When Hinsdale residents Courtney Casey, Liz Yarger, and Juhl Patterson began brainstorming a theme for Hinsdale Junior Woman’s Club’s (HJWC) April 24 fundraiser, they imagined a chic, Hollywood-style, cocktail party in the city for 350 with a Grammys theme. Must-haves included musically infused energy, atmosphere, and a vibe that was both fabulous and fun.
Planning ensued, and a disco nightclub venue at Dance Studio (formerly Studio Paris) was secured. Then January 2021 rolled around, and the reality of the lingering pandemic became obvious.
So did the need to keep the event local.
“When it became clear that a large gathering wasn’t going to be in the cards, we decided to shift our focus to our committee’s favorite element of an awards show—the red carpet! What better alternative than to give our guests their very own red-carpet experience?” says Casey, who is co-chairing HJWC’s “Platinum Unplugged: The Remix” event with Patterson and Yarger.
With many small businesses struggling to keep their doors open during the pandemic, Casey says HJWC also felt a responsibility to bring the event back “home” to support as many local restaurants and boutiques as possible.
“We immediately thought of Burdi Clothing for the main event. Burdi opened the doors to its Hinsdale location in September 2020 and it did the most exquisite job building out a stunning space worthy of its hand-crafted luxury garments,” Casey says. “With soaring rafters and luxe, modern finishes, we just knew this would be the perfect location.”
The genius of this month’s fundraiser, however, is how it manages to feature some in-person interaction with an opportunity for participants to continue celebrating safely in small groups at home or at nearby businesses in downtown Hinsdale.
Lynne Boche, who serves as chair of PR and marketing, explains that in lieu of the typical four-hour cocktail and open bar event, participants will pre-register for gift cards to their favorite local stores and restaurants which they will receive at the red carpet “pre-party” event—held in multiple one-hour time slots for 50 people at a time. Guests will then be encouraged to take their red carpet looks out on the town—celebrating in smaller groups of their own choosing at local bars, restaurants, or even from the comfort of their own home, all in accordance with state guidelines.
“It was very important to us to have an in-person event and we had success this past fall with our ‘Reveal’ event that had a similar format of 50-person time slots,” says Casey, adding: “Our committee kept going back to the mission of our club to support those in need locally. Just as there are charitable organizations that rely on HJWC grants, our local businesses need us as well.”
In lieu of the elaborate catering HJWC events are known for, the nonprofit will be purchasing gift cards for each guest as a way of putting additional dollars they would otherwise be spending on food back into the community. “Guests can expect a red-carpet experience coupled with music and libations before hitting the town for the after-party plans of their own choosing,” says Casey.
Boche, who is working with underwriting chairs Ann Lockhart and Jaclyn McNamara, as well as auction chair Julie Bouchard, on the annual gala, says this year’s fundraiser is more important than ever. She and the team have been working to secure ticket sales and underwriting sponsors as well as silent auction and raffle items (including a luxury stock-the-bar package with exclusive wines and spirits), with all funds raised going directly to grants for local charities.
While the club’s annual gala is always a spectacular evening, she says the impact of that one night is felt for years by local nonprofits. Over the last five years, HJWC has raised more than $1 million for deserving women and children’s organizations.
“HJWC has received over $1.2 million in grant requests this year alone, so we feel a responsibility to raise as much money as possible to be able to help the many organizations that need our support,” says Casey, explaining that the part of the reason to working so hard to keep the event in-person was feedback from fellow nonprofits that patrons were getting “Zoom fatigue.” “At the beginning of the pandemic, virtual events were a safe solution to continuing on HJWC’s philanthropic and social activities, but our membership now feels more comfortable joining together in small groups in a safe, controlled environment which is exactly what we are going to give them—all while still offering an alternative for those who would prefer to stay home.”
Casey and Boche say the week leading up to the event will include week-long silent auction, spreading out a key part of the fundraiser for maximum impact.
And now that most of the hard work is done and the event is just weeks away, Casey says the fun part of choosing a wardrobe for the red carpet has already commenced.
“What we love about music and fashion is that both provide an incredible outlet for self-expression. After being home for the better part of a year, we expect that guests will come dressed to impress with glitz, glam, pops of color, and whatever else makes them feel fabulous!” she says. “Whether it’s a short cocktail dress, a long formal gown, or a bespoke Burdi ensemble, we just want our attendees to feel great while doing good for the local community and raising funds for HJWC’s grant program.”
More than anything, Casey adds, the club looks forward to celebrating its successes, despite one of the most challenging years in history. Prepare to raise a toast to HJWC, our beloved community, and to the progress that’s been made in recent months on the road back to “normal.”
“We are so proud of how nimble and creative our leadership has been through it all and we know that our benefit event will be a celebration of the impact that was made in our community,” says Casey.
“Platinum Unplugged: The Remix” will be held on April 24. For more information, visit hjwc.us. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, email [email protected] Tickets are $225 and are available at hjwcunplugged.givesmart.com.