Suzanne Whiting and her daughter, Hope, of Evanston, both have fun during The Cradle Ball, the annual fundraiser for The Cradle, an adoption agency in Evanston. Ms. Whiting is one of the members of the Cradle Ball Committee, which put on this year’s event. Photo by Jonathan Kirn

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A total of 220 guests gathered at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago on Oct. 17 for the 21st Annual Cradle Ball, which raised more than $130,000 to support The Cradle’s mission of finding loving homes for babies. Since it was founded in Evanston in 1923, The Cradle has helped place more than 15,000 children into permanent, loving homes.

“This year’s benefit was simply spectacular,” said Julie Tye, president and chief executive officer of The Cradle. “It’s so heartening to know how many people support our mission, and the funds raised will help us continue to offer programs and services that provide nurturing support to birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted children.”

The highlight of this year’s gala was an appearance by Julia Sweeney, a former cast member on Saturday Night Live who is also an adoptive mom. Ms. Sweeney, who lives in Wilmette, spoke about adopting her daughter, Mulan, from China in 2001.

Cradle mom Kathy Hart, co-host of the Eric & Kathy Morning Show on 101.9 FM radio, served as the emcee and live auctioneer for the evening. Ms. Hart, who has two biological children, adopted her son, Allen, from The Cradle in 2008.

“Adoption opened a place in my heart I didn’t know I had,” Ms. Hart said. “The Cradle has always been there for us, for Allen and for his birth mom.”

As part of the event, The Cradle also presented Silver Cradle Awards to companies that support adoption by offering adoption benefits to their employees. Their benefits range from providing financial reimbursement to employees who are going through the adoption process to offering several weeks of paid leave.

“The adoption process can be emotionally and financially draining on prospective adoptive parents, so anything that companies can do to make it easier for their employees to adopt is so important,” Ms. Tye said. “We are thrilled that so many companies in our area recognize the importance of making adoption a viable option for families.”

The organizations that received Silver Cradle Awards this year were AbbVie; ADM; Advocate Healthcare; Aon; Barilla America, Inc.; Baxter International, Inc.; CBRE, Inc.; CNA; Deloitte LLP; Fellowes, Inc.; Hospira, Inc.; Mead Johnson Nutrition; Northern Trust; Perkins+Will; Sidley Austin LLP; Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A.; United Way of Metropolitan Chicago; USG Corporation; VML, Inc.; W.W. Grainger, Inc.; and William Blair & Company, LLC.