The "little fundraiser-that-could" — also known as the Goombay Bash — is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary with its Aug. 7, 2010, edition and plans are in full swing to take this year’s milestone event to the next level.
Launched in 2000 by Hortons Home Lighting, with locations in LaGrange, Chicago and Orland Park, IL, after two employees were diagnosed with cancer a month apart, the modest fundraiser for cancer research has evolved into a beloved industry force, with an average of 1,200 guests now filling Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom in downtown Chicago. In the past nine years, the upbeat Caribbean-style soiree has raised nearly $3 million for cancer research, including more than $450,000 in 2008 alone.
Administered by the H Foundation, a completely volunteer organization, all proceeds go directly to the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University to help in the fight for a cure.
Despite the tough economy, the foundation hopes to break previous records and raise close to a half-million dollars in its 10th anniversary — predicted to be the biggest, best bash to date, says John Rot, co-owner of Hortons Home Lighting. “It’s amazing. It’s totally taken a life of its own,” Rot says. “What’s really worked about the event is that the community has really rallied behind it. People who came to the first event brought friends and family to the next. It’s become an event that people put on their calendar.”
Named after a Caribbean cocktail named Goombay Smash, the fundraiser has all the trims and whistles of a traditional black-tie affair, but sets itself apart with its upbeat, festive vibe that's refreshingly casual. “We wanted it to be a party and a celebration,” Rot adds.
Goombay’s 10th anniversary will feature a gourmet buffet, live music and entertainment, a silent auction and live auction, raffles, and local news anchor Rob Johnson as the emcee. Although details are still being hammered out at press time, Rot says both loyal supporters and first-timers will not be disappointed. “We’re totally taking the auctions to a new level," he says. "We’ve brought in some technology that most people would not have seen at any fundraiser they’ve been to.”
The lighting industry has played a key role in the event’s success over the years, he adds, with companies such as Quoizel, Satco, Kichler and Murray Feiss donating items for auctions, becoming sponsors and flying in employees from all over the country to show their support.
Murray Feiss has supported the H Foundation since the very first Goombay Bash, says Maria L. Scutaro, the company's Vice President of Merchandising. “We all look forward to this event every August and it is a year-round commitment for many of us at Feiss.”
Company President Greg Vandia and his wife have flown to Chicago every year since the first bash, with other employees soon following. In addition to attending, the company helps sell raffle tickets and invites new people to participate to "grow the group of supporters" for the fundraiser.
“It is impossible to explain how special this event is to anyone who hasn’t been there, it is a giant beating heart of a night,” Scutaro says. “We invariably shed some tears for those we have lost and we also shed some tears of gratitude and cheer for those who have made it and for the wonderful doctors, researchers, nurses, etc. who fight this battle at the most basic level."
She adds, “Even though there are over 1,000 people there, it is a very personal event. It was a small group of friends who began the H Foundation and now it is a much larger group of friends who will do what we need to do to fight this disease until we can have the ultimate bash to celebrate the cure for all cancers.”
Although the event extends well beyond lighting its lighting connections, the industry's continued support over the years shows how “connected we all are to each other and how supporting this good cause transcends business, competition or anything else,” Scutaro says.
Hinkley Lighting has been supporting the event for the past seven years and recently made a longer-term annual commitment, says President Rick Wiedemer. “We are a small industry and it is easy to support something like this that stands out as legitimate, necessary and that affects everyone’s lives in one way or the other.”
Satco has also supported the event since its inception, says Alan B. Karen, Vice President of Sales. “I think it’s incredible how it’s grown over these years and I’ll continue to support it as long as [Horton owners Rot and David Rizner] are involved in it.”
The H Foundation has no plans to retire the bash after this major milestone event, says Rot. "We're in it until we can find a cure for this disease. We intend to stay in the battle."
Buy tickets early and save: Tickets are $100 before July 25 and jump to $125 after.