Pictured left to right, rehearsing for the stage parody “The Wonderful Wizard of EvanstOz,” are cameo performers State Representative Robyn Gabel, former ECF board chair Judy Kemp and District 65 music teacher Matthew Hunter.

More than 300 guests attended the Celebrate!Evanston fundraiser to benefit Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) on Oct. 19 at the Michigan Shores Club
in Wilmette.

The fall bounty-themed evening featured a dessert contest, a stage parody highlighting the Foundation’s many contributions to Evanston, and a live auction. The event grossed more than $246,000 to support the Foundation’s mission and programming.  

“Not only have we reached our largest attendance to date, but this year we have our largest sponsorship support ever,” said benefit co-chair Mary Finnegan. “The contributions of our community partners and supporters tonight is truly inspiring.”

Elaborate and whimsical cake confections by several of Evanston’s top pastry chefs were on display during the cocktail hour.

Guests voted for their favorite designs by dropping candy pumpkins into glass bowls.  The tasty creations were sliced up for dessert, serving as the “icing on the cake” of a truly celebratory evening.  

Participating bakeries and restaurants presenting desserts for the competition included Bennison’s Bakery, Feast & Imbibe, Hewn, Whole Foods and Quince.

Julie Chernoff, a member of ECF’s celebration committee, created a signature cocktail called “Vibrant Community” for the event. The mango martini was a nod to the Foundation’s mission to help Evanston thrive as a vibrant, inclusive and just community.  

NBC-5 reporter and fill-in anchor Christian Farr and ECF Board Member Kevin Mott, both of Skokie, co-emceed the evening. Guests also competed in an entertaining and enlightening Evanston “Heads or Tails” trivia contest.

A highlight of the evening was a humorous theatrical twist on the film classic “The Wizard of Oz.”  

Cast in “Wizard of EvanstOz” cameo roles were Jenny Avery of Next Theatre Company, State Representative Robyn Gabel (as State Rep. Glinda), Matthew Hunter – Evanston/Skokie School District 65 music teacher and 2006 graduate of Evanston Township High School (as Dorothy’s brother Evan Stone), Patrick Keenan-Devlin of James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, former ECF board chair Judy Kemp (as Aunt Em and the Wicked Witch of Apathy), local businessman Bob Reece, and actress Nancy Voigts Godinez.

Northwestern University Dance Marathon’s Executive Board greeted guests and invited them to sign up for the events of their choice.

“Evanston is our home, our mission and our cause,” Evanston Community Foundation CEO Sara Schastok told patrons.  

“Because of your support we are able to invest in our community to make the good work of nonprofits better. We can support initiatives that make systemic changes to this community we love. We can train individuals to make a difference through their leadership. And we can connect private philanthropy to funding opportunities in Evanston. It all adds up to creating a more bountiful Evanston,” said Ms. Schastok.