Bright Promises 2023 Awards

In-Person Event

Thursday, November 2, 2023, 6:00-9:00PM
Lacuna Lofts, Reverie Gallery

Digital Program

Bright Promises 2023 Awards

Thursday, November 2, 6:00p-9:00p
Lacuna Lofts, Reverie Gallery (2150 S. Canalport, Chicago, IL 60608)

About the Event:

Join us for the celebration of Bright Promises 2023 Awards event on Thursday, November 2 from 6:00pm-9:00pm.

During the 2023 Awards, Bright Promises will announce grants to 23 community organizations and present three awards to local changemakers. The event will also feature testimonials from our program participants and opportunities to interact with local youth leaders representing our grantee partners.  Best of all, 100% the funds raised during the 2023 Awards will go directly to high-quality in-school and after-school programs serving thousands of children and youth in Chicagoland.

The event attire is business casual. Individual tickets include open bar, heavy passed hors d'oeuvres, two food stations, and reserved seating during the speaking program. Upgraded Patron tickets include early check-in, premium seating during the speaking program, and underwrite one ticket for a community partner. Please note that a plated meal will not be served.

Getting There:

Lacuna Lofts is located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood just south and west of Chicago’s downtown. The venue is easily accessible by car and public transportation. 

There is free street parking on 21st St or Morgan St and paid metered parking on Canalport Ave. There is a parking lot on the north side of the building, located off 21st Street. To park in the lot, pull up to the gate, accept the rate and pull a ticket ($3/hour or $12/day).  

You can also access Lacuna Lofts via public transportation. The nearest public transportation includes the Midway Orange line station (approx. 0.7 miles), #8 Halsted bus (Halsted and Cullerton, approx. 0.3 miles), or #21 Cermak bus (Cermak and Morgan, 0.1 miles).

About the Venue:

Built in 1897 (just 28 years after Bright Promises founding), Lacuna Lofts was once the worldʼs largest macaroni factory. The 5 story, 250,000 sq. ft. space maintains much of the original charm as the building has been carefully restored using a variety of the original materials. Lacuna is also home to many talented Chicago artists and their one of a kind creations can be found throughout building.


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

Imagine a future where youth voices are elevated and the often invisible struggles that children and youth face every day are proactively addressed.

With your support, Bright Promises is bringing greater awareness, understanding, and a deeper investment to address the core issues that keep children and youth from reaching their full promise and potential.

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


About the Honorees

Jessica Yavitz

2023 Champion for Children Award

The Champion for Children Award recognizes a civic or community leader who has shown exceptional dedication to helping at-risk children and youth in Metropolitan Chicago.

Jessica Yavitz is passionate about effecting change. Under her leadership, the Chicago Fire Foundation (CFF), the charitable arm of the Chicago Fire Football Club, has made significant contributions to at-risk youth in underserved areas in Chicago. Her ability to adjust to the needs of the community and find practical solutions to complex problems of Chicago inspires others.    

In 2013, Jessica established the Foundation’s internationally recognized proprietary P.L.A.Y.S. (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth, Soccer) Program, tying soccer and Social and Emotional learning (SEL) to help improve academics. Since then, more than 250,000 hours of soccer has been played by more than 4,000 youth across 50 Chicago Public Schools in the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.  

To Yavitz, it is imperative for the Chicago Fire Foundation to be at the forefront of impactful initiatives, helping to bring safer communities and programming to so many across the city. Yavitz’s professional commitment to make permanent improvements and contributions to the welfare of low-income and at-risk youth throughout Chicago is second to none. Giving back is part of her DNA and Chicago is a better place because of her commitment to making a difference.  

Maria Woltjen

2023 Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes 15+ years of outstanding contributions in a child-welfare profession.

Maria Woltjen founded the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights in 2004 to advocate for the rights and best interests of unaccompanied and separated immigrant children facing deportation. At the time, there was no Child Advocate for children in immigration proceedings. Without guaranteed access to counsel to represent their wishes and no one to fight for their best interests, children often faced the byzantine immigration system all by themselves.  

From the start, her work wasn’t limited to individual cases but to changing federal policy. She worked with Congress to enact a provision in an anti-trafficking law that allows for the official appointment of Child Advocates to the most vulnerable immigrant children. That 2008 law helped change the way our immigration system treats children seeking safety. In 2013, Congress recognized the transformative role of Child Advocates and expanded the program to serve far more unaccompanied and separated children thrown into government custody and into adversarial court proceedings.  

Today the Young Center is a national organization with nearly 80 staff members in 8 offices across the country. Her organization has protected the rights and best interests of thousands of unaccompanied and separated children from more than 80 countries across the world.

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.

Denzel Burke and Destine Phillips

2023 Elevating Youth Voices Award

The Elevating Youth Voices Award recognizes an early to mid-career professional who is dedicated to empowering and amplifying the voices of Chicago youth leaders. The Elevating Youth Voices Award is accompanied by an honorarium of $5,000.

Denzel Burke is a community builder, facilitator, and organizer. Destine Phillips is a Chicago native, activist and entrepreneur. Together, they are the Founders and Directors of REAL Youth Initiative, a program which develops revolutionary consciousness and community among currently and formerly incarcerated youth to work towards the abolition of prisons and the conditions that (re)produce them.  

The duo founded R.E.A.L Youth Initiative in August of 2021. With the R.E.A.L Youth Initiative, they hope to take their lived experiences and create positive change among incarcerated youth. When they were serving their time, they needed genuine acceptance of their true selves. In addition, they needed attainable role models to inspire hope for their future, connections to people and ideas, and outlets outside of their detention walls to help create a safe space to envision their future and goals. They feel fortunate to now have access to these resources. With their commitment to R.E.A.L, they recognize that imprisoned youth are in dire need of similar opportunities. And with this reversal of roles, they hope to change the course of the future for other youth, as it has for them.

2023 Awards Selection Committee

The 2023 Awards recipients were selected through a competitive public nomination process and chosen to receive this distinction by the 2023 Awards Selection Committee.Bright Promises Foundation offers our sincere gratitude and appreciation for the 2023 Awards Selection Committee, an outstanding group of experts and leaders from across the field of children and family services.

Thank you to:

Tony Alvarado Rivera, Chicago Freedom School
Nick Bruce, Wintrust
Jahmal Cole, My Block, My Hood, My City
Mark Anthony Florido, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation
Leslie Helmcamp, Strengthening Chicago's Youth at Lurie Children's Hospital
Devon VanHouten Maldanado, SkyART
Agnes Meneses, AGMeneses Consulting
Nannette Zander, Azteca Foods Inc.

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.


(In Formation, as of 10/05)

Sponsorship opportunities available. Learn more about 2023 Sponsorship Opportunities


Azteca Foods Inc. logo
Azteca Foods Inc.


Gaylord and William Gieseke

Clive and Wanji Walcott

Nannette and Jim Zander


Prue and Frank Beidler

Randall D. Hardy

Donna LaPietra and William Kurtis

Wilson-Gonthier Family Fund


Ron and Queta Bauer

Scott and Emily Bishop

Ryan A. Biller

Andreason L Brown and Robert J Browne III

Comcast NBC Universal

Neelamjit Kaur Dhaliwal

Jay and Bari Rosenbloom

Keith Sanders

Nancy Snyder


Dean A. Benson

Nick Bruce

Debbie Frisch

The Gaur Family

Maricela Garcia

Linda Gilkerson and Don Lamb

Ron Manderschied

Jason and Deborah Neirman

Sendhil Revuluri and Venu Gupta

Shari Runner

Host Committee

2023 Awards Co-Chairs

Queta Rodriguez Baer*
Keith Sanders*

2023 Awards Host Committee
Paul and Peggy Bodine
Vern Broders
Andrea Durbin
Ric Estrada
Sunny Fischer
Elizabeth Foster
Debbie Frisch
Linda Gilkerson
Francia Harrington
Norman Linvingston Kerr
Cathy Krieger
Iris Krieg
Donna LaPietra*
Ron Manderschied
Xavier Mc-Elrath Bey
Mark McKinley
Jerome Stermer
Kim Van Horn
Clive and Wanji Walcott*
Carole Wood*

*Indicates members of the 2023 Awards Planning Committee

Contact us

For more information, please contact Katherine Dreher Korey at or 312-550-2775.