Like most things this year, the Infant Welfare Society’s Holiday Housewalk is going to look a little different. 

This year, groups of friends won’t be gathering at the Nineteenth Century Club for a specialty cocktail and shopping at the Holiday Market. People won’t be lining up to see the inside of beautiful local homes decorated for the holidays and crowding into rooms to hear volunteer docents share tidbits about holiday ornaments and traditions. 

When COVID-19 became a big concern in March right in the midst of the planning process for the 2020 walk, IWS members knew they owed it to the many families relying on the services of the Children’s Clinic to continue their fundraising efforts. 

The IWS turned the in-person walk into an online walk with some added bonuses that promise to make the 22nd annual Holiday Housewalk a success.

Virtual Holiday Housewalk Advisor Sarina Butler says that there was never any doubt that the show had to go on. 

“We have budgetary obligations. The Clinic depends on us,” Butler said. “We knew if we couldn’t do the actual housewalk, we had to replace that money in the budget.”

The Children’s Clinic relies on the fundraiser to help serve a population of uninsured and under-insured young patients, from infants up to 18 years old. Last year, the clinic provided healthcare to 3,426 patients through 9,409 visits to the clinic for medical, behavioral and dental care.

IWS Executive Director Peggy LaFleur says that while the area’s neediest children have always relied on the clinic for health care, this year the need is even greater. Due to the pandemic, the demand for services has grown as families face job losses accompanied by losses of health insurance. 

The clinic’s expenses have also risen with increased spending on PPE and other protective measures.  She stresses that is more important than ever to make sure children continue to receive health care and vaccinations through regular appointments.

“It’s important to follow stay-at-home guidelines but to still get regular medical care,” LaFleur said.

She says she is heartened by how dedicated the members of the IWS are in making sure that the clinic remains open and available to the most vulnerable. Butler notes that this year’s IWS volunteers were creative in coming up with new ways of reaching their audience.

Chief among those methods is a Holiday Housewalk Grand Raffle. With each purchase of a ticket for the virtual walk, participants are entered into a raffle for $10,000. Butler says the IWS hopes to sell roughly 3,000 tickets to the events, so odds are fairly favorable that a purchase could be a winner. 

Ticket purchasers will also be privy to five how-to videos created by local talents. Mary DiSomma, local author of “The Gift of Cookies,” will whip up three different recipes of her famous sweets. Julie McKune of Julie McKune Yoga will help melt away holiday stress with a yoga session, and Marilyn Alioto Blum of Alioto’s and Peter Kingston of Tulipia Floral Designs will help you set a festive holiday table. 

Chris Geoghegan of Moss Modern Flowers will offer instructions on how you can create your very own door swag, and everyone’s favorite, Chef Paco of New Rebozo, will help you mix the perfect holiday margarita.

Of course, the stars of the virtual walk are the holiday homes, and the walk will feature videos of five amazing local homes, several of them landmarks, decked out for the holidays. 

Darius Povilaitis says that virtual visitors to his Patton and Fischer-designed Oak Park home will learn about his family’s Lithuanian Christmas traditions while feasting their eyes on the family tree and architectural elements like an English conservatory. 

Deborah Cogan says her family’s Oak Park home will emphasize meaningful family traditions as she sets the table with her mother-in-law’s gifted china and crystal passed on from her great aunt and uncle. 

A River Forest home will prove that there’s “No Place Like Home for the Holidays” with a décor that emphasizes French influences, and another Oak Park home offers a bit of “Southern Sparkle” with southern traditions incorporated throughout. The Cheney Mansion rounds out the group, with a theme “Holiday Treasure.”

IWS Auxiliary Chair Kim Fields says while it might be challenging to pull off a big fundraiser during the uncertainty of a pandemic, that’s all the more reason for people to participate this year. 

“These things will come, but it’s how we respond to the challenges that means more — how we build these bridges as a community,” Fields said.

For Fields, it’s the meaning behind the event that will make it successful. No matter the format, she says that the Holiday Housewalk is a great way for the IWS to give back to local residents with some holiday cheer while also fundraising for the Children’s Clinic. 

She notes that not only is it a fun event, but it lets the larger community see the good work done at the clinic to help children in need. 

“It’s so endearing to the hearts of the community, and so important that we support this cause together as a community,” Fields said.

How to attend

Tickets for this year's Infant Welfare Society Holiday Housewalk and Grand Raffle can be purchased at www.oprfiws.org/holidayhousewalk.

Individual tickets cost $55, and raffle ticket packages are also available for purchase.

The tickets will allow access to the Virtual Holiday Housewalk as well as the how-to videos from Dec. 4 through Dec. 30.

The winner of the $10,000 raffle will be announced on Dec. 30, when local mayors from Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest pull the winning ticket in an online event broadcast from Forest Park's Urban Pioneer Group.

Join the discussion on social media!