Misericordia enlists celebrity friends for its first virtual gala

Misericordia’s Women’s Board hosted its first virtual (38th!) Heart of Mercy Ball on October 14. Hundreds of supporters tuned in to watch a 90 minute virtual show that was emceed by longtime Misericordia supporter (Mr. Fix It) Lou Manfredini. He spoke about the many ways Misericordia pivoted during this pandemic to take care of its residents through fun activities that includes baking, bike-riding, arts and crafts and virtual programming to stay connected. Father Jack Clair, assistant executive director and chaplain at Misericordia, delivered a powerful prayer to open the evening.

Testimonials on the great work done here were presented by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Pat Fitzgerald (head coach Northwestern University football), Mike Singletary (former Chicago Bear), Mary Ann Ahern (NBC 5 Chicago), actor Joe Montegna, Miguel and Kelly Cervantes, actor Mark Rolston (“The Shawshank Redemption”), Hoda and Jenna (The Today Show) and yours truly.

Bennetta Kelly, Women’s Board president spoke about the history of the organization. “Nearly a century ago, our board was founded to support Misericordia, then a maternity hospital for women in need, then later becoming the Misericordia we know and love today…We support children and adults with a wide range of intellectual and developmental disabilities from numerous backgrounds,” she said. Miguel and Kelly Cervantes thanked Sister Rosemary Connelly, executive director, for all her hard work before a clip of Miguel singing with The Heartbreakers was shown. The group danced while Miguel sang “This is Me” (a song by Keala Settle that was performed in the film “The Greatest Showman“).

Sister Rosemary’s remarks always bring a tear to your eye. Her compassion and devotion to the cause is palpable. She’s been a Sister of Mercy for 70 years and 50 years at Misericordia. She thanked everyone for their support saying it will help close the annual deficit of $20 million. “We can also pursue our dream projects of expanding our campus (8 new homes are planned as well as a drive-thru bakery) in the hope of being able to reach out to more families who are on the waiting list, families who want a Misericordia and NEED a Misericordia. We hope soon to be able to give them the same peace of mind our families have known for decades…Throughout this horrible health crisis, our staff have risked their own lives to ensure our residents remain happy, healthy, engaged and challenged. Tonight, we have the privilege of honoring our staff with a special Heart of Mercy Award,” she said. 43-year staff member Mary Pat O’Brien, assistant executive director of residences and programs, presented the plaque to the staff. 400 of them have been employed at Mis for 10 years or more and some have been there for 40+ years!

Lois Gates, assistant executive director and chief development officer, read a letter to the staff thanking them for their outstanding efforts. A paddle raise was conducted by one of my favorite auctioneers, Greg “G-Man” Dellinger. A house for 6 in Ireland sold for $7500; a Peloton bike sold for $3000 and a week-long, Tuscany getaway for 4 sold for $4500. Co-chaired by WB members Susan Baker and Jackie Kissane, the virtual event exceeded the nonprofit’s expectations raising over $311,000 and counting. (To donate or learn more, click here!)

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