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

October 25, 2019

On October 15, more than 200 community, business, and philanthropic leaders gathered beneath the twinkling Tiffany glass dome at the Chicago Cultural Center, Bright Promises Foundation celebrated 150 years of serving Chicago’s children and youth at the 150th Anniversary Awards. 

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, in addition to raising funds to support Bright Promises Foundation’s innovative child-serving initiatives, including the Social Emotional Learning at Home initiative and the EQUIP: Early Childhood Education Improvement Program.

(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. Iris 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.

The highlight of the evening was the performances by teens from 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. 

These young people 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, and by the end of the program, every person was on their feet cheering and applauding for these outstanding youth. 

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.

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, Bon Brise Design), Francia Harrington (Executive Leadership, Fifth Third Bank), Vern Broders (Director of Finance at Oral Health America) and Mark Murray (Vice President, Field Foundation of Illinois).

“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, Founder and CEO of Better Susan Noyes, 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, William Blair), among many others.

Special thanks are offered to everyone who attended and supported this historic event, especially all of the 150th Anniversary Awards sponsors, including lead sponsors Azteca Foods Inc., Janet and Rodger Owen Trust, Bruce and Diana Rauner, William Blair, Gaylord and William Gieseke, and the Field Foundation of Illinois.

Couldn’t attend? You can still make your gift to create opportunities for Chicago kids in need. In partnership with media sponsor Better, your gift to Bright Promises Foundation will be matched up to $10,000. Donate today:

150th Anniversary Awards Photo Gallery

Additional images available at

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.

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 presented in 150 years.

2019 Champion for Children Award honoree Judith S. Block received a standing ovation after delivering inspiring remarks at the 150th Anniversary Awards.

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).

Audience members including Bright Promises Board President Gaylord Gieseke and past Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Nancy Ronquillo cheering for the youth presenters.

150th Anniversary Awards Co-Chairs Francia Harrington and Vern Broders

Youth Leaders from the Belmont Cragin Youth Council

Youth leaders from the Yollocalli Youth Council of the National Museum of Mexican Art

All photos by Stephen J. Serio Photography