Supporters from 34 states and five countries raised $900,000 for Keshet—a Northbrook-based non-profit that provides services that keep children and adults with intellectual challenges active and engaged in their communities—without ever leaving home.
Instead of donning ball gowns and tuxedos, attendees put on their comfiest Zoom pants and powered on their computers to attend the virtual fundraiser “Raising Voices.”
The non-profit’s first virtual event in its nearly four decade history drew 1,200 attendees whose presence and donations expressed their support for Keshet’s mission of creating community where people of all abilities learn, play, work, live and grow together.
Keshet’s track record of helping people with disabilities learn and stay engaged is impressive. The non-profit has integrated students, campers, residents, and employees with disabilities into over 70 sites in the Chicago area and throughout the Midwest. Globally, Keshet has trained more than 15,000 staff members, providing the tools necessary for successful inclusion.
On a local level, Keshet has 100 lay leaders from all walks of life who provide inspiration, direction and funding to achieve the organization’s mission of doing whatever is necessary to allow individuals with disabilities to achieve their potential.
Even though attendees weren’t there in person, the fundraiser turned out to be one of the organization’s most successful events in its history.
Jamie Lake, chief development officer for Keshet, says it was heartbreaking to have to cancel their March 2020 benefit due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But they were determined to come back even stronger in 2021.
They wanted attendees to feel the same connections that they would at an in-person event.
“One of our goals with Raising Voices was to create a similar feel –warm, welcoming, and meaningful–with a virtual event as we do with our traditional in-person benefit,” Lake says.
In keeping with the theme of raising voices to support Keshet, the event featured a slate of musical entertainment that included Kodi Lee, winner of Season 14 of America’s Got Talent, the Chicago Children’s Choir, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, the Ravinia Ramblers Trio, pianist Luke Greenebaum and the Keshet Inclusive Choir.
“We made sure they (the Keshet Inclusive Choir) was featured in the event right from the beginning,” Lake says.
Because it was virtual, the organization reached a wider audience that it might otherwise.
“Raising Voices provided our community with an opportunity to come together through technology,” Lake says. “We were able to engage more people, share more success stories and provide additional entertainment with a virtual event.”
One of the couples at the benefit were Amy and Bob Greenebaum, who were honored for their decades-long support of Keshet.
Their son, Luke Greenebaum, has been involved with Keshet since he was in kindergarten and now, 25 years later, is in the organization’s adult program.
“The Greenebaums are passionate advocates for Keshet and for the disability community in Chicago,” Lake says. “Amy has been instrumental in setting up a group home and guiding other families through the process. Their deep commitment to philanthropy and community leadership are deserving of being recognized.”
Amy Greenebaum says she and her husband appreciate the ways Keshet supports their son and many others. Over the years, Luke has participated in numerous programs including day school, recreation programs, day and overnight camp, adult day programming and Special Olympics competitions.”
“Our son has been a part of the Keshet community since he was five and, as an adult, at 30, the bonds are as strong as ever,” Amy Greenebaum says.
She adds that Keshet is deserving of the support it receives from both individuals and corporations.
“Keshet has always been near and dear to our hearts,” Amy Greenebaum says. “Keshet continually shows an unwavering commitment to individuals with special needs throughout their lives.”
From its core programs for children and adults with intellectual challenges in the Chicago area, to its international consulting work, Keshet serves over 1,000 individuals with disabilities and touches the lives of many more family members, peers, supporters, and other stakeholders around the globe.
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Annemarie Mannion is a freelance writer and former reporter for the Chicago Tribune. She earned a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and a degree in English Literature from St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. She is especially passionate about covering nonprofits. Whether writing about work to reduce the harmful effects of bright lights on sea turtles or covering volunteers’ efforts to address the health care needs of children in Guatemala, she loves spreading the word about initiatives that have the potential to change the world for the better.