Chicago House hosts an afternoon filled with feathers, fashion and fun

Chicago House hosted its annual spring brunch and fashion show on May 7 in the sunny Winter Garden atop the Harold Washington Library. Over 350 guests enjoyed a fashion show featuring designs by Peach Carr, Mark Roscoe + Black Tie Formalwear, Soundoff, Ricorso, Iridium Clothing Co. and Redaggio and a delicious brunch created by Inspired Catering.

I knew I was in for an exciting afternoon when I saw the handsome men and beautiful models standing on pedestals scattered throughout the venue in extravagant feather costumes. (Watch here). The brightly colored tablecloths and brilliant sunshine (finally) created a festive, happy atmosphere for all the guests, most of whom came dressed to impress.

Chicago House CEO Scott Ammarell welcomed the crowd. "When I look at Chicago House staff, I see soldiers. I see soldiers serving this honorable charity every day. I think of the collective history of soldiers, embracing our LGBTQ community over decades and doing so with dignity," he said.

Presenting sponsors and co-chairs Chris and Derek Bagley addressed the crowd before we heard inspiring speeches from two people who Chicago House has supported. Lamin Johnson shared his story of abuse and heartache in the Sierra Leone before moving to Chicago where he found a new life with the non-profit's support. He will be attending Cornell University in the fall with a full ride and I think they will be very lucky to have him.

Broderick, a current board member and Scattered Site Housing for Health program participant, shared his fears after being diagnosed with HIV. He said he didn't think he would "be here" without the love and support from Chicago House.

Board member/volunteer Ray Lechner was presented with the Spirit Award by Ray Koenig and Judy Perloff. He delivered an emotional speech that brought the crowd to its feet.

A delicious brunch, presented by Karen Stefani's Inspired Catering & Events, began with a "carrot cake" oatmeal jar filled with steel cut oats, chai seeds, almond milk, cinnamon, Greek yogurt, golden raisins and agave topped with whole almonds. The entree featured a perfectly grilled salmon atop Brussel sprout hash with onion, carrot and shaved potatoes with avocado coulis and micro chervil accented with marinated mini tomatoes. (Is your mouth watering yet?) And the piece de resistance, pistachio cake with white chocolate mousse, hazelnut, salted chocolate and toasted pistachios. So yummy!

An exciting fashion show followed, expertly produced by ZZAZZ Productions with MDR Creative, Todd Keich and executive produced Quenten Schumacher.

Fashions floated throughout the crowd and included whimsical designs by Peach Carr (think lobster swimming trunks and a cocktail dress with a big, flirty eye and lipstick design); elegant gowns and handsome men in suits (some without shirts and only ties under their jackets) by Mark Roscoe + Black Tie Formalwear; dramatic feather creations by Redaggio and so much more!

I was so honored to emcee this powerful and exciting event that also included a hugely successful live auction conducted by Treadway Toomey Gallery's John Walcher. Tom Kehoe bought a fabulous sailing package for 20 for $10,000 and I let him know I loved sailing. Floral arrangements from the Flower Market and items from the Giving Tree offered guests more fundraising opportunities.

A moving finale featured singer Molly Callinan belting out Andra Day's "Rise Up" while models moved throughout the crowd holding signs with the words "unite", "love" and "resist." (See finale performance here!)

This annual fundraiser for Chicago House and Social Service agency supports its mission of providing for those individuals and families who are disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ marginalization, poverty, homelessness, and/or gender nonconformity by providing housing, employment services, medical linkage and retention services, HIV prevention services, legal services and other supportive programs.

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