Standing before a mirror provides a rare experience—the ability to look both forward and backward at the same time. This unique feature inspired the 2019 theme of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s Summer Ball—The Mirror Ball. Event chairs Nancy Santi and Barb Speer of Winnetka are delighted to offer their guests a chance to better understand how Club activities, many of which are STEM-related, help Club members “look into” a bright future. As this year’s event celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s Woman’s Board, Mirror Ball guests will also “reflect on” an extraordinary record of service rendered by seven of its members.
Proceeds from the Mirror Ball will fund programming across 21 Chicago-area clubs. This programming fulfills the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s mission of nurturing underserved youth while teaching them the tools for a productive future. “When thinking of Boys & Girls Clubs, some people think of it simply as a place where kids play basketball after school,” observes Santi. “Yes, our members play basketball but they also attend leadership workshops, learn about financial and time management, and are exposed to career possibilities in fields ranging from fashion to coding. A favorite experience of mine was when I was given a tour of a new state-of-the-art science lab by some Club members. As they pointed out the new microscopes and laptops, I could literally feel their excitement and pride.”
Science labs at the True Value and Pedersen-McCormick Boys & Girls Clubs are the site of a nationally recognized program dubbed “Science Club” and “Junior Science Club.” This program, the only one of its kind in the country, pairs Northwestern University graduate students with Club members. Twice weekly, the graduate student acts as a scientist-mentor guiding the scientist-mentees in fun and engaging scientific investigations.
Inspired by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s emphasis on life-skills programming and strong mentor relationships, Santi joined the Woman’s Board in 2013. “I had taught elementary school in inner-city schools in Houston. From my experiences there, I knew underserved kids needed a consistency beyond what their schools could offer,” Santi reflects. “When I learned about the large variety of enriching experiences Club members encounter, experiences that create enthusiasm and plant seeds for a successful future, I knew I had to get involved. The programming is enhanced by the amazing Boys & Girls Club mentors, who show these kids just how valuable they really are.”
Founded just after World War II, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s Woman’s Board is a philanthropic powerhouse whose membership has raised more than $80 million over the last 70 years. The Mirror Ball will salute the decades-long service of seven of its members. Renee Crown, a board member for 48 years, is the board’s longest-serving member while the remaining six–Linda Gantz, Ellen O’Connor, Barbara Pearlman, Bonnie Stearns, Liz Stiffel, and Jocelyn Stoller have each served on the board for over 30 years.
“This record of service is unmatched among the city’s nonprofits,” observes Mimi LeClair, President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago. “Their years of service really speak to their passionate belief that children are our country’s greatest resource, and they will do anything possible to help our Club members fulfill their potential. Once these women get an idea, they are unabashed in making it happen.” Speer lauds “The Magnificent Seven” for their mentorship abilities. “We call these women ‘The Magnificent Seven’ because they have given our board such a unique character,” Speer explains. “They serve as role models to all of us because their involvement and dedication to the Board has been truly tireless.”
An event as successful as the Summer Ball relies heavily upon the Woman’s Board members’ time and treasure. While the live auctions of past Summer Balls have traditionally offered “one-of-a-kind” experiences, a 2019 live auction item promises to be a “first-of-a-kind” experience. The lucky winners will be the first to experience the premier seed-to-table culinary experiences of The Farm, a new venture at the world-renowned Brush Creek Ranch. This luxury western destination, located on a 30,000-acre working cattle ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming, is owned by Board member Beth White and her husband, Bruce. Featuring dishes and libations created with ingredients sourced from the ranch’s own creamery, distillery, cheese maker, and bakery, The Farm raises Brush Creek Ranch’s all-inclusive luxury dude ranch experience to an entirely new level.
The iconic Summer Ball has ushered in Chicago’s gala season since 1952. As the city’s oldest black-tie gala, it serves as a model for other nonprofit events. “The Summer Ball is our largest annual fundraiser and is quite a feat of planning and execution,” says Charlene Huang Olson, President of the Woman’s Board and 2016 Summer Ball Co-Chair. “Nancy and Barb are a dynamic duo! They are fun, enthusiastic leaders and are wonderful in engaging our Woman’s Board members in this significant effort. They have planned an event that will delight our guests with its whimsical details while also emphasizing the importance of our mission.”
Santi and Speer’s excellent working relationship is founded upon years of friendship. “I have known Nancy’s husband, Scott, since he was in college,” Speer reminisces. “He was an intern in my late husband, David’s, division at ITW. After he graduated, Scott came to work at ITW. When he met Nancy, she became part of our lives.” The two women are also strong supporters of two Chicago charter schools. Santi has been long involved in LEARN Charter School Network’s Excel school, which is located at the Herro Family Campus and serves kindergarten through sixth grade. Speer is very active in the ITW David Speer Academy, a STEM high school. “Our involvement on the Woman’s Board aligns so well with our support of these schools because the Boys & Girls Clubs provide an after-school and summertime extension of the safe and nurturing environment the students experience during the day,” explains Santi.
The 2019 Woman’s Board Summer Ball will be held on June 7th at the Hilton Chicago. To learn more, please visit bgcc.org/summerball.