Award Dinners

It takes exceptional people to carry a child’s dreams, and here at Big Shoulders Fund we do our best to honor these very special people.

Humanitarian Award Dinner Honoring Josh Hale

Big Shoulders Fund

May 26. 2016

$12.5 Million

Humanitarian Award Dinner Honoring Monsignor Kenneth Velo

velo dinner 3

May 22, 2014

$10.6 Million

Big Shoulders Fund
25th Anniversary Celebration

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May 24, 2012

$6.25 Million

Humanitarian Award Dinner Honoring Rita and John Canning

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April 10, 2008

$1.6 Million

Big Shoulders Fund record-setting award dinners do not happen every year. Most recently, we raised $12.5 million at the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Humanitarian Award Dinner Honoring Monsignor Josh Hale, a record for the most funds raised by a Chicago nonprofit in a single night. All of the funds raised go towards scholarships, academic and enrichment programs, instructional equipment, much-needed school facility improvements, faculty support, operating grants, and more.


Humanitarian Award Dinner Honoring Josh Hale

Big Shoulders Fund

Big Shoulders Fund honors President and CEO Joshua Hale raising a record-breaking $12.5M para los niños. On May 26, 2016, nearly 1,100 guests gathered at the Hilton Chicago for a night unlike any other, complete with a custom hip-hop musical about the life of Josh Hale and the mission of the Big Shoulders Fund written and performed by the award-winning Q Brothers, as well as a special performance by Broadway’s Jenn Gambatese.

The event celebrated Josh Hale’s work over the past decade to ensure Big Shoulders Fun schools remain rooted in communities and accessible to Chicago’s families. Not only was it a night to remember for all who attended, but one that will truly impact the 77 schools and the 20,000 children Big Shoulders Fund supports The night was capped off by the announcement of a one million dollar matching gift from John and Rita Canning to launch the James J. O’Connor Scholarship Fund. Inspired by the gesture, many others joined in to build  the fund, most notably: Bruce and Beth White with a $1M gift, David Herro and Jay Franke with a $500,000 gift, and Jim and Danielle Hoeg with a $100,00 gift. Thank you to the Event Chairs, Steering Committee, and Arrangements Committee for all of their leadership in making the event so successful. Special appreciation goes to the Richard H. Driehaus for his significant contribution to help underwrite the evening’s program.


Humanitarian Award Dinner Honoring Monsignor Ken Velo

Big Shoulders Fund honored Monsignor Ken Velo on Thursday, May 22, 2014, with a special dinner at the Chicago Hilton. The evening celebrated Monsignor Velo’s help in the founding of the ongoing mission of the Big Shoulders Fund, to provide inner-city children access to a quality, values-based education, as well as his contributions to the lives of so many people in Chicago. The event welcomed 1,000 guests and was the most successful fundraising event in Chicago’s history with more than $10.6 million raised in a single night.

Guests viewed Impact, an infographic short produced by Chicago-based TeamWorks Media, which showed the breadth of Big Shoulders’ impact on the schools we support.

The event was chaired by Anna and Greg Brown, Rita and John Canning, Renée and Lester Crown, Mary Dempsey, Christina and Ron Gidwitz, Joanie and Andy McKenna, Ellen and Jim O’Connor, Anne and Chris Reyes, Jeanne and John Rowe, Shirley and Pat Ryan, Kimberly Querrey and Lou Simpson, Jackie and Glenn Tilton, and Beth and Bruce White. The arrangements committee included Elizbeth O’Connor Cole as chair, Anna Brown, Renée Crown, Jacky Ferro, Ellen O’Connor, Molly Perry, Shirley Ryan, Dia Weil, and Beth White.


25th Anniversary Celebration

award dinner 25th 003Big Shoulders celebrated its 25th anniversary on Thursday, May 24, 2012, with a special silver anniversary dinner at the Chicago Hilton. The event drew more than 950 distinguished guests and raised $6.25 million, making it one of the most successful fundraising events in Chicago history.

In addition to the money raised, 500 new iPads were donated for use in Big Shoulders Fund schools. Chicago-based TeamWorks Media created Invest in a Child, a documentary-style short that showed the day-to-day world of students and impact Big Shoulders has on their lives, and attendees were the first to view the film at the event.

The 25th Anniversary Celebration paid special tribute to champions and Founders including James W. Compton, Sr. Mary Brian Costello, R.S.M., Lester Crown, Ronald J. Gidwitz, William A. McIntosh, Founding Vice Chairman Andrew J. McKenna, Sr., Founding Chairman James J. O’Connor, Edmund A. Stephan (deceased), Barry F. Sullivan and Arthur R. Velasquez. As part of the event’s special recognition of the Founders, students from each of the Big Shoulders Fund schools served as an Honor Guard and former Chicago Bulls’ announcer Ray Clay gave each Founder a traditional Chicago Bulls introduction.

The event was chaired by Rita and John Canning. Host committee co-chairs were Greg Brown (Motorola Solutions, Inc.), Greg Case (Aon Foundation), Elizabeth and Michael Cole, Jacky and Michael Ferro (Sun-Times Foundation), Mark Furlong (BMO Harris Bank), David Herro and Jay Franke, Joanie and Andy McKenna, Ellen and Jim O’Connor, Mary and John Raitt, Kimberly Querrey and Lou Simpson, Glenn Tilton (JP Morgan Chase), Wendell Weeks (Corning Incorporated), and Beth and Bruce White. Benefit committee co-chairs were Elizabeth Cole, Renee Crown, Jacky Ferro, Ellen O’Connor, Dia Weil and Beth White, PNC, a longtime supporter of Big Shoulders Fund, was the title sponsor of the event, and wine was donated by Terlato Wines. The arrangements committee was Elizabeth Cole, Renée Crown, Jacky Ferro, Ellen O’Connor, Dia Weil, and Beth White.


Humanitarian Award Dinner Honoring Rita and John Canning

canning dinner 1More than 600 of Chicago’s business and civic leaders turned out to honor Rita and John Canning at the Big Shoulders Fund 2008 Humanitarian Awards Dinner, Thursday, April 10 at the Chicago Hilton.

The event raised more than $1.6M, the proceeds of which will benefit the more than 25,000 children attending the inner-city Catholic schools we support. Recognizing the numerous contributions the Cannings have made to improve access to quality values-based education in Chicago, Big Shoulders Fund co-chairman, James J. O’Connor presented the couple with the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Humanitarian Award.

The Cannings are currently the Patrons for Holy Angels School and they provide scholarships to more than 100 students in 15 Big Shoulders Fund schools. The event featured special guest speaker, Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig. Monsignor Kenneth Velo, president of Big Shoulders Fund, emceed the event lending his sense of humor to keep guests entertained, and premiering a video on the history and work of Big Shoulders Fund.  The estimable dinner committee created a wonderful evening to celebrate the tremendous generosity of Rita and John Canning.