Each fall, Wellness House has been known to host one of the community’s most highly anticipated events. For a number of years—16 to be exact—the annual black-tie ball has been successful at drawing in locals with growing guest counts reaching close to 600 smartly dressed, lively advocates packed into a single ballroom to fundraise for a good cause. The support for Wellness House is so strong and the event so fun that even last year’s lockdown couldn’t stop avid supporters. Like most things during the pandemic, the ball went virtual last year with “Wellness House Ball … at your house!” and was hosted in 20 homes with party sizes of two to 40 guests in each home. However, this year’s 17th Wellness House signature fall ball is appropriately titled, “Under One Sky,” and with good reason, of course.
As last year’s fall ball did, Wellness House’s programs went virtual providing uninterrupted cancer support to participants during quarantine. For 31 years, Wellness House has been providing unparalleled services to support those affected by cancer with specialized programs focusing on affected individuals before, during, and after cancer treatment. Participants are cared for and attended to by seasoned health care experts, providing assistance every step of the way. By going virtual, participants choose from over 485 programs a month in various areas of concentration including exercise, nutrition, stress management, support groups, and counseling.
“All of our programs are evidence-based and help people with cancer reduce side effects, learn coping and relaxation techniques, exercise safely for increased energy, and feel less isolated,” says Debra Kwiatt, marketing communications manager of Wellness House.
This virtual move increased access to those affected.
“Our mission envisions a community where all people affected by cancer thrive,” she says. “Now we offer online and in-person programs that remove geographic barriers, all under one sky.”
Planning for the ball began earlier this year when there were still a lot of unknowns due to CDC and government guidelines regarding the pandemic with guest capacity and public health recommendations limiting traditional options. With restrictions now lifted, Wellness House knew just how to make this year’s charity goers feel comfortable with both safety and responsibility in mind. Just like the online and in-person programs, the event name also refers to the three locations the ball will be held at throughout one evening taking place on Friday, October 15. “This year’s event is all about connecting the guests at three separate venues, coming together ‘Under One Sky’ to support Wellness House,” says Kwiatt. This year’s ball will take place at Butterfield Country Club in Oak Brook, Chicago Highlands Club in Westchester, and Hinsdale Golf Club in Clarendon Hills.
Each location will be led by Wellness House’s members, otherwise known as Luminaries.
“Luminaries will be leading the event at each of the three venues and the evening’s program, live auction, and paddle raise will be live at one venue and streamed via video to the other two venues,” says Lisa Kolavennu, executive director of Wellness House.
This year’s Luminaries include Angie and Wes Breton; Stephanie and Freddie Brzozowski; Lauren and Matthew Houder; Debbie and Jim Hultquist; Jenna and Ken Julian; Lori and Clay Naccarato; and Beth Sharp. These members have demonstrated a deep commitment to the mission and success of the non-profit organization.
“They were selected for their ability to inspire and influence others to join them in their support of Wellness House,” says Kolavennu.
For Angie Breton, cancer is personal.
“I’ve had so many loved ones affected directly, in turn affecting me indirectly since I was a child,” she says. “‘Under One Sky’ for Wellness House is just one way we bring awareness to our mission and showcasing the purpose of our organization, enabling individuals affected by cancer to live and thrive the best they possibly can.”
She now serves her second term as a member and gets the opportunity and honor of hearing from participants regularly about the extraordinary impact the organization has had not only on themselves, but their loved ones who are children, caregivers, spouses, and family. The programs at Wellness House complement the medical care participants receive through their healthcare teams and offer an avenue for education, growth, expression, and encouragement for them and their loved ones, she says.
At the event, participants of Wellness House are given the opportunity to speak directly with the guests to share the impact cancer has made on their lives and how Wellness House was there to support.
“These are what we refer to as our ‘Mission Moments’ and these stories are what really hit home when you hear someone’s firsthand experience,” says Breton.
Although this year’s event will be different from previous years with the separate locations, moving to a Friday evening rather than a Saturday, and planning a more intimate gathering of cocktail-attire-clad guests, opposed to formal, black tie party goers, other traditions remain.
“Many of the elements of our traditional ball will continue such as the wine auction, live auction, and paddle raise, as well as a program participant sharing her inspirational story both live and via video,” says Kwiatt. “This year, since there will be three locations, guests can provide the names of those with whom they would like to attend the ball with when tickets are purchased. From there, ticket holders will be assigned to a particular venue based on those guest requests.
All Wellness House programs are free and funded by philanthropic contributions.
“Our fall fundraising event represents nearly 20 percent of our annual budget, which provides education and support—empowering participants so they will improve their physical and emotional wellbeing. Although the fundraising is certainly important to keep this service going, the beauty of Wellness House’s annual fall ball is connecting the local community and partners throughout the region around the singular mission of supporting people with cancer,” says Kwiatt. “Every donation and ticket sold for ‘Under One Sky’ allows Wellness House to provide support, hope, and community for people affected by cancer.”
Wellness House is located at 131 N. County Line Road in Hinsdale, 630-323-5150, wellnesshouse.org/ball-2021.