Helping Families No Matter What: The North Suburban YMCA Strong Kids Fundraiser Goes Virtual This Year

This year, the NSYMCA’s 14th Annual Ken & Alta Thiel’s Strong Kids Fundraising event went virtual due to continuing Covid-19 concerns; however, that did not deter their enthusiasm and spirit. The 6-day event hit totals that matched previous years, and because it was done virtually, they were also able to engage many new Y supporters.

“We are so grateful for the way the community participated in this fundraiser,” said Kathy Fielding, NSYMCA CEO. “The Annual Strong Kids Dinner is always our most important single source of fundraising, and taking it virtual was going into uncharted territory. Though we did better than expected on this virtual approach, our Y still needs support more than ever. Our efforts to keep the doors open remain strong this year with more planned events so we can continue to provide the programs and services our community needs now more than ever.”

The event also featured a a special “Gift Basket” pick-up table. Pictured here is a basket pick up with Henry Fetta from Hunger Free Northbrook and Jerry Nolan, Y Board Member and Volunteer.

Because of the pandemic, the Y’s leadership had to figure out how to pivot to an online model that would be equally as engaging for attendees. The event featured an online auction hosted by Ron Bernardi, which brought in over $35,000. Attendees were also able to participate in a Zoom painting and wine party, mixology and cooking seminars sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Francesca’s North, and a virtual trivia game.  With the help of the auction and “Fund the Need” videos, which featured folks the Y has helped in the past, they raised twice the amount in scholarship funds as originally anticipated.

Zoom painting party attendees! Seen here is Johanna Benavides and her daughter Talia with their finished artwork.

Throughout the week, members and attendees also honored two incredibly important people to the Y: Alta Theil, a founder of the Y and who recently passed away and recently retired NSYMCA CEO and President Howard Schultz, who stepped down in April after 13 1⁄2 years. Schultz was awarded the Thiel Award for Social Responsibility and was recognized in a testimonial video featuring a wide variety of Y community friends. The Thiel Award and Scholarship fund are both named after founders Alta Thiel and her husband, Ken.

The Ken & Alta Thiel Strong Kids Scholarship Fund has provided critical funding that enables the Y to keep its life-changing programs and services available to all, regardless of their ability to pay. One out of five individuals at the Y receive financial assistance through the Strong Kids Fund. This allows children and their families to participate in after-school programs, summer camp, life-saving swim lessons, older adult services and other wellness activities. More information about becoming a donor can be found here.

Proud sponsors of the Strong Kids Virtual Fundraiser include Wintrust Community Banks, Northwestern Medicine, Illinois Bone & Joint, First Bank of Highland Park, Waterway Carwash, FGK Services, Pioneer Press, 94.7 WLS-FM, Covenant Living Northbrook, Align Wellness, and more.

Missed the event? You can view it here!

About the North Suburban YMCA

The North Suburban YMCA services Northbrook and 14 surrounding communities with programs and tools that help its residents become healthier, more connected, and confident, ensuring that everyone, regardless of age, income, or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive. The NSYMCA focuses on Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility and is a 501(c)3 charitable organization, inclusive and welcoming to all in our community. Learn more at

To learn more about ways to support the YMCA, contact Kim Nyren, Director of Community Investment,

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