lives in the community.
When Eileen was honored by former President George H. W. Bush’s Points of Light organization in 2007, she was praised nationally for her commitment to Glenkirk and its programs.
“Each year Bennin makes it her personal challenge to exceed last year’s goal by bringing more people and companies into the event. She has never failed and makes things happen with a sense of determination and savvy. Challenge is a word that runs away when Bennin is involved,” according to a testimonial on the pointsoflight.org website. “While Bennin is the mother of two sons with developmental disabilities, she is a tireless supporter of all her children in the Glenkirk family. When it comes to the developmentally disabled, Bennin doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘no’.”
To learn more about Glenkirk and its services, visit glenkirk.org.