The annual Gala Benefit Evening hosted by Ravinia’s Women’s Board to support the festival and its Reach Teach Play education programs grossed more than $1.1 million, making it one of the most successful in the 53-year history of the event. Chicago’s own Oscar- and Grammy-winning Jennifer Hudson made her Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut, headlining the only concert fundraiser Ravinia puts on for itself.
George Hanson, who had served as an assistant to Leonard Bernstein, conducted the CSO for the July 14 concert. Nearly 800 guests attended the black-tie-optional gala, which proceeded with cocktails on Ravinia’s famous Lawn after the concert. A sumptuous three-course dinner catered by Food for Thought followed in an 80×220-foot tent decorated by Kehoe Designs.
The concert was also open to the general public and broadcast on a 48×56-foot LED video screen on Ravinia’s Lawn. Marilyn Vender of Glencoe, chairman of the Women’s Board, welcomed the dinner guests, thanked sponsors, and congratulated 2019 Gala Committee co-chairs Mary Alice Miller of Kenilworth and Kathy Paleczny of Glencoe. The Cocktail Reception Sponsor was BMO, represented in pre-dinner remarks by Executive Vice President and U.S. Chief Operating Officer Daniela O’Leary-Gill of Riverwoods, and toasted by Kauffman in a private VIP reception in Ravinia’s new rooftop bar, BMO Club. The Dinner Sponsor was Allstate Insurance Company, represented by its President of Emerging Businesses Don Civgin of Northfield. The concert was sponsored in memory of Keene H. Addington II. The Chairman of Ravinia’s Board of Trustees, Jennifer Steans of Chicago, thanked the Women’s Board for more than 50 years of dedication as the not-for-profit festival’s greatest financial supporter.