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2017 Kane County Chronicle Best of the Fox

Marklund’s Top Hat Ball is a wild success

Published: Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 6:51 p.m. CDT
(Photos by Chris Guillen)
Rich and Becky Stewart of Elburn (parents of a client at Marklund) attend the 18th annual Marklund Top Hat Ball fundraising event Feb. 1 in downtown Chicago.

The 18th annual Marklund Top Hat Ball fundraising event, which took place Feb. 1, netted nearly $350,000 this year. The event took place at the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago Marriott in Chicago.

Marklund’s is a nonprofit organization that serves children and adults with profound developmental disabilities.

The theme of the event was “African Adventure,” which featured a small Geoffroy leopard cat in one corner, a zebra in another and a native-African-style dance performance commanding attention in the center of the ballroom. Many guests at the event complemented the theme by wearing animal-print fashions in all colors and styles, and enjoyed photo opportunities with a variety of real-life animals including an albino python, macaws, chinchillas and a desert fox.

“Everyone seemed to have a very enjoyable time at this year’s Top Hat Ball and amazed all of us with their generosity,” said Gilbert Fonger, president and CEO of Marklund, in a news release. “We are so grateful that they chose to take part in this, our largest fundraising event for the year, and help us achieve our mission to ‘make everyday life possible for individuals with development disabilities.’”

Among the close to 580 guests in attendance at the $350- per-plate event were Illinois Sen. Karen McConnaughay, Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke, several members of the Kane County Board, WGN-TV news anchor Steve Sanders, parents and guardians of Marklund clients, Marklund board members and staff, according to the release.

In addition to the live animals and native dancers, the theme flowed throughout the cocktail and dining areas with life-sized trees and animal sculptures, animal-like performance artists strolling through the crowds, an entire wall video displaying African scenery, and an African-inspired “Braai” barbecue.

Attendees took part in silent and live auctions, which featured an array of prizes including an Iwamanzi African Safari complete with hot air balloon tour.

During the dinner, Fonger presented the 2014 “Friend of the Year” award to brothers Jim and Bud Porter. The Porters, owners of Porter Pipe in Addison and residents of Roselle and Carol Stream respectively, have been involved with Marklund for nearly 20 years, taking on leadership and major sponsorship roles at the Marklund Golf Classic and the Top Hat Ball, according to the release.

Karen Golden of Naperville, a former chair for the Marklund Board of Directors, served as this year’s Top Hat Ball committee chair for the second year.

“This was a wonderful night,” she said in the release. “I would like to thank everyone who attended or supported this fantastic event and joined us on this important endeavor as we work to improve the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities and special health care needs.”

Next year’s Top Hat Ball will take place Jan. 31.

For information, visit the Marklund website at

About Marklund Founded in 1954, Marklund currently serves families at its three locations: Marklund at Mill Creek adult residential location and developmental training center in Geneva; the Marklund Children’s Home and Day School in Bloomingdale; and the Marklund Resale Store in Woodale.

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