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!

New at SPARK: Golden Tickets & Live Auction Prizes

Every year before SPARK, we are so excited to announce the fabulous live auction packages available to our guests for bidding. Today, we are announcing the five prizes attendees will be able to bid on, plus a thrilling new way to experience SPARK!

Introducing the Golden Ticket

For the first time, we will be offering Golden Tickets to our community! Golden Tickets are a new way to participate in our favorite night of the year. There will only be 150 Golden Tickets sold, so you know what your chances of winning are! If you purchase a Golden Ticket, please make sure that you have selected your prize at the time of purchase. Winners need not be present to win. Each Golden Ticket is $100, and the prize is something special!

The winner of our Golden Ticket drawing will get to choose from the live auction prizes before any bidding even starts! If you win the raffle, you will receive the prize you choose at time of purchase, and that prize will be removed from the live auction. Are you ready to find out your options?

SPARK 2019 Live Auction Packages

From golfers to travelers to art lovers, we have a winning package for anyone’s interests. Don’t miss out on your chance to secure the package you know you want – get your Golden Ticket today! And if you don’t win, there’s still a chance to win your item in the live auction. Check out the live auction prizes today.

Golfing With A Pro

You and a friend will join Hans Larson, PGA head professional, at Westmoreland Country Club, accompanied by member Jim McClure. Your day on the course will include 18 holes of golf, caddies, tips & playing lessons from Hans, and lunch. Date to be mutually agreed upon among all parties.

Magnificent Views in Costa Rica

Enjoy a weeklong vacation at Villa Vista Magnifica in Costa Rica, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and gorgeous beaches Playa Prieta and Playa Penca. Villa Vista Magnifica is a 5 bedroom, 5.5 bath villa staffed with 2 full-time employees. You and 9 of your friends can relax in luxury with such features as an outdoor shower, a private patio, an infinity edge pool, and an upstairs terrace view. Airfare not included; average airfare to Costa Rica is $450 per person. High season is from May through July.

Dinner With Easter Seals Vice President
Please join our Executive Director Ann Sickon & 8 other guests for a four-course gourmet dinner with fine wines in a newly renovated 1882 row house in Little Italy on a Friday or Saturday night this summer. Our hosts Tom LeClair and Carlyn Berghoff will prepare an amazing evening that also includes lively conversation on trending topics in the world of disabilities.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Four seats to your choice of two 2019 games decided upon in conjunction with the donor. These seats offer an extraordinary opportunity to experience Wrigleyville’s favorite team from premium seats only 10 rows behind home plate.

Rob Larson’s Water Lilies

Inspired by Claude Monet’s use of color and expressive brushstrokes, our own Rob Larson has created his own rendition of Water Lilies. Using oil on canvas, the painting celebrates the beautiful relationships found in nature through reflections in the pond and the flowering water lilies.

What Are You Waiting For?

Group enjoying games at Evanston fundraising event, SPARKTickets are on sale now! Early bird prices are available until March 31st, and then all ticket prices will increase by $25. While you’re getting tickets to SPARK, you can also purchase your Golden Ticket and Heads or Tails glamour glasses. Don’t forget to indicate which prize you’d like if you bought a Golden Ticket, and let us know your dinner choices too!

We can’t wait to see you at SPARK and start igniting dreams together!

Save the Date: SPARK 2019

Are you looking for a local Evanston fundraising event to support your community? Join on at the Hilton Orrington on Friday, April 26th for our signature spring event, SPARK!

What to Expect at SPARK!

4 individuals gather around an orange chair at SPARK.

At our annual spring party, we use this opportunity to celebrate our whole community, including Center for Independent Futures participants, families, employees, donors, and community partners. That means there will be dancing, dinner, and a lot of opportunity for fun!

The evening begins with reception and the chance to bid on some of Chicago and Evanston’s favorite stores, restaurants, and experiences, followed by dinner and a live auction. At last year’s live auction, winners took home a safari trip, concert tickets to Ed Sheeran and Elton John, a Chicago-style St. Patrick’s Day package, and more! Plus, you won’t want to miss our favorite game, Heads or Tails. Finish the evening by dancing your heart out to a favorite of ours, Euphoria Band!

Watch For More News

Group enjoying games at Evanston fundraising event, SPARKGo ahead and mark your calendars for SPARK today! Event invitations and online ticket sales will be available in early March. For more event information and updates, RSVP to SPARK on the Facebook event page.

All proceeds from SPARK, our largest Evanston fundraising event of the year, directly contribute to programming, services, and sustainability. If you are interested in supporting SPARK as a donor, sponsor, or partner, please contact Niki Moe or call (847) 328-2044 today!

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!

Wrapping Up SPARK 2018

5 friends dressed beautifully pose for group photo at SPARK.
Friends celebrate at SPARK.

On April 27th, we danced the night away at the Hilton Orrington as we celebrated our 12th annual SPARK. Our SPARK 2018 celebration is a chance for us to honor our community full of participants, their families, and our generous supporters. As we enter our 16th year of serving the Chicagoland area, we want to extend a big thank you to everyone who has joined us along the way.

Leading up to dinner, we laughed together while bidding on donated auction items, playing Heads or Tails, and taking a chance on our gift card tree. We announced our fourth annual Jane Doyle Awesome Award winners, honoring staff member Cynthia Witherspoon, who has been with us for 11 years, our community partner Northwestern University, and participant Lindsay Tonyan. Each of these awards celebrates an extraordinary and AWESOME member of our community who helps us achieve our goals every year.

This year our live auction featured stellar packages including a trip to the South African Zulu Nyala reserve and daily photo safaris, as well as tickets to U2, Ed Sheeran, and Elton John, tickets to spring training in Arizona, a jam-packed St. Paddie’s Day weekend in Chicago, and a beautiful painting by our very own artist in residence and staff member Rob Larson. These exciting packages were snatched up quickly by enthusiastic bidders!

Entertainment and Delicious Desserts

Following the live auction, Euphoria Band opened up the dance floor with “This Is Me,” from The Greatest Showman. This night would not have been possible without the band, entertainment from Collaboraction, and support from our sponsors. We are especially grateful to our sponsors, including platinum sponsor PSAV, gold sponsor Sidley Austin LLP, silver sponsor First Bank & Trust of Evanston, and our bronze sponsors Inland BankMonahan Law Group, Northwestern University, and Rubin Law.

4 individuals gather around an orange chair at SPARK.
Group smiles for photo at SPARK.

 

The delicious desserts on display were donated by Bennison’s BakeryBeth’s Little Bake ShopFlat Top GrillLawrence Dean’s Bake ShopNothing Bundt CakesSweety Pies Bakery, and Three Tarts Bakery and CafeRevolution Brewing and Temperance Brewing Co  donated the night’s beer selection.

SPARK Success, Thanks to You!

We want to thank all who participated in the silent or live auctions, Heads or Tails, raffle, and our paddle raise. Because of you, SPARK 2018 was a great success and will help us continue supporting individuals with disabilities and their families. We couldn’t reach our own hopes and dreams without each and every one of you.

Find the professional photos from SPARK on Facebook today! Do you have pictures from SPARK? Post them to your favorite social media platform and be sure to tag them #SPARK2018 so we can see them too!

Our Top 10 Moments of 2017

Join Center for Independent Futures in celebrating our favorite moments from 2017, our fifteenth anniversary year. We look forward to supporting more full lives and stronger communities in 2018!

Our Top 10 Moments

  1. We published our 2016 annual report to share stories of support, including Nestor’s full life, students planning for the future, and communities 3 members of 2017 Bike the Drive team smile after successful ride.creating connections. Read the annual report here!
  2. Our annual SPARK gala was an evening of glamour under the stars. Staff member Rob Larson, participant Matthew LaChapelle, and community partner First Bank & Trust received Jane Doyle AWESOME! Awards. Check out the Facebook photo album here.
  3. Staff members traveled internationally to Canada to work with Community Living Essex County and across the country to train Club 21 in Pasadena, California. Click here to learn about our Full Life ProcessTM resources, being shared in Illinois and beyond.
  4. The Dream Team soared down Lake Shore Drive in Bike the Drive, raising funds for Center for Independent Futures while enjoying amazing views of the skyline and Lake Michigan. Read about the ride here.
  5. Life Tools Campers from Evanston Township High School explored their community and learned new skills. Find out where their week took them.
  6. Our young professional board welcomed new members, including a new board chair. Learn about the Auxiliary Board and how to get involved.
  7. Eight runners representing Team CIF took the 26.2 mile journey of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, every step supporting the journeys individuals with disabilities take along the way to full, independent lives. Read more about race day here.
  8. Our community celebrated Halloween in style at our annual party. Check out the creative costumes in our Facebook photo album here!
  9. We celebrated community and local cuisine at our fourteenth annual Executive Director Ann and Board co-chair Jeff smile at Something's Cooking. Something’s Cooking. This fall classic was updated with a new venue, new restaurants and breweries, and live music. Read more here.
  10. Our community raised over $27,000 in 24 hours on #GivingTuesday, supporting individuals with disabilities and the friends, family members, and communities that they interact with every day. Learn about the success here.

Highlights from SPARK 2017

Center for Independent Futures’ eleventh annual SPARK was a joyful celebration of fifteen years of supporting hopes and dreams. Thank you to all who attended, volunteered, and supported the event to help us commemorate this anniversary! View our full album of photos on Facebook here, and check out 6 of our favorite moments below:

  1. Participants sharing their stories: We heard from four individuals whose involvement spanned the length of our fifteen years about their full lives. Thank you to Paige, Avi, Jenny, and Adam for sharing!
  2. Photo loop of memories from the past fifteen years: During dinner, guests enjoyed a slideshow of images from Center for Independent Futures’ history. In case you missed it, check it out on our YouTube channel by clicking here.
  3. A matching challenge and your generosity: Thanks to an incredible donor, $30,000 raised by guests at SPARK was matched dollar-for-dollar to go twice as far to support hopes and dreams.
  4. The third annual Jane Doyle Awesome Awards: This year, we honored staff member Rob Larson, community partner First Bank & Trust, and participant Matthew LaChapelle. Read more about the award winners here.
  5. The live auction: After exciting bidding contests,, lucky winners went home with an original painting by staff member Rob Larson, tickets to U2/The Lumineers and Bruno Mars, an Evanston staycation, and a four-night getaway.
  6. Dancing the night away: The dance floor was packed and energy was high with music from Euphoria Band. Lady Gaga made a special guest appearance, thanks to the talented actors from Collaboraction Theater Company who brought the stars to SPARK.

Thank you to all who attended, volunteered, participated in the raffle or Heads or Tails game, bid in the silent or live auctions, and supported us through donations. We are especially grateful to our sponsors, including premium platinum sponsor Stone Heritage Properties, gold sponsor PSAV, silver sponsor First Bank & Trust, and bronze sponsors Inland BankMonahan Law Group, and Rubin Law. Dessert sponsors Bennison’s BakeryBeth’s Little Bake ShopEli’s CheesecakeFlat Top GrillLawrence Deans Bake ShopNothing Bundt CakesSweety Pies BakeryThree Tarts Bakery & Cafe, and Trader Joe’s filled our decadent dessert displays. Beverage sponsor Lagunitas Brewing Company helped us stock the bars with local beer.

Because of all of our supporters, old and new, SPARK 2017 was a shining success, allowing us to continue creating innovative solutions for individuals with disabilities and their families as they pursue their hopes and dreams.

Check out our full album of photos on Facebook here!

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!

Success Stories

sun19may11:00 am12:45 pmBowling

mon20may4:00 pm5:00 pmYoga

mon20may5:00 pm6:00 pmBook Club

mon20may6:00 pm8:00 pmArt Club

tue21may1:30 pm2:30 pmWalking Club

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