As most of the city was still digging out from last week's mammoth blizzard, dozens of Chicagoans packed into the Hard Rock Hotel last Friday night to support chronically ill children -- and have a little fun with a big Chicago personality.
The Fender Ballroom played host to the Starlight Children's Foundation's "Great-est Escape" fundraiser, featuring appetizers, drinks, games and a talk by outspoken White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
"I'm all in when you talk about kids," Guillen said, imploring "Team Chicago" to give back to children who really need it.
Joan Carbon, Executive Director of Starlight, explained that the event was more than just another night out. "It's not just a fundraiser, it's about learning what the foundation does for children," said Carbon.
For more than 25 years, the Starlight Children's Foundation has been improving the quality of life for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and life-altering injuries. The group provides entertainment, education and family activities that help them cope with their illness.
On Friday, the kids played carnival games, dug for diamonds at a small beach set-up and played Nintendo Wii, all activities the Foundation regularly does as "escapes" from the pain and isolation of chronic and life-threatening illnesses among children.
The Foundation also hosts a "Great-est Escape" Program, which takes children on excursions around the city to get away from hospitals and treatments and have some fun. Stacey Tonkinson, a volunteer at the event, has two daughters with chronic illness who took part in the program. "It feels good to give back," she said. "After all, Starlight has done so much for my family."
See photos from Friday night's fundraiser (credit Kevin Gebhardt):