The Auxiliary Board waitstaff who hosted the Fourth Annual Kid's Gala on April 6 at Hephzibah. The front row (left to right) includes Natalie Noonan, Madeleine Milan, Jana Frank, and Michele Mazur. The back row is David Wick, Shalena Thomas, Dannyel Kafer, Cynthia Weber and Beth Cannon. Not pictured: Jean Powell. | Provided

Every year in March, Hephzibah Children’s Association hosts its annual Heart of Gold Ball. This wonderful event is a time for supporters of this iconic charity to come together to raise funds to help continue the mission of Hephzibah. Supporters enjoy an evening that includes a delicious dinner, music and dancing, a stupendous auction, and the chance to honor the people who contribute their time and talents to Hephzibah.

Several years ago, one of the children who was a resident of the Hephzibah group home asked if he could attend this event. This got the wheels turning for members of Hephzibah’s Oak Park Auxiliary Board, and in 2015, the first Kid’s Gala was hosted. The event mirrors the Heart of Gold Ball in as many ways as possible. Formal invitations are created and sent to each child of the home. The invitation, created by Auxiliary Board member Lauren Dain, not only formally invites the kids to the Gala, but also provide an inspirational poem to encourage the children to believe in themselves.

A first-class meal is prepared by the Auxiliary Board. The dining room is beautifully decorated and the Auxiliary Board members dress as wait staff to set the scene for an elegant evening. 

Prior to dinner, each boy and girl is presented with an award that highlights a unique talent or trait. Past awards include Biggest Heart, Most Adventurous, Best Party Planner, and Next Olympic Track Star. Each child receives a certificate and trophy along with an enthusiastic round of applause from all the residents. In the end, each child leaves the event knowing they are truly special.

So why am I writing this article? For one, I want to share the story of Oak Park’s very own Hephzibah Children’s Association. Started in 1897 by Mary Wessels, this incredible haven for children is a real treasure in Oak Park. While many people are familiar with the organization, there are still plenty of our community members who may not be aware of all the association does. 

Oak Park’s oldest social services agency provides a group home for neglected children, comprehensive services for children and families in crisis, foster care, adoption and day care programs.

The second reason is Oak Park has so many stories to tell. This is just one. Look around and see what our village has to offer — it will really astound you. There are many treasures — philanthropic, historic and educational — in plain sight. We are blessed to have all the offerings that we do in our village. Take advantage of them. You will not be disappointed.

David Wick is a lifelong resident of Oak Park. He serves on the Oak Park Hephzibah Auxiliary Board and has volunteered there since 2011. For more information about the Hephzibah Auxiliary Board, or any other volunteer opportunities at Hephzibah, please go to www.hephzibahhome.org.

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