A hybrid in-person and virtual event celebrating
better lives and brighter futures for Chicago children and youth.

Tuesday, October 19


Bright Promises 2021 Awards - Better Lives, Brighter Futures

A HYBRID in-person and virtual celebration of the people and organizations who are creating better lives and brighter futures for Chicago children and youth.

Join us for the 2021 Awards, Bright Promises' signature fundraising event that plays an essential role in ensuring low-income and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) children and youth receive the support and access to programs they need to flourish and thrive.

Download the 2021 Awards digital program here.

HYBRID: In-Person & Virtual
Bright Promises will welcome up to 150 guests in person, while a virtual audience will tune in through a livestream. Whether participants join us virtually or in person, all will enjoy the program in its entirety.

During the 2021 Awards, Bright Promises will honor 4 inspirational changemakers who are dedicated to creating better lives and brighter futures for Chicago children and youth, and will present grants to 18 leading community organizations who are making a difference in the lives of thousands of young people across Metropolitan Chicago.

In Person:
Registration & Cocktail Reception
Awards Presentation and Speaking Program

Dessert & Networking

In-person Location:
The Dalcy, 302 N Green St, Chicago, IL 60607 | 3rd Floor

Livestream of Awards Presentation and Speaking Program

Download the Digital Program

Can't attend? Support at-risk Chicago children and youth with a gift.

Your gift is a crucial investment in the lives and futures of Chicago children and youth, ensuring that all young people, no matter their background, circumstance, or zip code, to have the opportunity to reach their full promise and potential. 

Your donation will help at-risk children and youth growing up in low-income households and communities impacted by poverty, gun violence, and systemic racism. These factors can have serious and long-lasting effects on children's physical and mental health, their ability to do well in school, and their future success as adults. These negative outcomes are not inevitable though; with your support, children can flourish and thrive.

100% of your donation will go to programs that support the social, emotional, and mental health of low-income and BIPOC children and youth.


About the Honorees

Xavier McElrath-Bey

2021 Champion for Children Award

Xavier McElrath-Bey fights to abolish “life without parole” for children in America through his work as the Co-Executive Director and National Advocate of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. Xavier is also a co-founder of the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network, which seeks to amplify the stories and voices of leaders who were incarcerated as youth. His passion for this work stems from personal experience. Xavier was convicted for a gang-related murder when he was 13 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. While in prison, Xavier developed remorse for his crime and committed himself to working for change on behalf of the victim. He was released after 13 years.

After his release, Xavier worked as a restorative justice practitioner in various positions that help keep children out of the criminal justice system. Today, Xavier continues to work­ with other people who were incarcerated as youth to help them engage more deeply and strategically in the movement for the fair sentencing and treatment of all children.

Brenda Myers Powell

2021 Lifetime Achievement Award

Brenda Myers Powell has been advocating for youth victims of human trafficking since 1997. Myers–Powell, a human trafficking survivor is the co-founder of The Dreamcatcher Foundation, a nonprofit which aims to fight human trafficking in the Chicago area. 

Chicago has been designated as 1 of 13 locations of “High Intensity Child Prostitution.” Nationally, half of all victims of human trafficking are under 18, and most are girls and women. Myers-Powell was a product of human trafficking at the age of 14 where she escaped an abusive home life and learned to navigate the streets of Chicago. Today, Myers-Powell educates on the perils of human trafficking and provides perspective for women and girls to reach new levels of accomplishments for their future.

Berto Aguayo

2021 Elevating Youth Voices Award

A lifelong Back of the Yards resident and a product of an immigrant family, Berto is a fierce voice against gun violence and a champion for immigrant rights. He’d always heard that to “make it” meant to “make it out of the hood.” To Berto, that didn’t sit right. He wanted to help bring his neighborhood the peace and resources its residents deserved. 

A former gang member, Berto Aguayo is now the co-founder and Executive Director of #IncreaseThePeace (#ITP), an organization that develops young leaders and promotes peace through community organizing and policy advocacy. Since its founding in 2016, #ITP reopened a community center, trained over 300 youth leaders in community organizing, organized dozens of actions to increase the peace, and has expanded its work to include violence prevention, youth development, food access, mutual aid, and multicultural unity.

The Elevating Youth Voices Awards is accompanied by a $5,000 honorarium to support Berto’s professional development.

Meade Palidofsky

2021 Bright Promises Foundation Visionary Award

Meade Palidofsky is an award-winning director, playwright, and lyricist who founded Storycatchers Theatre in 1984 and developed its trauma-informed creative youth development methodology. She created Storycatchers' signature program model for youth in the juvenile justice system, developing and implementing year-round residential and post-release programs that engage these marginalized young people through a trauma lens. Under her leadership, these programs empower justice-involved youth and prepare them to navigate court involvement and reentry successfully. 

For over 37 years, she has worked tirelessly to guide some of the most vulnerable young people in Illinois to realize their potential, and to envision and pursue productive futures. She has changed institutional cultures in secure facilities by engaging staff as stakeholders in the success of incarcerated teens. She has collaborated with aftercare to create a post-release employment model to help youth develop capacity for successful lives after prison. She has created critical partnerships within the justice system and throughout the community to establish a network of support. In May 2021, Palidofsky announced her plan to retire from Storycatchers.


Presenting Sponsors:

David and Susan Kreisman Foundation

Advocate Sponsors:

Helene and Aaron Paris

Ally Sponsors:

Gaylord and William Gieseke
Diana and Bruce Rauner

Believer Sponsors:

Scott and Emily Bishop

Comcast NBCUniversal Logo

Marilyn Eisenberg
Rich and Carolyn Excell
Bob and Barbara Finley

Sendhil Revuluri and Venu Gupta
Jay and Bari Rosenbloom
Nancy Snyder

Dreamer Sponsors:

Prudence and Frank Beidler
Andreason Brown
Linda Gilkerson and Don Lamb
The Foster Walsh Family

Mikva Rosenberg Charitable Fund
Jon Will and Mary Gugenheim

Supporter Sponsors:
Donald Dew
Sunny Fischer
Jill and Grant Peters
Baronica Roberson
Shari Runner
Jack Segal
Tim and Laura Walker

If you have questions about sponsoring the 2021 Awards please contact Katherine Korey at katherine.dreher@brightpromises.org or at 312-550-2775.

Host Committee

2021 Awards Co-Chair:
Sarah Duncan, Network for College Success
Michelle Morales, Woods Fund Chicago

2021 Awards Host Committee:
Prue Beidler
Paul and Peggy Bodine
Dr. Barbara Bowman, Erikson Institute
Vern Broders, Dream Source Solutions
Clare Butterfield, Christopher Family Foundation
Kathleen Cangemi, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois
Steven Casey, MacArthur Foundation
Gloria Castillo, We Rise Together, Chicago Community Trust
Jahmal Cole, My Block, My Hood, My City
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Finley
Elizabeth Foster, Kilkenny Capital Partners
Debbie Frisch, Hello Baby
Verneé Green, Mikva Challenge
Francia Harrington, The Margot and Tom Pritzker Family Foundation
Mariame Kaba, Project NIA
Helene and Aaron Paris
Leslie Ramyk, Conant Family Foundation
Mark Rosenberg, UBS Financial Services Inc.
Dr. Bradley Stolbach, Ph.D., The University of Chicago Department of Pediatrics
Kim Van Horn, Paul M. Angell Foundation
Allison Youngblood, ASY Enterprises

Contact us

For more information, please contact Katherine Dreher Korey at katherine.dreher@brightpromises.org or 312-550-2775.