Celebrating the DuPage Bar Foundation’s 20th Anniversary
and Other Milestones
By Ted A. Donner
Once upon a time, a DuPage County attorney by the name of Walter R. Jackoweic III, thought there needed to be a bit more life in the Attorney Resource Center so he brought a few dozen doughnuts in to share with the other attorneys. People followed his lead, taking turns from one week to the next, and the doughnut day tradition was born. Walt being Walt, he then upped the ante and did something a touch more interesting for the holidays. He brought in a full breakfast.
The Holiday Breakfast has been a tradition nine of the DuPage Bar Foundation’s 20 year history. It features a light-hearted, casual breakfast buffet in the ARC where the attorneys and judges can relax together and enjoy a respite from the work day. It is supported by donations which are used both to cover the cost of the breakfast and for charitable causes supported by the DBF. This last year, the event raised a record $11,880 which the Foundation used for a number of non-profit grants and law school student scholarships. It is certainly possible they will beat that record this year, when we all gather together for the DBF’s Holiday Breakfast, once again, on Thursday, December 15, 2016.
It is hard not to hope that this proves a banner year for DBF. The foundation was incorporated on October 4, 1996, when Terry Ekl was serving as DCBA President, so it is now celebrating 20 years as an integral part of the DuPage legal community. Ekl’s goal when the foundation was first incorporated was to create a program that would raise money for charitable causes – a laudable goal which his successors have continued to pursue for all of these 20 years. The first event in 1997, DuPage Family Fun Days, was a rousing success which raised close to $50,000 for programs helping disabled children. “We had help from the states attorneys, the public defenders, and a number of public officials,” Ekl recalled, “and we raised a lot of money for the Ray Graham Association and some other organizations. It was a big deal, it was a lot of fun and it was something I was glad we were doing.”
Ekl remained president of the foundation through the end of 1998, during Hon. William Ferguson’s term as DCBA President. In each of the following 15 years, the DCBA’s past president served as foundation president. Then, in 2013, the structure was changed to allow the foundation board to elect their own president from among their ranks. Larry Stein was the first president elected by the foundation’s board in 2014. His successors included Clarissa Myers, who served as DBF President last year, and Rebecca Laho, who is serving as DBF President for this 20th anniversary year. All three of these people, like Ekl, proved exceptional in their commitment to the organization and it has grown substantially under their leadership.
The DBF Presidents have had some help along the way, to be sure, both from among their board and from those who have contributed to the organization’s success in other ways. The October edition of this magazine features an extensive list of people who have helped out over the years, for example, and the inaugural DBF Ambassadors (each of whom contributed $1000 or more to the organization to get the program started) are still listed on a plaque hanging in the ARC: Debra Braselton, Rick Felice, Ken Hubbard, Honorable Ann Jorgensen, Colleen Mclaughlin, Terry Mullen, Patricia Murray, Chuck Roberts, Steve Ruffalo, Tom Ryerson and Jerome Vinkler. No discussion about the DuPage Bar Foundation should see print, it also bears emphasizing, without a tip of the hat to Hon. Edward Duncan, who retired from the board this last summer, and his good friend, Hon. Louis Rathje. Duncan and Rathje worked with Robert Schillerstrom, Mark Wight, and Joel Herter to solicit funds to build the bust of Judge Bauer which sits outside the entrance to the courthouse annex named in his honor, and they helped create the Bauer Scholarship Fund in the process. Judge Rathje iced that particular cake at this year’s Presidents’ Ball and Installation Dinner, when he made a remarkably generous gift to DBF to support that scholarship program.
There is a lot more to be done, to be sure, but the DuPage Bar Foundation appears well-prepared for the future. It has both strong community support and an exceptional group of people committed to its agenda. It has the leadership of President Laho and a great board working with her, including the foundation’s President-Elect Raleigh Kalbfleisch, Secretary Colleen McLaughlin, Treasurer Susan Reedy Williams, Immediate Past President Clarissa Myers, Executive Director Cindy Allston and Directors Donna Craft Cain, Harold Conick, Jodi Henninger, John B. Kincaid, Richard Lofgren, Christopher Maurer, James F. McCluskey, Stacey McCullough, Robert McDonough, Christine McTigue, Ronald Menna, Thomas (Casey) Woodruff, and Steven Yahnke.
The DCBA, all in all, has had a great year so far. Our softball team, led by Coach Mike Calabrese and General Manager, Gerry Cassioppi, not only raised over $10,000 for DuPage Legal Aid and the Kane County Bar Foundation, they managed to establish a new two-county tradition in a single night. The work that Terry Benshoof and Tim Whelan are doing with our new Veterans Assistance Program, like that of everyone involved in our Public Interest and Education Commission, has been great to see, and our new Senior Lawyers Division, which is featured on the cover of this month’s DCBA Brief, is moving forward with great strides (though we would hardly expect less from the likes of Kent Gaertner, Brenda Carroll, August Clarke, Dann Duff and Mike Benedetto. So, as we close the books on 2016, I would certainly be remiss were I not to take this moment to thank them, all of the people involved in DuPage Legal Aid, and the DuPage Bar Foundation, for their contributions to the success of this organization. It is an honor to work alongside all of these people, just as it is those involved in the leadership councils for our sections, the volunteers in our programs, our board of directors and staff, and the great many people who keep it all going through their attendance, their contributions, and their involvement. We have a record number of sustaining members this year. We’ve had a robust schedule of CLE programs (and have an exciting Mega Meeting to look forward to in January). We’ve had well-attended events every month and we’ve done a lot to support a great many other organizations, including DuPage Legal Aid, the law school clinic programs at Kent, John Marshall, Loyola, NIU and DePaul, and Illinois Legal Aid Online.
What would put a perfect cap on 2016 – all I want for Christmas this year – is a strong turnout for the DuPage Bar Foundation’s Holiday Breakfast on Thursday, December 15, 2016. I’m sure Walt will be there. I hope you will be, too.