UNICEF is committed to saving children’s lives, and while many of us have heard of the organization, we may be unaware how we can personally make a difference. Glencoe resident Wendy Serrino is the Chair of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s Midwest Regional Board of Directors. In addition to her work with UNICEF, Serrino is a volunteer for the North Shore Exchange and the Glencoe Family Partnership. As the former Director of Marketing at Kraft, it’s no surprise that Serrino knows what it takes to put together a successful event. Her skills, passion, and giant heart are why she is a pioneering force for the Midwest’s UNICEF division.
Twelve years ago, Serrino became interested in global poverty and how it affects children. Both Serrino and her husband, Frank, became UNICEF donors and began attending U.S. Fund for UNICEF functions to learn more. In 2007, a trip to Madagascar to see UNICEF’s work firsthand cemented her interest and dedication. Upon returning from her trip, Serrino joined the Midwest Regional Board.
“Both my family and I have benefited so much from the exposure to UNICEF,” explains Serrino. “I have personally been on four different field visits to see UNICEF’s work (Madagascar, Laos, Rwanda and Panama) and you can’t see the work without becoming an advocate for UNICEF and the work they do protecting and saving children’s lives. I have learned a tremendous amount about global poverty and disaster relief and those effects on children. I know the work I do educating people about UNICEF’s work and raising money directly helps to save children’s lives. I know I am contributing to the greater good for children with the work I do.”
One of the greatest benefits Serrino has experienced as a result of her involvement has been watching her own children become advocates for UNICEF and children in the developing world. She has also met countless inspiring people such as donors, board members and UNICEF employees that share Serrino’s interest and passion. “The people I meet and work with are all kindred spirits that care about the welfare and future of children globally,” she says.
Held each fall, the annual UNICEF Chicago Humanitarian Awards Luncheon honors the work of women who strive to better the lives of others. It was Serrino who initially created the event to honor women making a difference and to educate the public about the work UNICEF is doing in 190 countries. Each year, the number of attendees has grown, and this past fall, the luncheon raised $230,000.
In addition to the luncheon, UNICEF’s largest Midwest fundraiser is the yearly UNICEF Hope Gala, typically held in the spring. Just a few weeks ago, more than 400 guests gathered at Chicago’s Four Seasons Hotel for an incredible evening that included live music, a seated dinner, and an exciting raffle and silent auction. The event raised $1.2 million towards The Eliminate Project, which is working to erase maternal and neonatal tetanus, a disease that claims the life of a newborn every 11 minutes.
In addition to yearly functions, there are numerous ways to become involved, such as attending a speaker series or volunteering for a committee that helps put together a fundraising event. Serrino encourages becoming a donor to truly see the benefits of UNICEF’s work. Don’t forget about getting your kids involved! Children at the middle school age can participate in the Young Ambassadors program, while high school students can join UNICEF High School Clubs and college students can join UNICEF Campus Initiative Clubs. Young professionals should look into becoming a part of the Next Generation Steering Committee.
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