Functioning as a chapter of the nationwide organization, Starlight Children’s Foundation Midwest is committed to brightening the lives of critically and chronically ill children throughout Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Starlight provides relief, joy, and belonging through education, therapeutic entertainment, and family activities, both in and out of the hospital. Last year alone, more than 300,000 children and their families in the Midwest benefited from Starlight programs. This noteworthy group will be hosting its 25th Anniversary Gala this summer on June 4 at The Standard Club in Chicago.
Starlight is thrilled to have Academy Award-nominated actress Minnie Driver, star of such films as Return to Me and Good Will Hunting, make a guest appearance at this year’s Gala. Sheridan Road had the pleasure to talk with the star on her cell, as she took a break from driving a carload of kids around Los Angeles on a Saturday afternoon. We discussed her passion behind Starlight and why she’s excited to come back to Chicago.
Sheridan Road: Starlight Children’s Foundation is a remarkable organization. It’s hard to put into words all that they do for critically and chronically ill children and their families both in and out of the hospital. What inspired you to become involved and how long has it been a part of your life?
Minnie Driver: I have been a longtime friend and supporter of Starlight, so I was happy to jump on board to help with the 25th Anniversary Gala. I love what the Foundation is doing, how it provides support to the families of sick children is truly wonderful. To see these children laugh and just have the ability to be children and not be defined by their sickness is what Starlight offers: those precious moments when they get to be kids again. I am so thrilled that the organization exists, and I think what they do is commendable. Hopefully, we will be able to raise lots of money to grow all of these programs.
SR: If someone bought a ticket or table to the 25th Anniversary Gala, what would they expect?
MD: The evening begins at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, hors d’oeuvres, and a silent auction. Guests can bid on a wondrous assortment of items like high-end jewelry, vacation getaways, unique adventures, dining and entertainment packages, and special one-of-a-kind opportunities. Then guests will move into the Ballroom, greeted by the sounds of a popular Chicago band and be welcomed by me. An elegant dinner will then be served, followed by a live auction featuring a mesmerizing array of fashionable finds, unique sports memorabilia, and exciting adventures. Following dinner, the band will take the stage again and keep the energy up as guests hit the dance floor.
We will also be recognizing an individual and a corporation for their commitment to making a difference in the lives of seriously ill children and be presenting the first ever Starlight Achievement Awards.
Those in attendance are going to be some of the most interesting people living and working in Chicago. It’s good for all of us to get together and talk about how we can all be more socially conscious in our philanthropic endeavors. Also, we’ll have a good time. Having a good time and raising money are just two of my favorite things. And they can always come over and talk to me if they are bored [laughs].
SR: Starlight has some remarkable programs in place—from the Fun Centers that include DVD players, Nintendo Wii systems, and games for kids to keep by their hospital bedside, to the family outings of the Great Escapes program. What do you think those programs mean to sick kids?
MD: To be able to give a child whose world is endless doctor visits, painful procedures, and scary hospital stays a way out, even if just for a few moments, is extraordinary. There have been so many studies done on cell counts increasing because of the amazing effect of laughter. When you are not focusing on the pain, your condition can improve.
SR: Starlight also extends its reach to the families of the children in need. It’s unimaginable what they must go through. How does Starlight help them?
MD: Starlight’s Great Escapes program is inclusive of the entire family and allows the entire family unit to relax, have fun, and reconnect with others outside the hospital environment. Parents can step out for a moment and breathe knowing that their child is laughing and happy. Also, the Great Escapes that they participate in as a family, like going to the movies or bowling, allow them to be parents. They see their children happy and that’s so incredibly rare and important for them.
SR: How has being involved with Starlight been a positive influence on your own family?
MD: When you have a child, you start thinking, “God forbid, what if my child gets sick?” It’s nice to know there are people out there thinking about how to help you. We’re all parents, whether we’re celebrities or not, whether we’re rich or poor, whether we’re American or British. When you have a child, you instantly become a part of a community. And the bond that I feel with anyone who has a child that is suffering is immense. I feel we need to support each other more. When I can actually do something, it makes me feel good about shaping the kind of world I want to create for my son.
SR: We know this June won’t be your first trip to Chicago. You spent quite a bit of time here when you filmed the movie Return to Me. Was there anything you missed after you left Chicago?
MD: The [Lincoln Park] Zoo and the great apes! I would go there and hang out on my days off. We worked with them quite a lot in the movie, and I got to know the keepers and the animals. I am so hoping I can go back. You know, chimpanzees live as long as we do. I want to go say hi to them. Hopefully, they will remember me.
SR: You have so many fans here in Chicago and we see that you are working on a few projects. Anything in particular you’d like to discuss?
MD: I’m about to make my third record, and I’m about to film another movie with David Duchovny in about a week. We are going to make a film in Tucson together, and I’m sure we’ll be talking a lot about Chicago.
Starlight Children’s Foundation Midwest’s 25th Anniversary Gala is on Saturday, June 4, at 6:30 p.m. at The Standard Club in Chicago. For more information, contact Meredith Stadel, Development Manager, at 312-251-7827, ext. 14, or [email protected]