Books & Brunch marks event milestone

Twenty-five years ago, the women of the Hinsdale-based Assistance League Chicagoland West chapter pivoted from the traditional luncheon fundraiser with a novel idea - to host a panel event highlighting local authors. The event, held annually since, has offered avid readers and philanthropists alike an opportunity to fundraise for those less fortunate in the community.

"Two Assistance League members had an idea to create a different take on a lunch fundraiser," said Meg Cooper, ALCW member and a more than two-decade-long Books & Brunch event volunteer. "Even from the first event 25 years ago, people who attend really love it because the authors change every year. The program is always fresh and new."

This year's Books & Brunch will be hybrid. Guests can choose to attend in person at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9, at the Abbington in Glen Ellyn or view the live stream event starting at 12:30 p.m. from home.

Moderated by Hinsdale author Andrea Thome, the event will feature a panel of three local authors, chosen by league members based on their works' genre. According to Cooper, authors are given few parameters, which leads to authentic and poignant conversation. One panelist, local author Julie McGue, will share her thoughts on writing her memoir "Twice a Daughter: A Search for Identity, Family, and Belonging. "

Proceeds from Books & Brunch, which is the chapter's largest annual event with a fundraising goal of $250,000, will help support its newest program "Beyond the Bell."

"We noticed over the years while working with social workers at our local schools the need for emergency items including toiletries and clothing," Cooper said. "If a student shows up without a warm coat or needs an essential personal care item, they now have it stocked in their school to pull whenever it's needed."

To purchase tickets, which are $100 per person or $50 to participate virtually, please visit

Under One Sky connects Wellness

After a year of virtual fundraising for Hinsdale's safe haven for those living with cancer, the Wellness House's annual ball "Under One Sky" will once again be held in person tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 15 starting at 6:30 p.m.

"The generosity of our donors during this challenging time has inspired us to re-imagine our fundraising events since COVID began," said Debra Kwiatt, communications manager for Wellness House. "Our donors have embraced the (virtual and in-person) events each time, showing their strong support of our mission - to support and empower people living with cancer and their families to improve their physical and emotional well-being."

The nonprofit decided to host the event at three separate venues this year, in order to safely and responsibly navigate COVID restrictions. With the help of event planner, Kristina Taheri, The Hinsdale Golf Club, Butterfield Country Club and the Chicago Highlands Club were selected to accommodate the more than 500 guests who have traditionally gathered in one event space.

"Our mission envisions a community where all people affected by cancer thrive," Kwiatt said. "Now we offer online and in-person programs that remove geographic barriers, all under one sky. The event name speaks to increased access as well as the three geographic locations that will be connected throughout of the evening."

All Wellness House programs are free of charge, largely due to the generous fundraising efforts of the community. The ball represents nearly 20 percent of the nonprofit's annual budget.

According to Kwiatt, many of the elements of the traditional ball will continue, such as the wine auction, live auction and paddle raise, as well as a program participant sharing her inspirational story both live and via video.

"Each year, we look forward to this special event and the way the community comes together to support our mission," added Lisa Kolavennu, Wellness House executive director. "The theme this year, Under One Sky, reminds us how wonderful it is to be connected, even during the darkest times. We are grateful for everyone who plans to be a part of the fundraiser, helping light the way for all those impacted by cancer."

You can still be part of this event by donating at

- Alexis Braden of Hinsdale is the paper's society columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].