Better Makers: Breakthrough’s Annual Benefit Raises $900K to Build Opportunities in Garfield Park

Nearly 300 guests gathered at Walden for Breakthrough’s 2022 Annual Benefit on October 20 to celebrate the organization’s 30th anniversary. The event raised more than $900,000 for Breakthrough’s programming and resources. 

The mission of Breakthrough — a 2022 Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award Winner — is to develop a safe and stable community within Garfield Park and the West Side of Chicago. This hyper-local organization provides residents with programs for youth development, economic opportunities, housing, health and wellness, violence prevention and spiritual formation. Guests started the event browsing Walden’s second-floor gallery, where they discovered the impact of the Garfield Park-based organization through beautiful displays and conversations with staff before venturing to the first floor for a meal.

The photo gallery on the second floor | Photo by Lindsey Tollefson

The 2022 Annual Benefit was the first in-person benefit in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The room was filled with almost 300 guests and hundreds of others tuned in virtually across the country. Throughout the night, community leaders and Breakthrough staff inspired guests as they shared the joy in their work.

One of those to share his journey with Breakthrough and highlight the life-changing work of the organization was DeAngelo Johnson, the Associate Director of Sports and Fitness at Breakthrough. Johnson was mentored in the youth program at Breakthrough and, with the support he gained from this program, uses tools he developed in the program to inspire his community. Stories like Johnson’s reminded guests of the joy of Breakthrough’s work responding to challenges in Garfield Park and partnering with people to build connections, develop skills and open doors of opportunity.

DeAngelo Johnson, Associate Director of Sports & Fitness (left); Davetta Johnson (middle); Delaney Jackson (middle); and Lisa Gwin, Chief Program Officer of Breakthrough’s Youth Network (right) | Photo by Lindsey Tollefson

During intermission, Shermann “Dilla” Thomas, a Chicago historian, emphasized the beauty of the city and ended with his signature phrase, “Everything dope in America comes from Chicago.” After stories from staff, guests heard from Breakthrough’s Executive Director Yolanda Fields who talked about the challenges faced in various Chicago neighborhoods and how to approach them. 

“The answer to our violence problem in inner cities begins with quality early learning programs, having a way to earn enough money for food and a place to live, safe community spaces to play and access to quality healthcare,” Fields said.

Executive Director, Yolanda Fields | Photo by Lindsey Tollefson

This event was made possible in part through Breakthrough’s generous sponsors, including the event’s presenting sponsor, KORE. Additional sponsors include the Make It Better Foundation, Munich RE, Tampico, TTX, Jenner & Block, GATX, KeHe, Deloitte, William Blair, BMO Harris Bank and Curion.

If you would like to support the work of Breakthrough as they celebrate 30 years of community partnership, you can make an online donation. Your donation continues to create opportunities for the Garfield Park community.

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Jessica Braun Gervais is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in health, wellness, and fitness. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from Columbia College and has written content for various health and wellness institutions. Jessica Braun’s passion for wellness comes from her life as an elite athlete competing in Muay Thai kickboxing competitions across the country. In addition to sharing her expertise through writing, Jessica Braun also works as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer. When she’s not writing or training, Jessica Braun enjoys reading historical fiction novels, discovering new coffee shops, and cuddling with her cattle dog, Brady.

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