Chicago House raises record amount during annual brunch

Tue. May 7, 2013 9:49 AM by Terrence Chappell

state rep. kelly cassidy received the 2013 spirit award

photo credit // anthony meade

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy receives 2013 Spirit Award

Chicago, IL - Chicago House raised $129,000, and counting, at its sold-out, record breaking 26th Annual Spring Brunch and Fashion Show.

Harold Washington Library's Winter Garden Ballroom whisked guests away to a colorful Alice in Wonderland theme with a modern, theatrical twist that included song and dance numbers, a live DJ set, Absolut Vodka specialty cocktails and of course the event's signature fashion show featuring the season's latest looks and trends in fashion.

Kinley Preston, national transgender representative for and the GoPride Network, hosted the brunch and kicked off the event with words of encouragement and how honored she was to be asked by Chicago House CEO, Stan Sloan, to host.

"I'm so honored and excited to be here with all of you today. When Stan asked me to host, I jumped at the chance," said Preston.

In his welcome, Sloan shared with guests important milestones for Chicago House and the LGBT community as a whole. From the organization's inception in 1985 at a table in the Baton, a drag performance bar downtown, to in 2001 when Chicago House was the first agency in Chicago to employ HIV prevention strategies for clients who are already infected with HIV, Sloan noted that Chicago House was there at the beginning. By July of 2013, Chicago House will have a fully functional TransLife Center that will cater to transgender people and even offer trans housing with over 30 units of housing for homeless transgender people, according to Sloan.

"We will remain here, to fight for the rights and to provide the services needed by those who are marginalized and stigmatized in our communities no matter who they are; just as our founders did in 1985. And so your presence here today and your support here today is as important as ever, and I could not be more grateful to you for staying with us in the fight," she said.

Chicago House also honored State Representative Kelly Cassidy with the 2013 Spirit Award for her dedication and hard work in support of the LGBT community. In her acceptance speech, Cassidy reminded attendees that the fight for LGBT equality is not over and urged them to consistently contact their state legislators.

"As a longtime fan of Chicago House, Stan, and all the folks there make such a huge difference, I was really touched to be chosen for the award," said Cassidy.

View photos from the event

Event chairs Shira Kollins and Colin Falco echoed Sloan's speech and Chicago House's mission. Kollins light heartedly joked that she is "in a room full of 400 men, most of whom look better in a dress than I ever will." Kollins also owns a digital imaging and graphic design company, Speedpro Imaging, which handled all of the event's graphics and stage's vinyl design. Although there are so many important and serious issues around HIV and Chicago House's mission, Kollins said she wanted to have fun with the event and add flare.

"There are so many passionate people who Chicago House has touched and helped. This event will get bigger and better every year," commented Kollins.

In addition to fellow charity heads, dignitaries, and supporters, this year the brunch hosted a prince. Prince Manvendra Kumar Singh Gohil of India attended the brunch and fashion show. Gohil is the first openly gay prince of India and is also noted as one of Oprah's favorite princes. His appearance at the event was a part of a five-day tour in Chicago to help raise awareness and funds for his own organization Ekta Transglobal Foundation Inc., which supports those impacted by HIV/AIDS and works to eliminate LGBT discrimination.

According to Chicago House director of individual giving and special events, Jeremy Hilborn, more funds are expected to come in even after the event due to their partnership with Orbitz. During the brunch, iPhone and Android users were encouraged to download the Orbitz app. For each download, Orbitz donated $10 to Chicago House, which could potentially bring in thousands of more dollars.

This year, Chicago House worked with Keith Elliot (Dance for Life & Chicago Takes Off), Dennis Remer (Frost), and Quenten Schumacher (Creative Producers Group) to develop the stage show. Hilborn also added that this year and every year, they work to develop a stage show that inspires their donors as much as the work of Chicago House.

"It's important to us to deliver a memorable event for our donors, and something with a wow-factor. In fact, each year we try to include some theatrical elements in the show to help us tell a story on stage while engaging our donors in something more lively than your everyday runway show," said Hilborn.

Still on the afterglow from this year's successful and record breaking spring brunch and fashion show, Hilborn promised that year after year, Chicago House will strive to deliver an incredible event that touches donors and supporters. The event is an integral part of keeping Chicago House's services alive, according to Hilborn.

View photos from the event