Better Makers: Chicago Youth Inspire at Bright Promises Foundation’s 150th Anniversary Awards

Chicago’s first agency for the protection of vulnerable children celebrates 150th year of service by giving over the stage to the kids.

On Oct. 15, more than 200 community, business, and philanthropic leaders gathered beneath the twinkling Tiffany Glass dome at the Chicago Cultural Center to celebrate Bright Promises Foundation’s ongoing commitment to Chicago’s children and youth.

Bright Promises Foundation was the first organization to be chartered by the state of Illinois in 1869 for the care and protection of vulnerable children. Today the Foundation supports programs that benefit over 10,000 low-income children and families in Chicago each year.

The 150th Anniversary Awards honored philanthropic icon and lifelong advocate for children Judith S. Block, American Indian leader Dr. Dorene Wiese, and outstanding volunteers Peggy and Paul Bodine. The event also raised funds to support Bright Promises Foundation’s innovative child-serving initiatives, the Social Emotional Learning at Home initiative, and the EQUIP: Early Childhood Education Improvement Program.

Bright Promises Foundation 150th Anniversary Awards honorees
(Left to right) Gaylord Gieseke, Bright Promises Foundation Board President, with honorees Dr. Dorene Wiese, Paul Bodine, Judith S. Block, and Peggy Bodine.

The evening’s program opened with remarks by Iris Krieg, co-founder of the Chicago Foundation for Women and current executive director of Bright Promises Foundation. Krieg reflected on Bright Promises’ ability to adapt and change, remaining responsive to children’s needs when so many groups have come and gone.

“No one person or agency can create the change that is needed alone,” Krieg said. “We need each other, and tonight we are here to celebrate all of the people and organizations who are working side by side with us to help our children.”

Ed Davies, founder of the Power of Fathers at Children’s Home & Aid and chair of the Bright Promises Program and Advocacy Committee, then announced Bright Promises’ grants to 25 leading organizations serving children and youth in Metropolitan Chicago.

“Bright Promises Foundation is proud to partner with these organizations to help them make the changes they want and need to make, so that together we can put more Chicago children on the path to success, and keep them there,” Davies remarked.

Bright Promises Foundation's 150th Anniversary Awards

The highlight of the evening was performances by teens from the Arab American Action Network, Belmont Cragin Youth Council, Storycatchers Theater, True Star Media, and Yollocalli Youth Council of the National Museum of Mexican Art. Each of these youth-led organizations received a $10,000 grant as part of Bright Promises’ Elevating Youth Voices special anniversary initiative.

The teens bravely spoke their truth and inspired everyone in the room through their original poetry, songs, skits, and speeches. Guests were moved to both laughter and tears by the different performances. By the end of the program, every person was on their feet cheering and applauding for these outstanding youth.

“The youth performers and videos about the nonprofits they represent provided compelling proof of the impact and future transformational potential of Bright Promises Foundation,” Better founder Susan B. Noyes declared. “This makes Better even prouder to have been the media sponsor of this landmark gathering.”

Bright Promises Foundation True Star Media
Youth leaders from True Star Media will use their $10,000 Elevating Youth Voices grant to create a series of podcasts and short videos about coping with mental illness created for and by teens.
Bright Promises Foundation Arab American Action Network
Youth leaders from the Arab American Action Network will use their $10,000 Elevating Youth Voices grant to support the Story Collection Project, which describes the negative effects of racial profiling on Arab youth and their families.

The 150th Anniversary Awards event was co-chaired by Nancy Snyder, founder of Bon Brise Design; Francia Harrington, executive leadership at Fifth Third Bank; Vern Broders, director of finance at Oral Health America; and Mark Murray, vice president of Field Foundation of Illinois.

Bright Promises Foundation 150th Anniversary Awards co-chairs
“You will be helping to ensure a bright future for Chicago children today, and for generations to come!” Co-chair Nancy Nolden Snyder (front), with fellow co-chairs Mark Murray (back, left), Francia Harrington (back, center), and Vern Broders (back, right), encouraged guests to make their gift to Bright Promises Foundation.

The evening’s guests included notable philanthropists Prue and Frank Beidler, Chicago real estate power couple and longtime Bright Promises supporters Rodger and Janet Owen, past presidents of the Junior League of Chicago Delane Heldt and Allison Youngblood, and corporate leaders Gloria Castillo, CEO of Chicago United, and Mark McKinley, managing director at William Blair, among many others.

Lead sponsors for the event included Azteca Foods Inc., Janet and Rodger Owen Trust, Bruce and Diana Rauner, William Blair, Gaylord and William Gieseke, and the Field Foundation of Illinois.

If you were not able to attend the event, but still would like to make a donation to create opportunities for Chicago kids in need, you can do so online. In partnership with media sponsor Better, your gift to Bright Promises Foundation will be matched up to $10,000. Donate today at

“To date, this matching grant actually has raised over $15,000,” according to foundation leadership and Better. That’s great math.

150th Anniversary Awards Photo Gallery

Additional images available at

Bright Promises Foundation Dr. Dorene Wiese
American Indian leader Dr. Dorene Wiese was presented with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award for her commitment to preserving Native culture for future generations of American Indian children and advocating for Urban Indians, an often invisible population.
Bright Promises Foundation Peggy and Paul Bodine
Peggy and Paul Bodine were honored with the 2019 President’s Award, recognizing their outstanding volunteer leadership. This is only the second time this award has been presented in 150 years.
Bright Promises Foundation Judith S. Block
2019 Champion for Children Award honoree Judith S. Block received a standing ovation after delivering her speech.
Bright Promises Foundation Gaylord Gieseke, Judith S. Block, Iris J. Krieg
Gaylord Gieseke, Bright Promises Foundation Board President (left), Judith S. Block, 2019 Champion for Children Award honoree (center), and Iris J. Krieg, Bright Promises Foundation Executive Director (right).
Bright Promises Foundation Gaylord Gieseke and Nancy Ronquillo
Audience members including Bright Promises Board President Gaylord Gieseke and past Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Nancy Ronquillo cheering for the youth presenters.
Bright Promises Foundation Francia Harrington and Vern Broders
Co-chairs Francia Harrington and Vern Broders.
Bright Promises Foundation Belmont Cragin Youth Council
Youth Leaders from the Belmont Cragin Youth Council.
Bright Promises Foundation Yollocalli Youth Council of the National Museum of Mexican Art
Youth leaders from the Yollocalli Youth Council of the National Museum of Mexican Art.

Videos By $10,000 Grant Recipients

Arab American Action Network

Storycatchers Theater

True Star Media

Yollocalli Youth Council of the National Museum of Mexican Art

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