West Cook YMCA

2016 West Cook YMCA Annual Gala Recap

2016 Gala - An Amazing Night of Community! Our annual Gala last Saturday evening was a truly spectacular event. 175 guests came together to "Rediscover Your Y" and support the work being done by the West Cook YMCA. The evening was emceed by Alfonso Gutiérrez, news anchor for Noticiero Telemundo Chicago. We were honored to have him join us for the evening. The program included several speakers. While it's impossible to summarize everything they said, we wanted you - our members - to share in some of the highlights.

  • Kristin Carlson Vogen is the President & CEO of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation and the 2016 recipient of the Scott Gaalaas Partnership Award. This recognition is named in honor of the West Cook Y's late CEO who was a champion of building strong relationships with community organizations. Kristin spoke of the several programs that the Foundation has supported at the Y, including case management for our residents, programs for hard-to-reach youth and scholarships for seniors. When the Women Leaders in Philanthropy cohort of the Foundation wanted to invest in the community, Kristin said that they knew they could count on the West Cook Y to make an impact with their funds. Thank you, Kristin and the Community Foundation for investing in your neighbors through investing in the Y!
  • Danielle Villari Swets is the Hospital Systems Manager at American Cancer Society and a cancer survivor. She shared her Y story that began with a diagnosis of a rare form of leukemia at age 15 and just a 30% chance of surviving. Danielle still receives help and hope through LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. She spoke of the respect she feels from the trainers and the support that comes from her group. She had additional surgery related to her cancer just a few weeks ago, and can't wait to get back to the supportive group of friends she has at the West Cook Y.
  • Our keynote speaker was Jorge Perez, Sr. Vice President of Programs and the Y Experience for YMCA of the USA in Chicago. Jorge reminded us of the experience many children have had of planting a bean in a cup, setting it on the windowsill and watching it grow. He compared the Y to that cup - the place where kids can come and grow. To flourish, they need relationships, a sense of belonging and achievements. Through the youth development programs at the West Cook Y, our community's children and teens are experiencing these essentials for growing up strong, healthy and able to thrive in our world today.
  • Our own president and CEO, Phillip Jiménez, emphasized the strength of the partnerships we have in the community. He acknowledged the health systems that were represented in the room - Westlake Healthcare, Rush Oak Park Hospital, Loyola Medicine and Riveredge Hospital - local businesses that had helped sponsor the Gala, the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, and every business and organization that is working together to help the West Cook YMCA impact the community. He emphasized that it's together that we are meeting the needs of the community. Phillip also spoke of a new program we're introducing, The Stress Management and Resiliency program which teaches self-care practices that help buffer daily stress, making participants less emotionally and physically vulnerable to those stresses.
    He also praised our new electronic health records system that means you can leave your doctor's exam room and walk right into the Y to enroll in an appropriate chronic disease management program. Your care no longer ends when you leave the medical office because we are partnering with doctors and health professionals to make sure you have the support you need for chronic diseases, health challenges and the effects of aging.

Of course, a key part of our Gala is to raise funds for scholarships through our Annual Support Campaign. We are so pleased to share that together the event raised more than $82,000 which is the most ever raised at our West Cook YMCA Gala. With 100% of the money going back into scholarships for Y memberships and programs, it was a wonderful evening for giving back to the community.

The Annual Gala was truly an event to celebrate the West Cook Y and what happens when great programs, committed community partners and vibrant members come together for Youth Development, for Healthy Living, and for Social Responsibility. Thank you to all our members who joined us at the Gala. And a special thanks to you for being a vital part of our West Cook Y family!