Bear Tie Ball raises more than $760,000 to fight pediatric cancer (PHOTO GALLERY)

The event was so elegant, you expected to see Cinderella slipping out of her golden carriage for Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation's Bear Tie Ball held in historic Union Station on February 28.  More than 650 supporters turned out, many wearing bear motifs in honor of the Foundation's namesake, Barrett "Bear" Krupa, for this annual event dedicated to making a positive impact for children affected by cancer.

Themed "Latin Nights", the event was co-chaired by longtime supporters Nina Mariano and Paul Iacono and was founded by Kathleen Casey in 1992 after her son "Bear" lost his 5 1/2 year battle with pediatric cancer.

The evening included a reception where guests bid on an extensive silent auction that included patients' artwork, dancing to the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance's Cuatro band and Ken Arlen's Evolution Orchestra, a live auction and a performance by the Island Touch Dancers.   Retired Chicago Bears Anthony Adams (who also served as emcee) and Gary Fencik conducted the live auction that raised over $114,000.

Auction items included a trip to Abu Dhabi with airfare provided by Qatar Airways (sold for $19K), a trip to Dubai with airfare provided by Emirates (sold for $17K), three dinners from Chef Tony Priolo, owner of Piccolo Sogno, to three winning bidders for a combined total of $23K.  And Sophie, a darling black Labradoodle, brought in $5K.

Courtney Krupa, Vice President and Director of Marketing/PR for the Foundation, and her mother Kathleen, presented the 2015 William J. Casey Hope Awards.  The first award was presented to the Langham Chicago for their commitment to providing patients and their families the royal treatment during their stays at the hotel through the Bear Hugs Program.  Accepting the award was hotel GM Joe Aguilera.  O’Hare-Midway Limousine Service was the recipient of the second Hope Award.  Each year, hundreds of Bear Hugs recipients require transportation and OML underwrites all the transportation needs. The award was accepted by Chief Operating Officer Dale Schahczinski.

Honorary Bear Hug Ambassador, Emily Crabtree, who was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer when she was 19 years old, spoke about her cancer journey. Nine years after being cancer-free she was told that the cancer had returned.  In the past 3 years she has relapsed four times.  “I can’t believe that life with cancer is my new sense of normal…and I couldn’t believe that no new drug has been discovered in the last decade…there’s not a time in the day I don’t think about cancer and that’s not easy…The work of Bear Necessities is so important because they are working to find a cure for pediatric cancer.” (Emily’s speech can be seen on You Tube here.)

On this night, more than $760,000 was raised to fund the Foundation's Bear Hugs Programs that provide customized experiences for children going through cancer treatments and Bear Discoveries Programs that provide medical research grants.  (Photos by Mila Samokhina and Jon Recana).

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