The 2017 Annual Heart & Soul Gala was a dazzling evening of inspiration, food and friends! With the support of 224 guests and 35 volunteers, this year’s gala proved to be the most successful to date, raising more than $129,000! The proceeds from this event will make an immeasurable impact on the 4,400 children and families who receive services from Caritas Family Solutions throughout 42 counties in Southern Illinois.
Guest of Honor and Speaker Sarah Hartrum-Decareaux shared her message of hope and faith, with a passionate advocacy for our Counseling program. When Sarah lost her husband and two of her children in a hiking accident in 2013, she received counseling services at our Regional Office in Belleville, where she was coached on her journey back to an abundant life. After hearing her story, gala attendees donated $34,950 toward the Counseling Program and its continued outreach in our community. We are speechless in the face of this generosity and the courageous faith of Sarah Hartrum-Decareaux.
The evening honored special guests with the annual Heart & Soul Award. The Daughters of Isabella, a church-based organization in Troy, received the award for outstanding compassion in support of the children living at St. John Bosco Children’s Center. For years, members of the organization have sponsored parties for the children, provided necessities for their care and even prepared and delivered gifts to each child on their birthday, ensuring that each child feels the support of a community who recognizes them as special.
Barbara and Jim Calandro were also honored with the Heart & Soul Award in recognition of their selfless dedication to Caritas Family Solutions over the years. Barbara is a past Board Chair who led the agency through a major period of transition and growth, while Jim was instrumental to the creation of the tutoring program at St. John Bosco Children’s Center, where to this day, he volunteers several times per week. Their hard work has expanded the reach of the organization and helped countless children and families.
Other noteworthy moments from the evening included the excitement of auction bidding. The silent auction had hundreds of items including a Wayne Gretzy signed jersey, designer purses and activity packages, while the live auction featured a meet-and-greet with Cardinal’s Manager Mike Matheny prior to a luxury experience in the Owner’s Box. Raffle tickets were sold for a chance to win a choice of four different international locations; after all 75 tickets were sold, Jim and Mary Kelley were the winners! This year, a new raffle offered a variety of gift cards valued over $1,700; this prize went to Jim and Barbara Calandro! Thanks to the generous donations of our guests and sponsors, the auctions and raffles represented a huge win for all those in our community who are served by Caritas Family Solutions.
Chuck Mueller from Ameren Illinois headed the Gala committee, while Jill Wenzel served as Auction Chair, and Anne Muren was Decorations Chair. Special thanks to them for their hard work in creating a beautiful and successful event. Thanks also to John Pertzborn, who provided entertainment and wit as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, and to Dave Schumacher for leading us through the live auction.
A huge thank you goes to our incredible sponsors: Edward Jones, Dave and Jill Wenzel, Jim and Barbara Calandro, Gori Julian & Associates, P.C., Jim’s Formal Wear, Thompson Coburn LLP, Bank of Belleville, Gonzalez Companies, LLC, Sandy Haas and Paul Kersens, Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc., Mutual of America, Dr. and Mrs. George Paletta, Jr., Kevin and Debra Bastien, Brookside Agra, Commerce Bank, JF Electric, Vikas and Swathi Kaveti, JoAnn Pisel, Niraj and Megan Shah.