SPARK 2019: Igniting Dreams

Did you miss out on igniting dreams at SPARK 2019 at the Hilton Orrington? Or maybe you were there and just want to relive the fun? This year was the FIRST year we sold out at SPARK! The Hilton’s ballroom was jam-packed, and we enjoyed seeing everyone there to celebrate independent, full lives with us!

Awards and Winners

As always, we awarded three very special honorees the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards! The Awesome Awards celebrate individuals and organizations that embody Independent Futures’ core values. Read our new blog on the Awesome Award winners to find out more.

Preparing for the Golden Ticket raffle drawing. A woman in green stands on the left, next to the golden raffle drum and a woman in red. A man in a gray suit speaks into a microphone as another man pulls the winning ticket.We want to offer congratulations to the winner of our annual Heads or Tails game, Linda Hauser! She won a gift card to Hotels.com plus tickets to the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.

Finally, we want to say congratulations to Stephanie Olsen, the winner of our first ever Golden Ticket raffle! Stephanie purchased her Golden Ticket before SPARK and chose the live auction item Take Me Out to the Ball Game. She won four behind-home-plate tickets to a Cubs game this summer!

Silent and Live Auctions

People dance at SPARK after the end of the program.2019 was our biggest year yet in many ways! Though our silent auction had fewer items, our supporters still helped us raise more in this area than we could have hoped. Not to mention: this year’s live auction blew past years out of the water!

Independent Futures could not work toward the future we envision without the help of our supporters. As a small gift to all of you: Everyone can now find photos of the night on our Facebook page now!

Thank you to everyone who came to SPARK 2019, donated, or otherwise participated in igniting dreams at this year’s SPARK! We’ll see you next year!

 

2019 Awesome Award Winners

SPARK is an annual celebration of our community, but it is also a chance for us to celebrate the stellar individuals and organizations who support this work every day. Recipients of the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards represent Independent Futures through dedication, innovative leadership, personal integrity, and community-forward thinking.

On April 26, we honored three community members who embody these qualities with the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards. These awards are given to a staff member, a participant, and a community partner. Read on to learn more about this year’s honorees!

Stellar Staff: Jackie Eddy

Jackie stands with Jane to accept the staff Awesome AwardWith more than 20 years of service, Jackie has been with Independent Futures since day 1. Really, she has been here since before day 1, meeting Jane at the bus stop where their children were picked up for school. The two bonded over the need for better access to future opportunities for people with disabilities.

Since then, Jackie created the “voice” of Independent Futures, mentored new staff, and developed the New Futures Initiative training program. Jackie’s work at Independent Futures means new opportunities for individuals with disabilities to be independent across the country. Jackie demonstrates passion and commitment to creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities to fully live, work, and give back in their communities.

Professional Participant: Nestor Gonzalez

Ann, Jane, and Nestor stand together with the framed Awesome Award certificate.Since joining Independent Futures’ community, Nestor has grown in a variety of ways. He is a hard worker, a leader, and an active community volunteer. Over the last few years, Nestor joined the Young Professionals Board where he acts as a liaison to the Advisory Council.

As a member of our community, Nestor seeks new and creative ways to maintain a productive relationship between our young professionals and participants. He enjoys his job and a healthy, loving relationship – all with grace and a professional demeanor!

Creative Community: Evanston Community Foundation

Marybeth of Evanston Community Foundation stands next to Jane and Ann with their new, gold Awesome Award statue.We awarded our final 2019 Awesome Award to Evanston Community Foundation. The foundation has walked alongside Independent Futures since the beginning. Evanston Community Foundation awarded Independent Futures our very first grant many years ago.

Since that first grant, the foundation has generously provided many new collaborative grants, funding opportunities like our Transportation Camp and Life Skills Camp. The support of Evanston Community Foundation helps us make Evanston a more just, vibrant, and inclusive place for individuals with disabilities.

Congratulations once again to each of this year’s winners! As one of our core values, community means everything here at Independent Futures. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for walking this path with us.

Ignite Dreams at SPARK With Us!

In just under a month, we will be dancing the night away and sharing the dreams of our community at SPARK. A night for our community to get together and celebrate all we have achieved this year, SPARK is a night out you don’t want to miss. This year we have some new and exciting features, plus we have been making changes to guarantee you will have the most fun possible!

Silent Auction Prizes

One part of the evening that won’t be changing is our silent auction! We have roughly 70 wonderful packages for guests to take home at the end of the evening.

Florida house view over the ocean with deck railing in frame

From wonderful dining experiences to enjoying excellent theatre performances, we hope that our guests will all find something to bid on! A few examples include a weeklong stay at a condo in Florida, two roundtrip tickets to anywhere in the U.S. from Southwest Airlines, an astounding package from SPACE, and so much more.

Watch for chances to start bidding early about a week before SPARK!

The New Golden Ticket Raffle

In past years, SPARK featured an awesome raffle where the winner was able to “split the pot” with us, but we are trying something new this year! We are happy to be introducing the Golden Ticket raffle!

Sunset in Costa Rica with palm trees in frame, the sky is painted different shades of blue, pink, orange, yellow, and purple.We are selling a limited 150 Golden Tickets, meaning you have a 1/150 chance of winning when you purchase a single ticket. Golden Ticket holders choose their prize selection at the time of purchase from our amazing live auction items. Whether you want to go to Costa Rica or see a Cubs game with stellar seats, we have an item for everyone’s needs.

Winners need not be present to win, but we hope you will stay the whole evening to dance and ignite the spark of our community’s dreams with us!

Changes to Our Program

This year, we are making exciting changes to our program! It is our hope these will allow us to better ignite dreams at SPARK. We will be shortening the program to allow for more of everyone’s favorite part of the night – dancing! We will still be honoring stellar supporters through the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards, but we will end earlier so your dancing shoes see some awesome moves!

Thank You Sponsors, Entertainment, and Guests!

Finally, we want to thank some amazing individuals and businesses who are supporting us at SPARK this year. First, our entertainment, Euphoria Band, will be putting on a great show for us again this year.

Crowd of guests dancing at SPARKNext, thank you to our sponsors because we could not put together such an amazing celebration without each of you. Thank you PSAV, Sidley Austin, Inland Bank, Byline Bank, Monahan Law Group, Rubin Law, Northwestern University, Oak Wealth Advisors, Simon Cordwell Buenz, and Nike Whitcomb & Associates for your support!

And last but never least, we thank our guests at SPARK who will join us in honoring this community. None of the hopes and dreams we help make reality could ever be possible without every one of you! Get your tickets today!

Top 10 Hope-Filled Moments in 2018

2018 was a big year at Center for Independent Futures! From fun and glamorous events like SPARK to meeting new people at conferences around the country, this last year held a lot to be celebrated. Join us in remembering our top 10 moments of 2018!

#1: New Partnerships in CaliforniaLogo for Club 21 in red with blue and green people illustrations to the left.

Club 21, a California non-profit, asked us to present at their Tools For the Journey conference. It was exciting to get out of the chilly Midwest for a few days to share our tools & resources with the Club 21 community.

#2: Hosting Activities in Highland Park

We conducted a meet and greet session with Highland Park community members in March. Since then, we have started including the village in our activities calendar through monthly Gab and Grub dinners. It is exciting to meet members of new communities, and we can’t wait to continue!

#3: A Beautiful Evening at SPARK

5 friends dressed beautifully pose for group photo at SPARK.

In April, our annual gala event was a shining evening! Join us again this year on April 26th at the Hilton Orrington! We will have more live entertainment, the annual Awesome Awards, delicious food, and wonderful auction items for all.

#4: Dream Team Biked the Drive

A group of Bike Club members participated in Bike the Drive again this year! They raised almost $7,000 through their fundraising efforts and had a good time biking in the cloudy weather. We can’t wait for next May to ride Lake Shore Drive again!

#5: Presented at National Down Syndrome Conference

Chrissy & Cynthia at the National Down Syndrome ConferenceChrissy & Cynthia went down to Dallas, Texas, in July to present at the National Down Syndrome Conference. They rocked the presentation and made new connections! We appreciated having this opportunity to present to industry experts and families alike.

#6: Held 2 Summer Camp Options for Transition House Students

Our schools team hosted the annual Life Skills Camp in mid-July, in addition to a new summer camp opportunity. Thanks to the Evanston Community Foundation, we were able to provide a Transportation Camp for Evanston Township High School transition students.

#7: Guided Biggest Marathon Team Through Finish Line

On a rainy Sunday, 18 members of Team CIF completed one of the greatest challenges: completing 26.2 miles throughout the neighborhoods of Chicago. Thanks to our community and team, we raised over $16,000 through the Bank of America Chicago Marathon!

#8: Created Community Connections at Housing Conference

At our housing conference in October, we shared our New Futures Initiative and housing resources with over 100 people dedicated to change. We are thankful for each of our presenters, including our panelists, endnote speaker, and keynote speaker, Micaela Connery of The Kelsey. Watch for video of the day coming soon!

#9: Delicious Food & Good Times at Something’s Cooking

We ate to our hearts’ content at the Woman’s Club of Evanston in early November. Thank you to the 25 wonderful food, dessert, and beverage sponsors for supporting our annual fall favorite! We hope to see you all next year!

#10: Turned Hopes Into Reality on #GivingTuesday

Thanks to all of you, we surpassed our $20,000 #GivingTuesday goal! We also met the requirements to receive the full $10,000 match from the Coleman Foundation. That means we raised a total of over $34,000 with your help!

We are deeply grateful for our caring, generous community after such a big year! 2019 looks like it will be even bigger, so we hope that you will continue on this journey with Center for Independent Futures. If you would like to be part of our story, sign up for our monthly newsletter today and make a year-end gift to support inclusive communities in Evanston!

SPARK 2018 Awesome Awards

At SPARK, staff and Board members presented the fourth annual Awesome Awards to a staff member, a community partner, and a participant. This year’s winners exemplify Center for Independent Futures’ values of innovation, community partnerships, and diversity that have been the backbone of our organization for the last 16 years.

Staff Awesome Award

Features Cynthia, winner of staff Awesome AwardCommunity Life Coordinator Cynthia Witherspoon was the recipient of our staff award. Throughout her eleven years of dedication to Center for Independent Futures, Cynthia has demonstrated high-quality performance in each of the many areas she works, all while maintaining a positive attitude. Cynthia creates strong community connections and honors individual’s capabilities with kindness and creative perspectives. Cynthia’s hard work, consistency, and knowledge contribute to her ability to live the Center for Independent Futures philosophy.

Community Partner Awesome Award

Next, we honored community partner Northwestern University. Northwestern’s faculty and administrative staff have walked with us since we opened our doors, supporting us in a variety of ways, and assisting us to spread awareness of the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities living full lives in Evanston. As our partner, Northwestern University has created kind, caring, and respectful relationships with our organization and our participants.

Participant Awesome Award

Lindsay, participant Awesome Award winnerFinally, our participant awardee is Lindsay Tonyan. Lindsay is a perfect example of someone who is living a full life, taking appropriate risks to pursue new experiences and opportunities. A kind, welcoming, and encouraging person, Lindsay perseveres through obstacles to find a solution. She often volunteers to help out, and she is a role model for all as a positive representative of Center for Independent Futures.

We are grateful for the contributions from Cynthia, Northwestern University, and Lindsay. Our community is stronger because of these members. Congratulations to each of these winners on a well-deserved honor at SPARK!

Third Annual Awesome Awards Presented

The Center for Independent Futures community is full of individuals and organizations that build connections, embrace differences, and support others. At SPARK every year, we present three with the Jane Doyle Awesome Award, honoring co-founder Jane Doyle’s legacy by selecting a staff member, community partner, and participant who show innovative leadership and personal integrity.

Staff award winner Rob Larson looking to his left in front of blue background.The 2017 Awesome Award in the staff category was presented to Community Life Coordinator Rob Larson. Rob is exceptional in strengthening connections and mentoring others. He is dedicated to enriching the lives of the individuals and families he supports through clear and respectful communication and a constant willingness to help. Rob’s thoughtful ideas, excellent listening, and creative problem-solving make him a gift to the Center for Independent Futures community.

The community partner honored was First Bank & Trust. First Bank & TrustFirst Bank & Trust of Evanston logo has walked beside Center for Independent Futures since we began our journey 15 years ago. Employees at the bank have formed caring relationships with members of our community, always going the extra mile. First Bank & Trust has been a long-time sponsor for SPARK and recently became an annual sponsor, partnering with us year-round to support hopes and dreams.

Participant award winner Matthew LaChapelle poses for portrait with hand on chin in front of teal background.Finally, the winner in the participant category was Matthew LaChapelle. Matthew takes risks to pursue new opportunities and is kind and encouraging to others. A strong advocate, Matthew readily shares his experiences as an individual with disabilities to challenge stereotypes and change perceptions. He serves as a mentor for younger campers at a camp in Colorado and works with Collaboraction Theater Company, a group committed to social change and diversity. As member of Center for Independent Futures’ Advisory Council, Matthew shares his voice and talents to make our community stronger.

We are grateful for the contributions that Rob, First Bank & Trust, and Matthew have made to the Center for Independent Futures community. Congratulations to these three individuals for this well-deserved honor!

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