2019 Anniversary Gala

Family Focus held our annual Anniversary Gala at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago on Tuesday, May 28th, 2019, honoring U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and ReaderLink Distribution Services, LLC’s President and CEO, Dennis Abboud with the Bernice Weissbourd Award for Family Support and the Outstanding Corporate Partner Award. We also surprised Family Focus President and CEO, Merri Ex, with a special Bernice Weissbourd Award for Family Support.  The gala raised more than $450,000 for programs that serve children and families in the Chicagoland region.

Did you miss the gala?

Check out our special gala edition of the newsletter with excerpts of the comments made by Dennis Abboud, U.S. Senator Durbin, Governor JB Pritzker, Valerie Jarrett, and Dr. Seun Adigun, D.C. View pictures from the event on our Facebook page.

2019 Gala Video: A look at Home Visiting with Deanna and Hisela

Deanna and Hisela’s Stories

You may know that Family Focus’ largest program is Home Visiting– but what does a home visit actually entail? This year’s gala video showed what a home visiting looks like and how families are benefiting from participation. Follow Deanna, a teen mom who got involved with Family Focus after the birth of her son, and Hisela, an experienced mom who is back at Family Focus with her third child, through their home visiting experience.

Special thanks to Deanna, her parents, Tracy and Daniel, and baby Kaiden, and Hisela and the other participants at Family Focus Nuestra Familia for giving us a glimpse into their experience as home visiting participants.

2019 Anniversary Gala Honorees

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin will receive the Bernice Weissbourd Award for Family Support. Named for the founder of Family Focus, and nationally recognized leader in the field of family support, Bernice Weissbourd, this award is presented to an individual for their work impacting early childhood development. Among his other achievements, Senator Durbin has worked successfully for increased federal funding to prevent childhood asthma, increase immunizations, and has been a champion for Head Start. Most recently, he has passed federal legislation to improve mental health care for children who have experienced traumatic events such as exposure to violence or a parent’s addiction.

ReaderLink Distribution Services, LLC President and CEO Dennis Abboud will receive the Outstanding Corporate Partner Award. Mr. Abboud, who serves on the Family Focus Board of Directors, has been a dynamic advocate and champion for Family Focus by organizing corporate giving at ReaderLink through a yearly challenge grant, providing in-kind donations of Spanish-language books for Family Focus participants, and engaging civic and business leaders in building awareness and involvement about the organization’s programs and services.

Special Guests

Master of Ceremonies:

Rob Johnson has been a journalist for nearly 30 years, having spent the last 21 at TV stations in Chicago. He has covered news from presidential elections and hurricanes to Chicago sporting triumphs like World Series and Stanley Cup victories.

Featured Speaker:

Dr. Seun Adigun, D.C., a former Family Focus Evanston participant, competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics representing Nigeria. In 2018 Dr. Adigun gained notoriety by forming not only the first African bobsled team, but by being part of the first Nigerian team to compete in the Winter Olympics.

Introductory Remarks:

Governor JB Pritzker will introduce U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

Introductory Remarks:

Valerie Jarrett, former Senior Adviser to former President Barack Obama, will introduce Dennis Abboud.

Host Committee

Barbara Bowman
Lester Crown
Arne Duncan
Chaz Hammelsmith Ebert
Merri and Mitchell Ex
Janice L. Feinberg, PharmD, JD

The Honorable Robyn Gabel
Katie and Brent Gledhill
Beverly and Warren Hayford
David Hiller
Valerie Jarrett

Jo and Newton Minow
Geoffrey A. Nagle, Ph.D.
Dolores G. Norton
Diana Mendley Rauner, Ph.D.
Representative Jan Schakowsky
Eric Smith

Jennifer Steans
Scott C. Swanson
The Honorable Toni Preckwinkle
Betty and Stanley Weinberger
Bernice Weissbourd


About the Gala

Bernice Weissbourd Award for Family Support

Family Focus Founder, Bernice Weissbourd, is the creative force behind the family support movement. Through her work with Family Focus, Bernice is credited with focusing national attention on the critical first three years of life and the importance of family support. In 1976, Bernice opened the first Family Focus center for parents and young children in Evanston, IL. With her guidance, over the last 40 years Family Focus has grown to seven direct service centers. She is the author and contributor to two highly regarded books, America’s Family Support Programs: Perspectives and Prospects, and Putting Families First: America’s Family Support Movement and the Challenge of Change, and many articles in the academic and popular press. She has served on numerous national boards and advisory committees and is a well-known lecturer on the topic of family support.

Outstanding Corporate Partner Award

Each year, Family Focus honors an organization which has been especially supportive to Family Focus and the children and families we serve with the Outstanding Corporate Partner Award. This award recognizes program support, pro bono contributions enhancing the organization’s program reach, financial stability and organizational growth, and collaborations which expand the impact of Family Focus in the greater Chicago community to nurture children by strengthening families.

Past Recipients of the Outstanding Corporate Partner Award:

2016:  Jones Day
2015:  GE Foundation
2014:  MB Financial Bank
2013:  The Robert R. McCormick Foundation