Every year around Valentine's Day, Hephzibah Children's Association spreads the love by recognizing extraordinary volunteers at its annual Heart of Gold Ball.
At the Feb. 12 ball this year, Hephzibah will recognize David Crumbaugh with a Heart of Gold Award for his corporate and personal support of Hephzibah and its mission. Mark Shaker will receive a Heart of the Home Award for his hands-on work with Hephzibah children.
Based in Oak Park, Hephzibah Children's Association is a child welfare agency, group home and day care center licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Crumbaugh is a partner in the Chicago office of Latham & Watkins LLP and a former River Forest resident. His record of civic involvement includes seven years on the River Forest Community Center's board of governors, two as chairman. For the past three years, his firm has co-sponsored the GE Charity Golf Classic, raising more than $500,000 for Hephzibah.
At the live auction at last year's Heart of Gold Ball, Crumbaugh personally purchased a diamond tennis bracelet modeled on the wrist of tennis pro Jennifer Capriati. Capriati received last year's Heart of Gold Award.
Hephzibah Executive Director Mary Anne Brown emphasized that Crumbaugh's contributions to Hephzibah have gone well beyond cash.
"Ever since he heard about Hephzibah, he's gone out of his way to make sure our mission gets out in the corporate world," she said. "He really personally took on the goals of the agency and can articulate them."
"He came to all of our planning meetings," Brown added. "He went over and above."
Crumbaugh remembered being approached by contacts at GE Capital to co-sponsor the golf fundraiser.
"The more I thought about it, the more enthusiastic I was. There are wonderful national charities like United Way and the American Cancer Society that draw this broad corporate support," he explained. "It's the local charities sometimes who really contribute more value per dollar. These are people on the front line who are doing wonderful work."
Sibling camp reunites families
Shaker is familiar with many of the children Hephzibah serves. For the past two years, he has planned and led a summer camp reuniting siblings separated in foster care.
Sibling camp has a four-year history at Hephzibah.
"The first two years, we sent a group of kids from Hephzibah to [a] camp in Colorado," said Ellen Prus, executive administrative coordinator at Hephzibah. "We had to raise a lot of money to send them, and so we could only send a limited number. The kids really enjoyed it."
Shaker grew up in Oak Park and has known Hephzibah's Brown since childhood. He wrote his master's thesis on the therapeutic value of camp experiences for at-risk populations and worked in Connecticut at Paul Newman's camp for children with severe medical problems.
When he returned to Chicago to help run a not-for-profit called Kid Power, Shaker reconnected with Hephzibah. He began discussing a Midwest-based sibling camp with Brown and Marge Zuba, a long-time Hephzibah supporter.
With Shaker's leadership, Hephzibah held its own sibling camp in Northern Michigan in the summer of 2003, involving some 40 children. Last summer, the camp moved to a YMCA facility in Illinois, about an hour's drive from Oak Park. The closer location enabled Hephzibah to accommodate 64 brothers and sisters, including all 26 children who live in Hephzibah's group homes.
Prus coordinated much of the behind-the-scenes details for the four-day, three-night camp. Shaker acted as program director.
"He does everything from beginning to end," said Brown. "Not only does he do that with so much enthusiasm, he brings all his friends and family."
"His brother and sister have gone to camp with us both years," Prus noted.
"I think what's really touching is that anyone that has come out and spent the day at camp [can] see the magic that happens with these sibling groups. They're hooked," Shaker said. "We had several sibling groups this time that had six brothers or sisters. Almost all of them are living in different homes."
Shaker recalled one 15-year-old brother tucking in all his younger siblings and then sharing that doing that is one of the things he misses most.
"There's a really neat bond that's formed not just between the sibling groups but friendships among kids of similar age who have gone through similar things," Shaker said.
"Mark is hopefully what the next generation of givers will look like," Brown said. "I think he's an inspiration for people who want to volunteer."
Shaker and Crumbaugh will no doubt have many friends at Hephzibah's Heart of Gold Ball, to be held Saturday, Feb. 12 from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Cadillac Club at Soldier Field. Tickets are available for $150 by calling 445-5685. All proceeds will support Hephzibah's group homes.
Freelance writer Linda Downing Miller is a volunteer member of Hephzibah's Oak Park auxiliary board.