Frank Sinatra sang in the background as chatter, laughter and good vibes filled the room at LARC's annual appreciation dinner Friday night.
I joined friends, clients and employees of the Lansing nonprofit organization, who all came together at Villa Cesare in Schererville to celebrate and appreciate a year of great accomplishments and contributions.
Around 300 guests attended the dinner, including Lansing Village President Norm Abbott and Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli.
The evening featured a special program of thanks, premiere silent auction, raffles and music. I volunteered to sell 50/50 raffle tickets and enjoyed wishing everyone good luck at the pot. There were also pick-a-prize raffles and a raffle where one family won a weeklong trip to Florida and $500 Visa gift card.
The theme for the evening was "Our Tree of Life" and the room was decked out in beautiful green uplighting by 219 Productions and earthy centerpieces on the tables donated by the Lauer and Gist families.
The green ad book and program featured an illustration of a tree and poem titled “Our Tree of Life.” The author and illustrator of the poem, Tanya and Dawn Pedersen, who are both related to LARC client Doreen, took turns reading it aloud during the dinner program.
The poem ended with the words, "Please show your support of LARC all year long, so that my tree can always stay strong."
Support for LARC, which provides developmentally disabled adults with an opportunity to work, live and participate in their community, was the priority of the night.
Raffles raised money, local Lions Club and Rotary chapters made their annual donations and year-round contributors received rounds of applause.
Three contributors who received special recognition were Ken Straka, Mike Higgins and Enric Mestre.
Straka, a longtime LARC supporter, was thanked for his help with construction projects and securing permits. Upon receiving his award, he said, "I try to treat everyone equally and with kindness ... I appreciate this very much. Thank you."
Higgins, of Higgins Construction, was also recognized and thanked for his generosity, support of LARC's mission and his construction skills, especially during the reconstruction of a new community integrated living arrangement for LARC clients.
Enric Mestre, of the Cook County Department of Planning, was also recognized for his contributions to LARC building projects. He said, "agencies like LARC make a difference ... it's nice to be appreciated."
Awards were presented to staff members and clients who have been a part of LARC for 10, 20 and 25 years. Forty-year client Earl also received recognition and a round of applause.