After Alexian Brother Daniel McCormick’s invocation settled on the ears of 540 guests sipping wine alongside 67-million-year-old T.rex Sue and thousands of artifacts from the 1893 World’s Fair at the Chicago Field Museum the double entendre in the evening’s theme “Reaching New Heights” became clear.
The Alexian Brothers’ 28th Annual Ball de Fleur, “Reaching New Heights,” was held April 26 to celebrate and support the Alexian Brothers’ 800-year-history of helping others reach new heights through healthcare services, while also celebrating the turn-of-the-century fair that helped restore Chicago’s image as one of America’s greatest cities after the Great Fire left much of the city in ruins.
This year’s event achieved its fundraising height of $350,000, all 100 percent of which will directly benefit four programs in the Alexian Brothers Health System: The Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health in Arlington Heights, Housing and Health Alliance in Chicago and Waukegan, Women & Children’s Hospital in Hoffman Estates and Hospice Residence in Elk Grove Village.
A popular event, the Alexian Brothers annual Ball de Fleur has raised more than $6 million since the Foundation started hosting it about 27 years ago. McCormick says that the ministry, more than the event itself, is what attracts people.
“It’s not about what we preach as much as it is about the life that we lead,” McCormick, said before the event began.
It’s about serving the mentally ill, homeless, women and children, those with HIV/AIDS and those needing hospice care.
Attracting a large crowd to help achieve this mission wasn’t difficult, especially as the event offered guests the chance to peruse the Field Museum’s “Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair” exhibit.
Between mingling, dinner and dancing to the music of the Becca Kaufman Orchestra, guests explored some of the taxidermy displays that Carl Akeley created before the Field Museum hired him as its Chief Taxidermist; viewed a Peruvian mummy considered one of the fair’s most mysterious artifacts; and gazed at the meteorite that was kept chained in a dungeon because of the fear it caused.
Guests also had the rare privilege of receiving a special “thanks” for their support of the cause from none other than Daniel Burnham, director of works for turn-of-the-century fair.
Burnham, played by a gentleman sporting a walrus-style mustache, was joined by several other actors playing the parts of fair entertainers spinning plates on poles and tourists standing on the balconies of Stanley Field Hall with binoculars.
At the end of the night, guests took home a pack of Juicy Fruit gum and a box of Cracker Jack, both of which debuted at the 1893 Exposition.
Others, the auction winners, took home exclusive tickets to see the Chicago Bears play and an invitation to attend The Rabine Group’s pre-game tailgate party, trips to Costa Rica and Italy, and a pure-bred German Shepherd puppy.