Assembly Ball has everyone dancing merrily


Last updated 12/20/2023 at 2:40pm | View PDF

I have a confession to make: I didn't grow up in Hinsdale.

No, it's even worse than that. I'm not from anywhere near here. I'm a Southerner, born in Mississippi and raised in Texas, which means that I don't always know the lingo. When someone asked if I was going to write about the Hinsdale Assembly Ball, I may or may not have responded with a blank stare while my brain went into overdrive, trying to remember what I knew about this organization. When that same person noticed my hesitance, she gently added, "You know, the debutantes." Lightbulb! Yes!

Now, where I'm from, the very word "debutante" brings to mind very specific (if somewhat archaic) ideas related to women being property. Deep in the Bible Belt, I was surrounded by the idea that a young lady goes "from her father's house to her sorority house to her husband's house," and donning the big, white dress was an essential step toward that first transition. I missed out on the experience, but one of my brothers served as a member of the Honor Guard, so I got to live vicariously through him. Well, I'm happy to say (especially as the mother of two daughters) that we've come a long way since those days.

Being a debutante or a member of the honor guard isn't just about the big party anymore. These days, these kids are being molded to learn what service looks like from a hands-on perspective, and they're being educated about the need to fund critical programs.

Since its inception in 1963, the Hinsdale Assembly has raised more than $3.25 million for the Hinsdale Hospital Foundation, specifically for the purchase of state-of-the-art medical equipment and special projects. Early donations in the 1960s were earmarked for a cobalt therapy machine, but more recent support has gone to the Digital Mammography Initiative, the St. Thomas' Hospice Bereavement camps and the Behavioral Health Services Line.

This year, funds once again will go toward a much-needed renovation of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UChicago Medicine AdventHealth Hinsdale. And that is not lost on the debs.

"My favorite thing about being part of the Assembly is that we fundraise for the Hinsdale Hospital," Ann Haarlow, one of this year's debutantes, said. "Currently, the money is being put towards the NICU, both for new equipment and for the space overall. This is a wonderful, important cause. I'm not sure many people think of the NICU when considering the needs of a hospital, so I am extremely glad we are providing money for this particular unit."

Indeed, the NICU at Hinsdale Hospital hasn't been renovated in more than 20 years and the Hinsdale Assembly has made a five-year, $250,000 commitment to help fund this much-needed renovation.

So, on Dec. 23, if you see 20 beautiful young ladies decked out like snowflakes and 19 handsome young men in tuxedos, you can know that, while they might be rocking around a Christmas tree at the 60th annual Hinsdale Asembly Ball at the Oakbrook Hills Resort, they're out in the community the rest of the year doing a lot of good for our smallest and most vulnerable members.

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- Allison Peters of Hinsdale is the paper's society columnist.

Readers can email her at

[email protected].


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