Better Makers: Union League Boys & Girls Clubs ‘Leaders in the Making’

The Union League Boys & Girls Clubs, a non-profit organization serving the after-school needs of over 15,000 youth from neighborhoods with the highest hardship index in Chicago, hosted its Leaders in the Making Gala on November 6, its 44th annual benefit at the Union League Club of Chicago. This black-tie gala honored the accomplishments of its young membership and raised funds for its continued youth development programs.

Principal Yashika Tippett-Eggleston of Air Force Academy High School, ULBGC’s newest in-school programming site

“Traditionally, the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs gala has been a celebration of those who stand by the clubs throughout the darkest of times, from its donors to its staff, with last year’s event honoring the individuals and corporations that assisted in distributing more than 250,000 meals and providing a safe space during COVID. This year, we highlighted those who bring the most meaning to the 102-year-old nonprofit—our 15,000 youth members,” says Gala Chairman, Union League Boys & Girls Clubs Trustee and rising philanthropist Celine Fitzgerald. “These bright and tenacious Chicago youth are truly the city’s ‘Leaders in the Making.’”

The in-person gala returned to the Union League Club of Chicago following a virtual version in 2020, attracting more than 300 guests and occupying three floors of the elegant private club. The evening began with cocktails where guests bid on a variety of creative offerings at a silent auction, as well as enjoy a performance by the Luminarts jazz duet. Dinner followed, including a speaking program recognizing the student leaders and the “Fund the Mission” paddle raise, culminating with an after party complete with deejay and desserts. 

Anastasia Hernandez, Club One Director, receiving 2021 Staff Inspirational Hero Award

For 102 years, Union League Boys & Girls Clubs have been at the forefront of youth development, serving the after-school development needs of Chicago’s youth. Founded in 1919 as a foundation of the Union League Clubs of Chicago, Union League Boys & Girls Clubs has grown to a distinct and effective organization that today provides quality programming centered on academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles to over 15,000 youth across Chicago.

The Union League Boys & Girls Clubs has 12 sites in the Chicago neighborhoods of Bucktown, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Pilsen, South Lawndale and West Town. This includes a collaborative program for justice-involved youth with the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center and a 247-acre residential summer camp in Wisconsin. This fall, seven new sites opened thanks to a generous five-year, $1.4 million annual grant from the national Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding organization.  

Gala Chair Celine Fitzgerald (2nd left), ULBGC President and CEO Mary Ann Mahon Huels (center), and The Fitzgerald Family Foundation’s Denise, Shannon, and Gerald Fitzgerald (l-r).

Each day, more than 2,000 youth enter one of its clubs, which offer programs such as homework help and tutoring, arts-focused instruction, sports and physical activity, STEM instruction and robotics, and critical mentorship to ensure the youth have the guidance to be successful in college and future careers. And, consistent with the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs mission to enable all youth to reach their full potential, each member receives a nutritious meal each day.

In addition to its club sites, the non-profit Union League Boys & Girls Clubs also serve court-detained youth assigned to Chicago’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Program and manages its own 247-acre summer camp in southern Wisconsin where club youth have a chance to enjoy supervised outdoor activities not easily accessible in an urban environment. 

Margaret Jahn (r) of the Gala Committee and Union League Boys & Girls Clubs Associate Board, Jake Wilkoff

Sponsors of the gala included The Fitzgerald Family Foundation, Bernardi Securities, BMO Harris Bank, James Gillespie, The Shade Family Foundation, Chioros Properties, Mary & Lionel Go, Lauren & Andrew Jones, Peak Construction, and Rothschild.

To learn more about the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs or to make a donation, visit their website.

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Ann Marie Scheidler is a freelance writer who lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and five children. She tends to be where her kids are, but if you can’t find her there, she’s proudly supporting Beacon Place as one of its newest board members. Beacon Place is a nonprofit organization that has changed the lives of 4,000 children and families in Waukegan. Their innovative programs take a whole child and family approach to education, enrichment and healthy lifestyles support.

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