Hearts of Mercy
Have you ever wondered what Misericordia is when those legions of volunteers take to the streets for two days each spring to hand out candy in exchange for donations? Since 1921, Misericordia, which means “heart of mercy” in Latin, has been providing programs and services to children and adults with mild to profound developmental disabilities. Currently, 600 residents live in Misericordia housing, while many others participate in the organization’s daily work programs.
For the past 15 years, the West Suburban Women’s League of Misericordia has hosted an annual benefit to support Misericordia, earning in excess of $200,000 each year to support the organization’s important work. While the event format has changed over the years, last year’s event was so popular that benefit chairs are bringing it back on March 16 beginning at 7 p.m., just in time for March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day—with some fun additions like a performance by the NBA’s infamous dance team, the Luvabulls, and smartphone bidding that is sure to heat up the competition.
“We understand firsthand what it is to have a family member with special needs,” says Theresa McClear, co-chair along with Katy Lee and Gretchen McCarty. All three moms have children with special needs. Theresa’s 12-year-old daughter attends respite weekends at Misericordia several times a year, and Katy’s daughter has lived in a Misericordia residence in Chicago since she was 10.
“The Sisters of Mercy run Misericordia, but the residents, mostly adults, are from all races, religions, and economic backgrounds,” says Katy, who joined the Women’s League seven years ago when she moved to Hinsdale. “They are good about sharing your child, or adult child, after they move in, encouraging a lot of family involvement. And the program provides a wonderful, structured environment that has opened a lot of doors for our daughter.”
In lieu of black tie and expensive evening gowns, guests of March Madness are invited to wear their favorite team’s jersey while watching college playoffs on big screen TVs stationed throughout the Chicago Marriott Southwest in Burr Ridge. A music video DJ will provide entertainment while guests eat a mixed grill dinner, bid on live and silent auctions via their smartphones, and watch Irish dancers perform. A huge highlight will be the Chicago Bulls Luvabulls, who will perform and sell “squares.” Misericordia’s Hearts & Flour Bakery, a work program that provides fulfilling jobs for more than 45 adults with developmental disabilities, will sell baked goods such as St. Patrick’s Day baskets. The cork game wine auction promises a bottle of wine worth at least $30 for every $50 ticket, with the possibility of taking home a bottle worth much more! And, Misericordia “Masterpieces,” made by residents themselves, are always a hit.
“A big change this year is electronic registration and bidding,” says Gretchen. Guests will be able to bid on and monitor items on their smartphones throughout the evening. They can enter a bid range and are alerted when they’ve been “outbid” for an item, giving them the opportunity to up their bid. For those without smartphones, volunteers with iPads will circulate throughout the event to facilitate bidding.
Live auction items will range from a private dinner for 10 with Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville to a custom-built fire pit/landscaping package for the backyard, a one-week Orlando vacation with airfare, and Bulls box seats. Silent auction items will include tons of sports-related memorabilia and tickets.
This year’s event proceeds will benefit Misericordia’s new Personal Effectiveness Program (PEP), a behavioral program to help residents develop skills and behaviors needed to work out in the Katy, Gretchen, and Theresa agree that Misericordia is dedicated to providing an incredible life worth living, with dignity and respect, for these individuals. Why not be a part of the solution?
For tickets to March Madness, visit events.org/mismarchmadness. For questions or to register, contact Michelle Parsons at [email protected], or call 630-590-5754.
—Words by Elaine Doremus Slayton