With COVID-19 restrictions preventing large in-person gatherings, charitable fundraisers in Streeterville and New Eastside are exploring alternatives to their traditional annual events.
The Chicago Lighthouse’s Seeing What’s Possible Gala, typically held at the Four Seasons Hotel, went virtual this year. The annual event raises nearly $400,000 for The Chicago Lighthouse, which provides education, employment opportunities, assistive technology and rehabilitation services for veterans and individuals who are blind or visually impaired, said Lindsay Inglis, director of special events.
This year's gala is scheduled from 7-8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, and is free to attend, though guests are encouraged to participate in fundraising.
"Just looking at what's happening, we knew we were going to have to go virtual," Inglis said. "So, we started researching and watching some other groups and seeing what we needed to do."
The online event includes performances and silent auction prizes. Sponsors who opt to host a virtual table will receive a catered meal and wine delivered to their home.
In addition to the gala, The Chicago Lighthouse plans to adopt a digital format for another major fundraiser, the FLAIR fashion show, featuring Chicago designers and boutiques, Inglis said. The show was held at the Drake Hotel last year.
The Chicago Lighthouse is working to create new websites for both events, which will provide a platform for attendees to participate in bidding, donating and registration.
Red Sky Night, an annual gala supporting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, is also transitioning to a virtual format. The event, which is part of the Leukemia Cup Regatta, is normally hosted by the Columbia Yacht Club.
The 2020 fundraiser is planned for 6-7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, set to take place over Zoom.
"We're having a full program, just like what was to be expected from an in-person event," said Dana Gudel, a senior manager at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "We're having a silent auction, mission moments and speakers. It'll be a great evening."
The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition has partnered with Wendella Boats for years to put on the Teal Lights Celebration Cruise, an annual fall fundraiser that includes a river architectural tour, auction and buffet. This year's event, which would have marked the cruise's 12th year, was canceled, said Karen Young, Illinois chapter manager for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.
"We're not actually doing it online, per se," she said. "But we're actually taking some components, some of the fundraising components we usually do on the boat, and we're doing them separately this year, to see if we can still raise some funds for the organization."
Each September, Wendella employees raise awareness of ovarian cancer by wearing teal shirts, passing out bracelets to patrons and selling a special teal-themed cocktail, with half of the proceeds going toward the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Young said.
"They'll still be doing those things for us, even though we can't physically get together as a group on the Teal Lights cruise," she said.