Friends of Prentice (FOP), a nonprofit organization working in partnership with Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital to fund innovative and leading-edge research benefitting the lives of women, raised nearly $600,000 at its annual fundraising benefit on Saturday, October 24. Themed Still Together, At Home, this is the first year that the gala was held virtually. Close to 1,000 guests tuned in from the comfort of their own homes. Mike Borders, Friends of Prentice Board President, along with Executive Director Kristen Field, co-hosted the event.
“To say this was a big undertaking would be stating it mildly,” says Field, who joined FOP a year ago and now leads its board of 50. “But in this time of COVID-19, there is this desire of people to want to feel more connected. People don’t want to be standing on the sidelines if there is a way they can make a difference. We often surprise ourselves of what we’re capable of during challenging times.”
Since 1983, FOP has raised over $20 million and awarded grants to more than 100 researchers and clinical programs. FOP’s annual grants initiative has funded projects in the areas of COVID- 19 research, gynecologic oncology, mental health, heart disease, disparities in access to care, diabetes, HIV, uterine and pelvic medicine, genetic biomarker research, home health care outreach, and more. Funds raised during the gala go directly to research, education, and patient care programs at Prentice.
This year’s gala featured one-of-a-kind online auctions, music from DJ Megan Taylor and The Dr. Bombay band, as well as a cocktail hour led by two-time James Beard award-winner and mixologist Belinda Chang. Emmy-award winning television host Val Warner served as emcee for the event that encouraged guests to “come together” virtually to honor the health care community while raising critical funds for medical research. In addition, the frontline health heroes, clinicians, and physicians who have received grants from Friends of Prentice shared highlights of their research and the positive impact the funding has had on the research conducted within their respective areas of women’s health.
“If there was a silver lining from us having to make our gala a virtual event, it’s that it made it accessible to anyone who wanted to be a part of it and see what we were up to,” says Field, who explains the board made the decision to make the virtual ticket price free. “The FOP reach is great—so many people have a story and feel connected to our mission of providing crucial funds to clinicians and researchers who are shaping the future of women’s health care.”
When planning for the gala began, Field put a stake in the ground and said the board would strive to raise what they had in past years. “Fundraising isn’t fixed—it’s always evolving,” Field says. “We knew with this being the first virtual gala, it was going to be the best one we ever had. At this dark time, we wanted this event to be a light and really bring our community together.”
While Field is new to FOP, her roots in nonprofits and health care are deep. “My father and grandfather were both doctors and my mother was a nurse,” she says. “Although I didn’t go to medical school, I speak the language of ‘medicine’ and appreciate the importance for great health care and the need to celebrate our health care heroes. I’ve been reflecting on this a lot lately and the sacrifices our health care providers make day in and day out. We may never be able to truly thank them for all they do, but we can sure try.”
To make a donation to FOP or learn more about the organization, visit friendsofprentice.org.