Better Makers: Ditching the Black-Tie, Cradles to Crayons Works to Outfit 20,000 Chicago Kids With Winter Gear at 4th Annual Un-Gala

Engaging even the youngest of volunteers from age 2 to 82, Cradles to Crayons Chicago brought families and friends together to put aside formal wear for a fun, dress-down day of giving and celebration.

On Saturday, Nov. 16, more than 250 supporters joined Cradles to Crayons at its Giving Factory to roll up their sleeves and sort and pack everyday items such as hats, gloves, scarves, and clothing to bring warmth to Chicagoland kids experiencing poverty. The annual celebration is the nonprofit’s signature event. (Editor’s Note: Cradles to Crayons is a Judges’ Distinction award recipient and semifinalist for Make It Better Foundation’s 2019 Philanthropy Awards.)

By creating hundreds of customized packages of clothing, hygiene and basic items including books and toys, event attendees helped Cradles to Crayons ensure children from birth to age 12 experiencing poverty have the essentials they need to thrive at home, at school, and at play.

“When children don’t have quality clothing or shoes that fit, they struggle to feel safe, warm, ready to learn, and valued,” says Shoshana Buchholz-Miller, executive director of Cradles to Crayons Chicago. “Because of the hundreds of volunteers who took part this year’s Un-Gala, hundreds of local children will have what they need to get to and from school on cold days, as well as play outside during those snowy Chicago winters. We are so grateful for their support and generosity.”

The event was everything organizers hoped it would be, and more. Un-Gala proceeds support the nonprofits’ Gear Up for Winter Initiative, led by presenting sponsors Donna and Jack Greenberg. Through the initiative, Cradles to Crayons is on track to exceed its goal of reaching 20,000 local kids with warm winter essentials this season.

Cradles to Crayons Chicago Un-Gala — Jack and Donna Greenberg with Matt and Debbie Michaelson
Cradles to Crayons Chicago Board Chair Jack Greenberg (third on top row) and his wife Donna (right) served as presenting sponsors of the 4th Annual Un-Gala. Un-Gala is a family affair — the Greenbergs are joined here with Debbie and Matt Michaelson and four-year-old twins Mason and Mia, who were awarded the 2019 Donna & Jack Greenberg Extraordinary Service Award.

Nearly one in three Chicago kids — approximately 224,000 — live in poverty. In three short years, Cradles to Crayons has reached more than 200,000 children throughout the region. Greenberg, Cradles to Crayons Chicago board chair, chairman of the board of InnerWorkings, retired chairman of Western Union, and retired chairman and CEO of McDonald’s, attributes the Un-Gala’s success to its ability to engage families in its mission.

“The Giving Factory is a special place where you can volunteer with your children and grandchildren and teach them how they can make a difference, even at a young age, to meet the needs of their community,” Greenberg says. “The Un-Gala is our chance to come together as family and friends to demonstrate our empathy and commitment to Chicagoland kids experiencing poverty.”

Un-Gala Chair Doug Kush spoke about his commitment to providing necessities to Chicagoland children, and Debbie and Matt Michaelson were awarded the Donna & Jack Greenberg Extraordinary Service Award for their commitment to Cradles to Crayons, which began before it opened its doors in Chicagoland. Supporters shared a delicious, family-style meal thanks to Inspired Catering. Special guests from Disney’s “Frozen,” Elsa and Anna, and the Chicago Bears’ Staley Da Bear joined in the celebration.

For more Cradles to Crayons events or to donate, visit Cradles to Crayon’s Chicago’s website.

Cradles to Crayons Chicago team
The Cradles to Crayons Chicago team made sure Un-Gala was a great success. (Top row, left to right): Director of Operations Jaron Newton, Development Associate Julia Giordano, Community Engagement Associate Molly Dubow, Community Engagement Fellow Nick Anderson, Partner Relations Fellow Heriberto Gonzalez, Senior Manager of Corporate Relations Chelsea Morris, Operations Fellow Charlotte Bachmann-Weber; (middle row, left to right): Executive Assistant to National COO and Executive Director of Chicago Amy Monday, Corporate & Family Volunteer Coordinator Charlie Jungwirth, Cradles to Crayons National Chief Operating Officer Bernard Cherkasov, Marketing & Communications Associate Stephanie Held; (front row, left to right): Associate Director of Community Engagement Catherine McDonough, Partner Relations Manager Yaritza Sandoval, Community Engagement Associate Amanda Marks, Group Volunteer Coordinator Amy Meade, Operations Fellow Paula Hendreich, Cradles to Crayons Chicago Executive Director Shoshana Buchholz-Miller, Cradles to Crayons Founder & CEO Lynn Margherio
Cradles to Crayons Chicago Un-Gala: Primus family
Participants Tonya, Gregory, Gabrielle, and Grant Primus take a break from sorting clothes to take a fun family photo.
Cradles to Crayons Chicago Un-Gala volunteers
Participants flip through books to ensure quality before distributing them to local children lacking their own mini-libraries.
Cradles to Crayons Chicago 4th Annual Un-Gala
Cradles to Crayons Chicago Executive Director Shoshana Buchholz-Miller welcomes 250 attendees to the 4th Annual Un-Gala.
Cradles to Crayons Chicago — Belcher family
Gear Up for Winter sponsors Lisa and Eric Belcher with daughter Kyla after packing new art and school supplies in backpacks for local children. Lisa serves as Cradles to Crayons Chicago’s Family Advisory Council Chair.