St. Joseph students observe Red Ribbon Week in commitment to avoid drugs

Ruth Austing of Homewood, a volunteer for the Nov. 21 
charity, worked the 2014 event placing bids and selling
(Provided photo)

Year after year, volunteers from Homewood and Flossmoor man the tables at a special charity event benefitting the Ronald McDonald House at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

This year’s event, the fifth annual Las Vegas Night, will open at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park. The volunteers hope they can surpass the $50,000 raised last year, said Nancy Johnson of Flossmoor.

“It’s a great event, and I have fun meeting people when I sell tickets,” said Ruth Austing of Homewood who is volunteering for the fourth time. “I’m happy to give my time knowing that I’m making it easier for a family whose child is ill.”

The Ronald McDonald House offers families a comfortable place to stay while a critically ill child is being treated at the hospital.

The average length of stay is 15 days, according to Ann Czarnecki, house director. The Oak Lawn House has 16 rooms. Czarnecki said 340 check-ins were recorded in 2014, and 30 of those were families in the immediate area of Homewood-Flossmoor.

Families are asked to donate $10 per night, but it’s estimated the true cost is $85 per night. Johnson said the money raised at the Nov. 21 fundraiser will help make up the difference.

The Ronald McDonald House in Oak Lawn is about one-quarter funded by McDonald’s Corporation through donations by employees, franchisers, suppliers and McDonald’s customers who drop change into Ronald McDonald House canisters in restaurants.  The remainder of expenses are covered by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, and donations and fundraisers like the Nov. 21 event.*

The House in Oak Lawn opened in 2008, and Johnson has volunteered bi-weekly since the doors opened answering phones, conducting tours, keeping rooms clean and ready for guests.

“A child’s illness affects an entire family: parents, siblings, grandparents. To give comfort–be it a nice room with clean linens, a hot meal or an understanding ear–to a family during such a stressful time is an honor,” she said. 

Johnson also serves on the House Community Council, an advisory board. The council hosts the annual fundraiser to help cover the costs of running the House. Johnson has served as council chair, event chair, entertainment chair and auction chair.

“Planning a major event like this takes months, and it comes together because we have such wonderful volunteers,” Johnson stressed.

Her husband, Tim, and sons Mike, Pete and Dave are all volunteers. Homewood friends Dave Wolken, Elaine Scanlon and Tom Hamilton work the blackjack tables.

If you’re not into betting, the evening includes raffles and auctions, including a five-night stay at a private home in Deer Creek, Utah. Johnson’s team has gotten donations from Flossmoor Brewery, Grady’s Grille in Homewood, Egg & I in Chicago Heights, J&S Gold & Diamond Exchange in Olympia Fields and Marc Alan Day Spa in Flossmoor.

And for this event, Elvis will be in the building!  John Mahoney will singing a few selections, including “Viva Las Vegas,” and will be available for photos and conversation with guests.

Sean & Charlie, a Southside band, will follow with selections of bluegrass, Celtic, country, folk, pop and rock music.

Tickets are $65 per person in advance or $75 at the door. Tickets include gaming chips, hors d’oeuvres and open bar. For additional information on the Nov. 21 fundraiser, or on how you can make a donation to the Ronald McDonald House at Advocate Children’s Hospital, visit www.RonaldHouseChicago.org/VegasNight.

Elvis (John Mahoney) met up with Flossmoor residents,
from left, Dave, Nancy, Tim, Mike and Pete Johnson
and Samantha Pardee, at the 2014 Ronald McDonald
House benefit. They will be volunteers at
the Nov. 21 event.
(Provided photo)

* The original version of this story included incorrect information about the sources of Ronald McDonald House funding. The Chronicle regrets the error.

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