On Saturday, September 23, The Morton Arboretum welcomed more than 400 guests to the Growing Brilliantly Dinner Party in support of the institution’s tree collections, research, and education programs. Emceed by tree champions Bill Kurtis and Donna La Pietra, the Arboretum’s annual fundraising event raised a record $495,000 in funds that will allow the Arboretum to increase the impact of its tree-focused mission throughout the Chicago region and elsewhere in the world.
This year’s event served as the grand opening of the newly built complex known as South Farm, the work center for staff who care for the Arboretum’s plant collections, landscapes, and facilities. Guests, encouraged to wear work boots in a nod to the focus on horticulture and conservation, celebrated inside the two recently completed buildings, which were transformed for the evening with a rustic-chic theme. Dressed as grounds crew, Kurtis and La Pietra welcomed guests after driving in on a cart filled with plants and tools. President and CEO Dr. Gerard Donnelly recognized campaign supporters and thanked guests from inside the towering bucket of a truck used by arborists to ascend into tree canopies.
The event highlighted the Arboretum’s Growing Brilliantly campaign to raise $63 million over five years to fund key Arboretum initiatives. Campaign donors made possible the construction of a Curatorial and Operations Center and Vehicle Storage Building at South Farm, as well as other initiatives including the Center for Tree Science consortium of leading tree experts, New Plant Development Program, tree conservation programs, and enhancements to the Children’s Garden.
Many individuals, businesses and foundations generously supported the Dinner Party, including A. Marek Fine Jewelry of Oak Brook, the G. Carl Ball Family Foundation, and Charles and Monica McQuaid. The evening featured a drawing, with prizes including exquisite earrings donated by A. Marek Fine Jewelry, a dinner for 10 at the Arboretum courtesy of Limelight Catering, and a majestic tree at the Arboretum dedicated to someone of the winner’s choice. Guests enjoyed fare by Limelight Catering, decor by Phillip’s Flowers and Kristina Taheri Special Events, and music by the Steve Edwards Orchestra.
The 2017 Dinner Party Host Committee included Anna Caroline Ball of Glen Ellyn, Sterling Berry of Chicago, Susan and Christopher Burke of Naperville, Rose and Bob Fealy of Chicago, Vicki and Tom Featherstone of Downers Grove, Ann and John Grube of Hinsdale, Amy and Steve Louis of Hinsdale, Valencia Ray and Darrell Jackson of San Ramon, Calif., Oriana and Adam Van Someren of Naperville, Lynn and Bob Wasserman of Carol Stream, and Amy and Joe Weidenbach of Naperville.