Around 1,000 attendees in tropical attire gathered at the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier in Chicago last weekend for the 18th annual Goombay Bash, raising $661,599 for cancer research.
The event, put on each year by The H Foundation, a non-profit started by John Rot of Hortons Home Lighting, has now raised more than $8.5 million for basic science cancer research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.
This year’s bash got underway with introductions from hosts Pete McMurray of WGN Chicago and TV and radio personality Jane Monzures. Celebrity guests made appearances throughout the night, including actor George Wendt of Cheers and former Chicago Blackhawks player Jeremy Roenick.
Over the course of the evening, guests participated in a silent auction, helped themselves to the buffet and drinks, and took in the views of the city from Navy Pier.
Early in the night, American Lighting Assn. President Eric Jacobson and Dallas Market Center’s Laura Van Zeyl took to the stage to present Rot with a $50,000 check for The H Foundation.
At one point, the hosts announced the winner of the $10,000 grand raffle drawing prize — but the winner had already left the event. The audience laughed as they watched Roenick give the man a call and leave a voicemail telling him he won and to get back to the event to claim his prize. Later in the evening, attendees learned that the prize winner called back and said he wanted to donate all $10,000 of the prize to cancer research in honor of his father.
Gregg Garofalo of Lighting One was awarded Goombay’s second annual Guiding Light award recognizing an individual or company in the lighting industry that has shown support to Goombay and The H Foundation. He accepted the award in memory of his wife, Eileen.
The event centered on the hashtag #CancerIsPersonal, and attendees were encouraged to write the name of someone who inspires them to help find a cure on their hand and snap a photo for social media. A moving video montage showed various Goombay guests holding up their hands with the names of their loved ones — sometimes multiple — written on their palms.
Toward the end of the night, Honorary Chairs Gary and Cheryl Rabine were honored. Gary Rabine took to the stage to share his family’s experience with cancer — his wife, Cheryl was diagnosed with brain cancer. In an emotional talk, he walked the audience through how the two of them met and fell in love, her cancer diagnosis and how Cheryl has continued inspiring many with her dedication to family and faith.
Next came the live auction, where attendees put in bids for prizes including a week in the countryside of Tuscany, a six course dinner at The Cupola and a beachside vacation in St. James, Barbados.
The night ended with the big announcement of the fundraising total as streamers and confetti filled the ballroom. Attendees clapped and cheered before heading outside to watch fireworks over Lake Michigan.
After the event, Rot shared his thoughts on the evening.
“As I relish and bask in emotions of Saturday night…I try to soak in that feeling that fills the Grand Ballroom,” he said. “All of it…the laughter, the joy, the tears, the pride, the hugs and the triumph and sense of accomplishment of raising so much money. At the same time, I want to encourage all of you to take all of ‘that’ and carry it into today and tomorrow and next week, and the weeks and months to come.”