RSVP To Virtual SPARK!

Independent Futures hosted SPARK every April for more than a decade. Like many other organizations, this year has presented us with opportunities to try new things, like moving to a virtual SPARK! We are working hard to make our virtual celebration as much fun as our typical annual celebration.

How To Attend SPARK

Illustrated graphic that shows a red Alfa Romero car behind an orange construction sign reading "Detour Rescheduled Sat. Nov 7 2020"Head over to our SPARK event page to RSVP. Because SPARK will be online, Independent Futures will not sell tickets. For the first time, SPARK is free to attend for all – even our post-celebration dance party.

When you RSVP for SPARK, you will receive a confirmation email that includes a Zoom link. Save this email or add it to your calendar to make sure you don’t lose the link. We will also send reminder emails starting the week before November 7th. Those emails will also include the Zoom link in case your original email goes missing! 

What To Expect At Virtual SPARK

While SPARK usually entails dancing, dinner, auctions, and games, our program will be shorter this year. The program will also be driven by individuals in our community who want to share their talents. 

When you tune in, you can expect to hear from Ann Sickon, our Executive Director, and watch performances arranged and filmed by participants or tutors. In between these accomplished artists, we will announce our 2020 Awesome Award honorees! 

Our Exclusive After Party

People dance at SPARK after the end of the program.After we end our virtual SPARK program, Independent Futures is thrilled to announce that we will be hosting an after party! 

Join us and our favorite band, Euphoria, for a 45 minute dance party! All you need to do is stay on the Zoom call during a 5 minute intermission. After intermission, we will return with Euphoria ready to play some of your favorite songs. 

You Can Help Independent Futures

A woman and young man next to each other at SPARK, an Evanston eventIf you are able, the best way to help Independent Futures right now is by donating to SPARK. No gift is too small – or too great. You can donate online or via text by texting SPARK20 to 44-321. 

Don’t forget: RSVP today to be part of this unique celebration. We hope to see you online on November 7th!

sat07nov7:00 pmVirtual EventSPARK

Bingo Night From Home

Alexis Bevels, host of our bingo night from home, poses in front of tree-filled background.“I’m in my bed right now – actually I’m not in my bed, but there’s no reason I couldn’t be!” – Alexis Bevels, kicking off the evening

At the end of August, our Young Professionals Board hosted a virtual bingo night from home. In an average year, Independent Futures attends Hambingo at Hamburger Mary’s, but this year looked quite a bit different. 

More than 30 members of this community joined us from places close to home like Wilmette, Chicago, and Evanston as well as locations far away like Florida, Texas, and California. Hosted by a Hamburger Mary’s favorite, Alexis Bevels, we laughed and joked the night away.

Bingo Night From Home In The Time of COVID

Screenshot of Zoom screen from bingo night with many faces.As many of us know now, it can be hard to entertain folks on a Zoom call. At Hamburger Mary’s, attending Hambingo is like getting dinner and a show. Performers such as Alexis call the bingo numbers with a flare, and then they entertain guests with song and dance.

Alexis managed to make virtual bingo feel almost as good as gathering in person. With her own soundboard and some great background music, our attendees remained upbeat and excited to play. 

Playing To Win

Independent Futures was able to attain several gift cards as prizes for winners. These included cards for Five & Dime, Unabridged Bookstore, Wheel & Sprocket, and more. One extremely lucky family even won 3 times! 

After each winner confirmed their bingo numbers, Alexis asked, “What have you been doing at home?” We learned that some folks are mostly working from home right now, while others are teaching and learning French. Thankfully, our community is staying home as much as possible to protect themselves and their families.

Join Us Next Time!

We all had so much fun at virtual bingo that we are thinking about hosting at least one more this year. Let us know: would you join us again? 

Discover Our Slate of Fall Events

By now, it goes without saying that 2020 will be a year of new experiences and unlimited changes. Like every other nonprofit, Independent Futures needed to pivot in March. Together, we needed to create ways to meet our goals while maintaining the friendly, inclusive community atmosphere we are known for. Today we are announcing our upcoming slate of fall events!

Drive Thru For Full Lives

Participants check in and receive their meals at the drive-thru at Nissan AutobarnOn Sunday, July 26th, we hosted our 1st ever drive-thru! We were unsure we would be allowed to hold SPARK in person due to gathering restrictions. For that reason, Independent Futures needed to use the $21,000 in event rental deposits that we placed for SPARK. 

Thanks to this generous community & our partnership with The Autobarn Nissan of Evanston, we have used half of those deposits already! On a beautifully sunny day, about 100 members of our community participated in our drive-thru. With a delicious picnic feast, Independent Futures’ community could celebrate each other in a safe, socially distant manner! 

Bingo With Alexis Bevels

Person in orange wig and pink shirt with suspenders and underneath reads Alexis BevelsOn Sunday, August 30th, our Young Professionals Board is hosting online bingo with local Chicago drag queen Alexis Bevels! In a normal year, we host an evening of raunchy fun in partnership with Hamburger Mary’s, and we did not want to miss an opportunity for fun these days.

Take a chance on our raffles and win prizes when you complete your bingo card! A way to purchase bingo cards will be available soon. In the meantime, go pencil “Independent Futures Bingo” on your calendar from 6:30-8:00 on August 30th. 

Drive-In Movie at Temperance Beer Co.

Cases of Temperance Beer stacked on top of each other with a beautiful summer sky in the background.Next, we will be hosting a drive-in movie with our friends at Temperance Beer Co. on Saturday, September 26th. We haven’t picked out our movie yet, but you’ll know as soon as we do! 

We are still filling in details on our fall events like the drive-in. For now, we know that there will be delicious food, Evanston’s favorite beer, and some of your favorite movie candies! Tickets will be available for purchase in mid-August. You know what to do now: save the date! 

Taking SPARK Online

Illustrated graphic that shows a red Alfa Romero car behind an orange construction sign reading "Detour Rescheduled Sat. Nov 7 2020"Finally, our biggest pivot this year. We are officially going to host SPARK as a virtual event this year. Our favorite part of SPARK is exactly what sets our events apart from others. As a fully inclusive event, SPARK is both a celebration of our community and for our community. The individuals we support look forward to SPARK like a prom night, and it is deeply saddening that we cannot gather in person this year. 

We don’t know exactly what format SPARK will take this year, but we will gather virtually on Saturday, November 7th. Stay tuned for more information about activities and our Awesome Awards!

Thank You!

Ann & Niki hold a sign saying "Thank You Independent Futures Drive-Thru" while wearing masksNone of our work would be possible without the generous support of community members like you. We want to express our deep gratitude for the Independent Futures community. No matter your connection – whether you are an activities or tutoring participant, a family member, a donor, or a Chicagoland resident – thank you. We hope to see you at one of our fall events soon! 

SPARK 2020: Save the Date

A woman and young man next to each other at SPARK, an Evanston eventHave you heard about how much fun our Evanston events are from your friends? Do you want to experience an event that illustrates what it means to fully include people with disabilities? Join us at SPARK on Saturday, November 7th to join the movement.

For the first time ever, Independent Futures is partnering with The Autobarn of Evanston as a host for this year’s theme, Create Your Journey. At Independent Futures, we support adults with disabilities as they explore the paths open to them, crafting their own futures. When you join us at SPARK, you will become part of the journey to inclusion.

What To Expect At This Evanston Event

Two young adults with disabilities post for camera at SPARKWe view SPARK as an opportunity to celebrate our whole community, including Independent Futures’ participants, families, employees, donors, and community partners. That means there will be dancing, dinner, and a lot of chances for fun! 

The evening will begin with the chance to bid on some of Chicago and Evanston’s favorite stores, restaurants, and experiences. Past auction items include tickets to Cubs games, classic Chicago artwork, and handmade woodworking from local artisans. 

The reception will be followed by dinner and a live auction. At last year’s live auction, winners took home trips to Costa Rica, a golf outing with a pro, gorgeous artwork from a local artist, and more! Plus, you won’t want to miss our favorite game, Heads or Tails. We will finish the evening by dancing our hearts out to a favorite of ours, Euphoria Band

Getting Tickets to SPARK

A group of SPARK attendees smile around a table at SPARKLet all your friends know you’re busy on Saturday, November 7th now, and get your tickets online today. You’ll want to get your tickets fast because SPARK sold out 3 weeks early last year! 

In the meantime, RSVP to our Facebook event page and check out these great photos from SPARK 2019 to get ready. 

Discover How to Celebrate Giving Tuesday!

Two light-skinned hands holding a red heart against a dark grain wood backgroundLast year, Independent Futures hit our $20,000 #GivingTuesday donations goal for the first time! Thanks to your support, we are hoping to raise $25,000 on Tuesday, December 3 this year.

Thanksgiving week is packed with great opportunities to treat yourself these days. Starting with great meals and lots of family time, Thanksgiving kicks off a week of fun. Next, many of us enjoy Black Friday for the deals, and local shoppers celebrate Small Business Saturday. On Monday, we search the web for more deals, and then we can finally turn our attention to community on #GivingTuesday.

Wondering how to celebrate Giving Tuesday with all the holiday bustle happening? RSVP to our #GivingTuesday calendar event to receive a reminder to donate on December 3rd! 

How to Celebrate Giving Tuesday

On Tuesday, December 3rd, we are participating in #GivingTuesday through #ILGive. This is an initiative by Forefront to make Illinois one of the most generous states in the U.S. Donate to Center for Independent Futures on November 27th to show your support for Illinois nonprofits!

With your support, we know we can meet our goal of $25,000 on #GivingTuesday.

Bold word "Give" centered in photo near glasses and pencils. Plus, The Coleman Foundation will donate $175 for every gift of $175 or more! That means that if you donate $175, your gift is worth $350 for Center for Independent Futures. If you donate $500, your gift is worth $675! However, all gifts eligible for the matching dollars must be donated online.

Every dollar donated in honor of independent futures means we can continue to support individuals with disabilities and their full lives. Through #GivingTuesday, you help us create a future where individuals with disabilities have equitable access to the opportunities of a full life.

3 Reasons to Attend Brews & Bites

Did you get your tickets for our hot, new event? Early bird prices have flown by, but we still have room for you and all your friends at Brews & Bites! Read on for more reasons to attend Brews & Bites

Join us on a lovely Sunday afternoon for delicious bites and cool brews. On October 20 at the Evanston Art Center, learn how Center for Independent Futures and our participants help make Evanston an inclusive community for people with disabilities. 

Opportunities To Win For Independence

Thanks to generous donors and our wonderful community, there are many opportunities for guests at Brews & Bites to win while supporting people with disabilities in Evanston. These opportunities include 4 raffle baskets, 2 gift card trees, and a beer & wine pull. 

Seasonal, Unique Raffle Baskets

Instead of a silent auction, we are offering four fall & winter raffle baskets to keep you busy throughout the colder months coming. Tickets are $20 or 6 for $100, available for purchase at the event.

Want to have an exclusive dinner party with your closest friends or a few family members? One raffle basket includes a 3-course dinner for 8, prepared by local chefs Bonnie Dohogne and Chris Baer. The menu and date will be decided with the winner of this basket. An added bonus? You will also win a $50 gift card for some tasty desserts!

Picture may not reflect raffle item

You could also choose to throw your raffle tickets into the Kitchen Basket, featuring unique kitchen tools, cookbooks, and a brand new KitchenAid mixer. This $600 value could be all yours for holiday baking and more.

Your third raffle option is the Christmas Bar Basket. This $500+ value includes all the tools you need to make your favorite Christmas drinks, plus the alcohol and garnishes for the true classics of each great holiday party.

Finally, learn how to make your favorite brews at home! The last raffle basket option is the Home Brew Kit. You could win your very own “Best Brew Award” at home by wowing your friends and family with unique beer creations. 

Life Skills Gift Card Tree

Once you have entered your raffle tickets, what’s next? 

Check out our *two* gift card trees this year! For either $25 or $50, you will take home a gift card guaranteed to be at least equal to the amount you spent. The gift cards come from a wide range of local and chain businesses. They range from nights out for dinner to home stores to health and wellness activities.

This year, the gift card tree will represent our Full Life Model. The model guides our work as tutors support participants in learning the life skills necessary to live independently. The 8 circles represent areas of a full life, which the leaves of the gift card trees will also represent. 

Local Support From Evanston Community

Brews & Bites is being supported by many local favorites! The event will feature 14 restaurants, 6 bakeries, and 10 breweries. Whether you wake up on October 20th feeling like having sushi, pizza, lasagna, or taquitos, Brews & Bites has you covered. Check out our partners for Brews & Bites

This year there are two ticket levels: regular adult tickets & young adult tickets. The difference between these two are the number of drink tickets allotted and pricing. While adult ticket purchases come with 9 drink tickets, the young adult tickets receive 3. 

In addition to drink tickets, attendees will receive the chance to vote in our 1st ever Best Brew Award, unlimited access to all food vendors, and a commemorative tasting glass. 

Sound like fun? Purchase your tickets today! All of us at Independent Futures can’t wait to see you there.

Would You Run A Marathon?

Leading up to the 2019 Chicago Marathon, what do you think Team CIF’s first timers and seasoned runners have in common? 

It’s not the long training hours or researching tips for pre-race nutrition. It’s not avoiding injuries or even a passion for running. While these things are all important for marathon runners, the thing our team has in common is even bigger. 

The team is linked by a common desire to support individuals with disabilities living independently and building the lives they want.

Fundraising For Independent Futures

Every member of Team CIF is responsible for raising at least $1,250 as part of being on a Chicago Marathon charity team. Each member does this in their own way: some reach out to coworkers and family, some host events at supporting restaurants, and some host contests among their friends.

Why do these runners commit to raising so much money to support Independent Futures? Why run a marathon at all? Because of the impact our programs have on the lives of our participants.

Over the course of the 17 years that Independent Futures has supported individuals with disabilities, our tutors have taught hundreds of distinct life skills to help participants live independently. Our New Futures Initiative, a housing training workshop, has helped 200 individuals move into the community of their choice. Our Change Champions programs have built inclusion into the fabric of community places, like the library and YMCA.

The members of Team CIF are training hard and raising over a thousand dollars each because we are leaders in helping individuals with disabilities achieve their dreams. But the team and our community need your help.

What Can You Do To Help? 

Participants make signs in support of Chicago Marathon team runnersAfter reading about some of our amazing team members, you may find yourself thinking, “I want to get involved! But how?” Luckily, there are many ways you can support the team! 

First and foremost, the best way to help the team is to donate! Visit the team’s Crowdrise page to check out the team. Then you can donate to an individual runner, or you can donate to the team as a whole. Unable to donate right now? Try sharing the Crowdrise page on social media and asking your network to support independence for individuals with disabilities too.

Next, you can send words of encouragement to the team coordinator, Connor. She will pass along every bit of positivity you have for the team!

Finally, join us at the Charity Block Party on Sunday, October 13! From about 7:00 am – 1:00 pm, Independent Futures participants, staff, volunteers, and family of the team will be cheering on runners at mile 13. Look for us underneath our tent in case of rain! You can RSVP on Facebook.

Not ready to get involved this year but feeling inspired? You can also email Connor if you are interested in running for the 2020 Chicago Marathon. Looking for more reasons on why to run a marathon? Team members receive running support and help fundraising, plus free tickets to our fall fundraiser Brews & Bites and more. Start getting involved today! 

Buy Tickets To Brews & Bites Today

At Independent Futures, we are delighted to announce that Brews & Bites will be taking the place of our annual Something’s Cooking fundraiser. On October 20th, join us at Evanston Art Center from 3:00 – 6:00 for a great time! Read more to find out what’s new in 2019, the cost of tickets, and who you’ll find at Brews & Bites.

What’s New in 2019?

While we hope the community enjoyed attending Something’s Cooking for the past 15 years, we decided it was time for some exciting changes – starting with its name. This new, updated event is now Brews & Bites, a community gathering of Evanston’s favorite local restaurants with one more big addition.

Brews & Bites will also feature local Chicagoland breweries. Each participating brewery is donating tastings of their favorite fall beers! We will be joined by 9 local breweries including: Adams Street Brewery, Kings & Convicts, Ravinia Beer Company, Revolution Beer, Sketchbook Brewing, Smylie Bros., Temperance Beer Co., The Lagunitas Brewing Co, and Ten Ninety.

The tasting portion of Brews & Bites is possible largely thanks to Byline Bank. Thanks to Byline Bank, we are able to expand Something’s Cooking into an even more engaging community event celebrating Evanston’s vibrant food scene.

How To Get Your Tickets to Brews & Bites

We are offering an early bird price for limited duration of 3 weeks this year. From now until October 6th, the early bird adult tickets will be $60. Adult tickets will then be $75 until the day before Brews & Bites. Day-of tickets purchased at the door will be $85.

For students and young adults under 26, tickets will be $30. Children 10 and under may attend free of charge. 

Go to this link to purchase your tickets today.

Brews & Bites: Looking to the Future

As Independent Futures looks toward this organization’s own future, we are exploring ways to stay true to our mission while updating our work for the new decade. Brews & Bites is one of the first steps we are taking to move into the future, successfully supporting as many individuals as we can. 

Save the Date: Brews and Bites

Our favorite fall activity is just around the corner! On Sunday, October 20th, join us at Evanston Art Center from 3:00-6:00 pm for Brews and Bites (formerly Something’s Cooking).  North Shore’s favorite local restaurants, bakeries, and breweries will join us for a tasty evening with delightful treats! Mark your calendars today to guarantee you won’t miss out on this fun fall favorite!

We are looking forward to signature dishes available to sample, giving us all a taste of Chicago and the North Shore’s best offerings. From pasta to pizza and tacos to cupcakes, a ticket to Brews and Bites provides you with the opportunity to find new favorites! Plus, don’t miss the event’s new themed raffle baskets for the chance to place the winning bid on excellent items.

This Year: Student & Young Professional Tickets

For 3 weeks, ticket prices remain the same as last year at $60 per ticket for adults. This early bird price will become $75 after the 3 weeks are up until the Friday before the event. Tickets at the door will be $85 – so buy early!

However, new in 2019, Independent Futures is offering reduced ticket prices for students and young professionals (under 26) at $30 per ticket. Children 10 and under receive free entry.

All adults will be required to show an ID when checking in at Brews and Bites this year, so don’t leave it at home! We will announce tickets are on sale on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as soon as we can.

New Chances to Win

In the past, Brews and Bites featured a wine pull and a silent auction. This year, we want to make it possible for more guests to win!

Keep an eye out for the beer and wine pull, as well as two gift card trees. The gift card trees are always a surprise – you never know whether you will win a $25 gift card to Target or a gift card for $50 to local restaurants like Five & Dime.

Instead of a silent auction, this year there will be four themed raffle baskets available to win! Watch for more news about Brews and Bites to learn more.

How Can You Volunteer?

Want to help us prepare at this fun event? Volunteers help us plan and run the event while taking part in all the fun! To learn more about available volunteer opportunities, contact Jamie Annenberg by email or call the office at (847) 328-2044. We are also seeking community businesses to support our silent auction. Contact Niki Moe or call the office number to learn more about this business opportunity.

Something's Cooking attendees smiling in front of barAs always, all funds raised at Brews and Bites will go toward continuing to support our vision of a future where all people have access to the opportunities of a full, independent life. Watch for more blogs about Brews and Bites to learn about our featured partners, restaurants at the event, and the link to buy tickets online!

Running For Freedom and Independence: 2019 Chicago Marathon Team

During Matt Koss’ first marathon, the morning was wet and gray. As he stretched at the starting line, he had one goal in mind: finishing the Chicago Marathon in under four hours. Matt didn’t quite hit that mark last year, but he is back for the 2019 Chicago Marathon to try again, this time as part of Team CIF.

This year, Matt’s goals are a little different. While aiming to complete the 26.2 mile course in under four hours, Matt is also hoping to raise more than $1,500 to benefit Center for Independent Futures. 

Joining a Chicago Marathon Team

Matt became one of the first members of this year’s Chicago Marathon team, ready to hit the pavement training. However, he hasn’t always been a natural runner. Matt picked up running as motivation to quit smoking, registering for a 5K to help him remain focused. After finishing the 5K, Matt signed up for a half marathon and, finally, the 2018 Chicago Marathon.

Marathon runners at the start of the Bank of American Chicago Marathon race.

Training for the Chicago Marathon typically begins in June, and most runners follow strict training plans to hit their goals. With family and friends cheering him on throughout training and racing, Matt is ready to get started training and fundraising.  

Why Matt is Running for Independent Futures

Matt’s motivation in raising money for Independent Futures is personal. His uncle, Patrick Fox, was a participant at Independent Futures for 5 years. After Matt’s grandma died, Patrick moved and stayed with family until they finally found Independent Futures. After beginning to use our services, Patrick found stable housing and fulfilling employment at Jewel Osco. 

My uncle has always wanted the freedom to decide where he could go and when,” Matt explains. “After working with his tutors, Patrick’s quality of life improved. He was happy living on his own and becoming part of a community.” 

Image of Lee Street Beach, blue water and sky in background, tan sand in foreground.

Since passing away in 2016, Patrick has been greatly missed by the Independent Futures community. This summer, activities participants who sign up for the August session of Afternoon at the Beach will have the opportunity to honor Patrick’s memory at his favorite Lee Street Beach. 

How You Can Support Matt

You can help Matt honor his uncle’s memory by donating to Matt’s Chicago Marathon Crowdrise page. Every donation you make to the marathon team supports full lives for individuals with disabilities like Patrick. 

Thinking of Patrick’s experience, Matt says, “A lot of people with disabilities who want independence can’t have it in their current situations. I’m supporting Center for Independent Futures because it makes a big difference in the quality of life for people like my uncle.”

Success Stories

tue27oct1:00 pm2:00 pmSocial Hour

tue27oct2:15 pm4:00 pmAnime Club

tue27oct5:15 pm6:00 pmMeditation

wed28oct4:00 pm5:00 pmYoga

wed28oct5:00 pm6:00 pmBook Club

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