GENEVA – Hotel Baker owner Rowena Salas said she was honored that celebrity Jenny McCarthy and singer/actor Donnie Wahlberg picked the St. Charles hotel as the setting for their wedding last year.
On Friday night, she was one of 150 guests at A Night of Hope, a benefit held at Oscar Swan Country Inn in Geneva to raise money for Generation Rescue, an organization designed to provide hope, information and immediate treatment assistance to families affected by autism spectrum disorders. Her son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism in 2005.
McCarthy is president of the organization, and Salas became a member of the board of directors earlier this year. McCarthy hosted Friday's event, which was sold-out.
"I have a nephew who was diagnosed with autism," said Salas, who owns the Hotel Baker in St. Charles with her husband, Joe. "It's very close to my heart because of my sister's journey. He's now 19 and doing well."
They co-chaired Friday's event with Karen and Ed French. The event also featured a live auction featuring such items as a New Kids On The Block signed guitar and a visit on the set of CBS' series "Blue Bloods" in New York City. Wahlberg is a member of New Kids On The Block and stars in "Blue Bloods."
McCarthy and her husband recently bought a house in St. Charles, according to the show "Donnie Loves Jenny."
Generation Rescue provides medical treatment grants to families in need, Generation Rescue Executive Director Candace McDonald said.
"They pay for doctor visits, lab testing, nutritional counseling and dietary supplements," McDonald said. "It helps them get over the obstacle of how expensive it is in the beginning to get treatment. We're here to help improve the quality of life for child and adults affected with autism."
On average, the organization supports 40,000 families a year, she said.
"The great thing about tonight's event and some of our other ones is that we put the money back into the community," McDonald said. "All the applicants who apply from Illinois get to the top of the list for the proceeds raised here tonight."
McCarthy has been a great help to in furthering Generation Rescue's mission, McDonald said.
"Autism wasn't a household word until she came out and spoke about it," McDonald said.
The second season of the A&E docu-series “Donnie Loves Jenny ” is underway. It deals with the couple’s move from New York City to St. Charles. “Donnie Loves Jenny ” follows McCarthy and Wahlberg from their wedding at Hotel Baker in St. Charles in August 2014 through their lives as newlyweds.
McCarthy was raised in the Chicago area. She had previously rented a house in Geneva.
This week's episode featured a scene of McCarthy and her son at the carnival during the Swedish Days festival in Geneva in June.
"They asked for permission to film," said Laura Rush, communications manager for the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the festival.
Rush wasn't at the festival during the filming. But she said her brother, Mike Landberg, who is from Minnesota, was at the carnival at the time of the filming.
"He texted me and asked what was going on," Rush said. "He saw her from a distance."
Rush said she was happy that businesses like Oscar Swan Country Inn are getting additional exposure because of McCarthy.