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HAMMOND — Northwest Indiana business leaders raised a glass to the Region's future leaders in "A Salute to Education" on Wednesday night at the Dynasty Banquet Center.

The fundraiser dinner was part of a new Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce initiative seeking to raise $100,000 for student scholarships and leadership training in honor of Northwest Indiana businessmen and education advocates Cal Bellamy and Frank Van Til.

"This night has nothing to with an individual," said Bellamy, who retired Wednesday from his role as a partner at Krieg DeVault, one of the event sponsors. "What we're interested in is a commitment to the future, to help our young people in East Chicago and Hammond be career ready and to be ready to lead into the future."

Bellamy credited Lakeshore Chamber Executive Director Dave Ryan who helped Bellamy and Van Til turn what was originally proposed as a retirement party into an opportunity to give back. The team originally floated ideas for the chamber to support either student scholarships or leadership opportunities, and it was Ryan who stepped in and said why not do both.

"As I went through my career, I noticed leaders," Bellamy said. "I noticed leaders, I watched what they did, saw how they analyzed situations and realized that leadership is a very important commodity to the success of any endeavor."

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The Lakeshore Chamber fundraiser, established in partnership with the Legacy Foundation, will benefit students in Hammond and East Chicago schools. Bellamy said he hopes with the foundation's support to send two East Chicago and two Hammond sophomores to Indianapolis for the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership program after which the students can return and share their new skills through community service activities.

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"The idea is to take people when they're still in the formative phases of their life and give them a push to start thinking about the responsibilities of leadership and how to accomplish being a leader," Bellamy said. "We think this gives kids in our urban core a chance to have all the advantages that they do in a more affluent community."

The chamber has already reached $76,000 of its $100,000 goal, Ryan announced Wednesday night. Bellamy said the nationwide leadership program was selected because of its affordability, effectiveness and proximity.

"Education is increasingly important and is rapidly changing today," said Van Til, who along with his wife Gladys Van Til, has been an advocate for education through their work with Highland Christian School. "It is important that we help our students grow with the best strategies and practices available today to continue to the workforce tomorrow."

The Lakeshore Chamber is still accepting donations for its Salute to Education fundraiser. Checks can made payable to the Legacy Foundation. For more information on the initiative, contact the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce at 219-931-1000.

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.