Soldier Field - the Venue for the 'Partiest Party' in Chicago

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Behind the storied colonnades of Chicago’s Soldier Field, in a venue celebrating the Chicago Bears in drawings on the walls, with doors along the entire room’s facade opening onto the stunningly green gridiron itself, Advocate Christ Medical Center’s Salute 2012 did, indeed, merit keynote speaker CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s assessment that it was the “partiest party in Chicago.”

"We are not ones to turn down a challenge."

Behind the storied colonnades of Chicago’s Soldier Field, in a venue celebrating the Chicago Bears in drawings on the walls, with doors along the entire room’s facade opening onto the stunningly green gridiron itself, Advocate Christ Medical Center’s Salute 2012 did, indeed, merit keynote speaker CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s assessment that it was the “partiest party in Chicago.”

In one of the largest annual galas of its kind in the Chicago area, more than 1,000 of the area’s leading physicians, key leaders of Christ Medical Center and Advocate Health Care, donors, supporters and friends – clad in tuxedoes and stunning, formal dresses – came together on May 5 to support the start of an unprecedented modernization of the medical center’s campus in Oak Lawn. That modernization includes a $202 million, nine-story Outpatient Pavilion, which is already under construction.

Organizers indicate that the sold-out event, themed “Mission Possible,” raised an estimated, record-breaking $1.5 million for the medical center’s building program in the form of ticket sales and sponsorships, including a $250,000 gift from Chicago-based Midwest Anesthesiologists, Ltd. An additional $30,000 was generated during a live auction that featured tickets to the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans and VIP packages to the 2013 People’s Choice Awards in Los Angeles and Madonna’s sold-out concert in September at the United Center.

While Dr. Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon in his own right, and emcee Rob Johnson, evening news anchor for CBS-2 Chicago, were the event’s advertised guests, the evening’s honorees, neurologist Melvin Wichter MD and Village of Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann captured the audience’s hearts in their award acceptance speeches.

Before a crowd that quieted quickly, Dr. Wichter, chair of the neurology department at Christ Medical Center, co-medical director of its Neurosciences Institute and Salute’s Outstanding Physician Leader in 2012, mixed the humor for which he is well known into a speech that traced his road to becoming a neurologist and the decisions that brought him to Christ Medical Center more than three decades ago. Here, he developed into one of the Midwest’s and country’s stroke treatment leaders. Mayor Heilmann, this year’s “Outstanding Community Leader,” brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience as he spoke about his own family’s experiences at Christ Medical Center and the compassion and dedication of the campus’ physicians and nurses who got his family through a recent, life-threatening illness.

Their comments only punctuated what Dr. Gupta stated earlier in describing his prior CNN coverage of the Christ Medical Center emergency department and trauma teams and their dedication and skill in overcoming the odds to save the lives of some of the most injured victims of Chicago street violence.

The evening, of course, was not without its pleasant distractions. Besides stopping to pose for several roaming photographers and a video crew, celebrants watched the work of speed painter Elliott From of Artbeat Live as he created the visage of Bruce Springsteen and the famous logo of the Chicago Blackhawks in a matter of minutes during the cocktail reception. Both paintings sold during the live auction. The formal portion of the Salute program was abruptly halted as organizers played out a video spy “spoof” that provided a humorous overview of the quality of the programs and professionals at Christ Medical Center.

Christine Dannhausen-Brun of Hinsdale, Ill. and Asta Razma of Chicago and Palos Park, Ill. served as event co-chairs for the second year in a row, lightheartedly telling the audience that they only agreed to assume those roles again after Christ Medical Center president, Kenneth Lukhard, challenged them to raise the most money ever generated by Salute. “We are not ones to turn down a challenge,” Razma said. Both women called their efforts rewarding because of the impact that the money will have on the medical center’s expansion efforts.

Meanwhile, plans for next year’s Salute are already underway. Information about this year’s gala and the 2013 event can be found at http://www.advocatehealth.com/salute.

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