by Lauryn Smith
On March 9th, Keshet hosted its annual benefit entitled Voices of Champions, which honored all of those who have shaped Keshet’s past 40 years and will continue to do so for the next 40. It was a wonderful evening of celebration, fundraising, community and music, with a variety of special guests including NBC Chicago’s Jen DeSalvo, America’s Got Talent contestant Jacob Velazquez, the Ravinia Ramblers, and Broadway’s Hamilton star Miguel Cervantes. There were also surprise cameos from champions in sports and disability advocacy, including Baseball Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, starting center for the Chicago Sky Azurá Stevens, Waddle and Silvy from ESPN 1000, JUF President Lonnie Nasatir, former Chicago Bears player Dick Butkus, T.V. sports announcer Jason Benetti, Chicago Cubs player Ian Happ, Senior Manager of Legislative Affairs at JNFA Aaron Kauffman, and Chief White House correspondent Peter Alexander. Additionally, it was our privilege to honor Lifetime Champion Sharon Frankel for her commitment and involvement with our organization since the beginning. We are so thankful for everything that Sharon has done to make Keshet what it is today and know her legacy will continue to leave a lasting impression. Overall, it was a remarkable evening and we are pleased to share that as a Keshet community we were able to come together and raise over $805,000 for our organization.
As someone who has been connected to the organization for many years but not a Keshet insider, it was so amazing to be a part of this event now having so much more knowledge of everything that Keshet does. Additionally, getting a behind the scenes look into all the ins and outs of the event and the people who worked around the clock to make it happen only made the evening more special. I felt so fortunate to be able to watch the event surrounded by the staff who worked tirelessly to make not just this particular evening happen, but who keep the Keshet community strong every single day.
Without a doubt one of the highlights of the event was hearing the powerful voices of our Keshet Choir, who performed a stellar mashup rendition of “Hall of Fame” by the Script and “The Champion” by Carrie Underwood. These individuals had been practicing long and hard and were so excited to share what they had been working on with everyone. However, what people may not know was that just a few short days prior to their performance, we discovered that the choir was short a significant number of singers who were needed to bring the song together. Though there was uncertainty and concern on how to move forward, at Keshet, we did what we do best–and that was to reach out to our community for help. We posted in a Jewish moms’ Facebook group that we needed some additional singers. It wasn’t minutes later that we received twenty-four responses within the hour with volunteers and overall suggestions. We were blown away with the amount of people who were willing to do whatever it took to help us at the very last minute.
This is yet another example of the champions throughout our community who have our back and step up for Keshet time and time again. Hearing this story and then seeing the seamless and incredible the choir performance come together was when I realized that this event was so much more than donors, fundraising, and celebrity cameos. Voices of Champions symbolizes a celebration of our ever-evolving community and all the people who continue to shape it. It is an opportunity to honor those who are the first to revel in our achievements, lift us up when we need it most, and constantly push us to do better. And that, truly, is what Keshet is all about.
On behalf of Keshet, thank you to each and every one of our donors, sponsors, event chairs, Shelley and Ken Stolman, the event planning committee and ticket holders for making Voices of Champions a major success! Your support to our organization is something we could never adequately thank you for. And of course, we could not have done it without so many of our staff members who worked tirelessly to ensure that the entire evening went off smoothly. We are beyond grateful to every single person who has shaped our Keshet community for the last 40 years because none of this would have been possible without you! We cannot wait to see what the next 40 years and beyond will bring.