It’s been several weeks since the 2nd Annual Ladybug Bash and I’m still receiving rave reviews about the event. I can’t help but beam with pride when folks tell me how much fun they had, how incredibly impressed they were with the venue and décor, how delicious all the sweet and savory samplings were and how they’ve already made our signature “Ladybug Drink” with 4 Rebels Vodka at home!
The evening by all accounts was a success. Truth be told, we were up against some tough competition – N to the A to the T to the O – NATO. And although the conference didn’t officially begin until three days after the Ladybug Bash, all the media hype set things in motion well before the first dignitary arrived in town. The most difficult hurdle for us was that folks had been warned to stay away from downtown Chicago; talk about a punch in the Ladybug stomach. So, we held our breath, crossed our fingers, and hoped for a good turn out… we were nervous.
But in true Chicago form, our loyal and dedicated supporters didn’t let us down! A sea of excited, beautifully dressed, kindhearted folks poured into Grossinger City Autoplex nearly an hour before the event formally began (thankfully, we were prepared because the same thing happened last year).
The night was class with a capital C! From the sultry jazz music of the Mike Jeffers Trio, to the hand-passed Ladybug cocktail, to the glamorous gowns donated by Rivini.
photo courtesy of Alyssa Miserendino
My friend and fellow ChicagoNow blogger, Jen Ronay's coverage of the event.
THE RED CARPET
Folks swarmed the red carpet in hopes of catching a glimpse of Chicago’s finest. It was electric. Oh, how I loved the excitement of it all! And I found myself equally astir when I spotted the lovely Candace Jordan appearing from around a corner. I’d followed her for quite some time and was delighted to finally meet her in person. Candace is an avid philanthropist. She attends and covers all the various events throughout Chicago.
We were blessed to have several Special Guests join us that night, including our incredible founder, host of Dina’s Party on HGTV and former Real Housewives on New Jersey star, Dina Manzo!
photo courtesy of Alyssa Miserendino
My friend, fellow “Ay, Mama!” blogger and WGN-TV’s “Around Town” reporter, Ana Belaval was absolutely stunning in her Rivini gown. Breathtaking, really! She did me a huge favor by kicking off the evening. She welcomed the crowd, explained her connection to me, Atia and Project Ladybug and then introduced all the great things that were in store that evening. Her execution was seamless; she makes it look so easy!
My friend, the incredibly talented Host and Co-Producer of WGN-TV’s “Chicago’s Best”, Ted Brunson, worked his magic when he stepped in last minute to emcee one of the evening’s games (special thanks to the game’s sponsor, Park Lane). Ted was brilliantly funny and really got the crowd going – most importantly, he personally helped us raise some moolah in a super fun way!
We were also so honored to have the incredible Alpana Singh from WTTW’s “Check Please!” in attendance. She is so kind and genuine. It was a treat having her there!
The beauty factor went up a notch when the incredible Miss Illinois, Nancy To, Ms. Illinois, Amber Podell and Mrs. Illinois, Jennifer Cruz arrived. They are gorgeous inside and out, and they definitely represent our great state with compassion and grace. I have to admit that I was a tad confused about the different between the Miss and Ms. Illinois titles, but I didn’t dare ask. However, I was tickled pink to learn that the charismatic and charming Kevin Grace from Chicago 3 Media got to the bottom of it.
When I saw Meg Caswell, host of “Meg’s Great Rooms” on HGTV arrive, I have to admit that I was star struck and really excited to meet her. I’m a fan and love her designs. We got a chance to chat for a few minutes and she’s just as sweet in person as she is on TV. I love her!
One of the event’s main attractions were the mint condition vintage cars on display – all of them owned by local Chicago collectors, all of them donated for the evening. While they beautifully emphasized our Stars and Car’s theme and impressed our guests, it was Grossinger City Autoplex's employees that seemed to get the most pleasure out of seeing and driving these cars into position. I was glad for that! Mr. Gary Grossinger, Ron Stone, Brian Weinberg and their staff went above and beyond to ensure our comfort in their space. I was happy to deliver them a little eye candy!
Speaking of eye candy, the fashion of the night, presented by Jon Cotay of AKIRA was a homerun. His clothes and models are always flawless. Jon partnered with us at last year’s event as well and adds a level of beauty and energy for which his company is known.
WALK OF FAME
My favorite part of the venue was a long hallway we transformed into the Chicago Walk of Fame. Playing off of our Hollywood theme, we dressed the walls with black and white filmstrips, featuring images of kids with cancer – our REEL STARS. On the floor we honored the incredible doctors, nurses, social workers and child life specialists at Comer Children’s Hospital with their names displayed on gold stars. It was a powerful testament to the bond between these children and their caregivers.
Notice Carter’s picture at the end of the hallway, prominently displayed.
Carter and his mom, Maria, spot his picture!
Chelle, a fellow Cancer Mom, and I hold hands and place our hands on Dr. Charles Rubin’s star. He is our children’s doctor and he’s one of the most important men in our lives. Both Coleson (Chelle’s son) and Atia battled leukemia, completed treatment and are in remission. Dr. Rubin saved their lives. He definitely deserves a star… and so much more!
The enthusiasm and excitement of the evening was masterfully sustained by one of our favorites, Dan Colantone from Tone Productions DJ Services. His innate sense of timing and gage of crowd temperature (meaning he knows when to bust out the body shaking dance music) is unparalleled.
photo courtesy of Alyssa Miserendino
Special thanks also to our live performers. We appreciate the time and talent you donated to our event.
15 year old, two time cancer survivor, Grace Melon
We had incredible liquor, beer and water sponsors this year. Special thanks go out to 4 Rebels Vodka, Avion Tequila, North Shore Gin, Finch's Beer, ONE Coconut Water, and The Cook's delicious coffee. Simply fabulous!. Everyone truly enjoyed the evening’s drinks, especially the featured Ladybug Cocktail! We were so very grateful for their partnership.
As promised, we presented our guests with the most incredible array of sweet and savory nibbles. Everywhere I turned people were raving about the delicious morsels and commenting on the sheer quantity of Chicago restaurants and distributors represented. No one left hungry, and we’re very proud of that! We are very thankful to those restaurants who joined us for the first time and especially grateful to those who are repeat supporters. We couldn’t make the impression we did without you.
Though I was part of every step of the planning, I was absolutely blown away by how swanky our VIP area turned out. No detail missed. A cozy, intimate, speak easy space was created within a bright, open, vast venue. It was sexy, and it was very well received. Many of my personal friends purchased VIP tickets and expressed how very, very impressed they were with the space and offerings within. A big thanks to Billy Deck and Rockit Ranch Productions for sponsoring the bars. We were thrilled to have their expert mixologists from Sunda, Rockit Ranch and Underground making and pouring the drinks. And thank you to the many VIP sponsors who added goodies to the swag bags. Our guests felt so pampered. What a treat!
This blog could go on and on (it actually already has, hasn’t it?), but I have so many to thank. My planning committee and day of volunteers were beyond incredible. There is no way to adequately express my gratitude for their kindness, commitment and hard work. Without them, none of this would be possible. So to these incredible men and women, I tip my hat. You are the foundation of this foundation. You know who you are and I love ya!
photo courtesy of Alyssa Miserendino
To our Friendship Sponsors, thank you so much for your generosity, and for believing in our mission. Your support is so very important to our ability to help lift the spirits of these deserving children and their families. Mr. Gary Grossinger, thank you so very much for not only donating the space, but for also presenting us with your charitable gift.
Thank you to those of you who couldn’t attend the event, but in lieu of, purchased tickets so that Cancer Families could attend. Oh the smiles! You gifted them with a "temporary escape from reality" night. They indulged in the food, entertainment and the overall experience. Thank you for giving them that!
Dr. Cunningham and Comer Children’s Hospital staff, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You are nothing short of amazing! Thank you for taking the time to join us at the Ladybug Bash. Dr. Cunningham, your speech left a lasting impression on our supporters.
Dina Manzo, thank you for your incredible beauty that glows from within. You have a heart of gold and your love for children with cancer and their families is simply inspirational. I continue to be in awe of your sensitivity, kindness and willingness to jump right in and help (even if it means getting sweaty and dirty). You're a girl after my own heart, and I adore you for it! Thank you for being you, Dina!
To my little Ladybug, Atia. Thank you for being a shining star and willing to do some pretty grown up things. I don't know many 4 year olds who utter the phrase, "No more red carpet, mommy! I'm over it" and then smile pretty for all the TV cameras and reporters that want to interview you. I couldn't love you more if I tried. You're amazing and I'm blessed to be your mommy.
Atia thanking the crowd
Our Ladybug Cars with spots and eye lashes - how fun!
And to Karen of Karen Wade Photography, Francis of Chicago Scene, Amaris of Amaris Granado Photography and Alyssa of Alyssa Miserendino Photography thank you so much for donating your time and talent capturing the essence of the evening. Your pictures are gorgeous!
If you missed it this year or can't wait to do it again, you're in luck. The 3rd Annual Ladybug Bash will be scheduled in April 2013. Can't wait to see you there. In the meantime, please check out Atia's Project Ladybug Fund on Facebook to keep up with all the great things we're doing. In September, we'll be hosting the 2nd Annual Celebration of Life, a kid-focused fundraiser. Last year's was simply amazing, check it out here.
If after all this you still want more, check out Trendy Magazine for their coverage of the event.
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Tags: 4 rebels, AKIRA, alpana singh, Amber Podell, Ana Belaval, Atia Lutarewych, Atia's Project Ladybug fund, avion, Billy Deck, Bistronomic, brian weinberg, candace jordan, chicago 3 media, chicago's best, coffee, Comer Children's Hospital, Custom Cakes, D's Sweet Berries, Dan Colantone, Dina Manzo, Dina's Party, Dr. Charles Rubin, Erica Iozza, finch's beer, Gary Grossinger, Grace Melon, Grossinger city Autoplex, HGTV, Hollywood, Hubbard Inn, jen ronay, Jennifer Cruz, Jon Cotay, kevin grace, ladybug bash, Ladybug Cocktail, Le Chocolat, meg caswell, meg's great rooms, Mike Jeffers Trio, Miss Illinois, Mrs Illinois, Ms Illinois, Nancy To, NATO, north shore gin, one coconut water, Packy Angelo, park lane, Project Ladybug, Real Housewives of New Jersey, red carpet, rivini, Rockit Ranch, Rockit Ranch Productions, Ron Stone, Sunda, ted brunson, the cook, The University of Chicago, Tone Productions DJ Services, Trendy Magazinedr. john cunningham, Underground, vintage cars. stars and cars, VIP, WGN-TV