ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – Want to win a trip to Greece for six?
How about a $9,000 Rolex or a $2,000 diamond necklace?
These and other prizes will be part of an event including a live auction and raffles, available to the 300 to 350 people who attend tonight’s Winter Wine Festival fundraiser for LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva.
LivingWell provides more than 70 free programs for people with cancer and their families, relying on fundraisers to fund its work, said board member Ed French of St. Charles Township.
For 10 years, the festival was held at various homes and used to raise $65,000 to $75,000 an event, French said. For the past four years, however, French and his wife hosted it at their house, raising – so far – a total of $1.5 million for LivingWell.
This year, for the first time, the event will be open to the public. Those interested can get invitations.
“We’re trying to draw new people,” French said. “We’re hoping to break $400,000.”
The cost is $250 a person. About 50 invitations still can be obtained on the LivingWell website, www.livingwellcrc.org, by putting in the code 2015.
“We have a larger home with a ballroom and a large lower level,” French said. “We have a live and silent auction, and now multiple bands will play, as we’re turning our basement into a nightclub for a night.”
Although it is a major fundraiser for LivingWell, its atmosphere is more of a social night with wine and different types of food from different places in the Kane County area, French said.
All of the food, beverages and entertainment is donated, and about 50 volunteers help with serving and other tasks, he said.
As to why he and his wife would go to such lengths for LivingWell, Ed French said simply, “Everybody knows somebody that’s been touched by cancer.”
The event is not just Ed and Karen French opening up their home for a big party, said Lori Hansen, special event coordinator for LivingWell. The Frenches hire a company that removes furniture and transforms the ballroom into a space for the auctions and dancing, while the basement is turned into a nightclub bistro for entertainment, Hansen said.
The 11 live auction items require bidders to be present, but the 40 silent auction items can be bid by proxy through the website, she said.
The Frenches transformed fundraising for LivingWell, she said, which has a budget of $1.7 million.
“I have never met a couple who is so giving,” Hansen said. “Everybody who comes here [to LivingWell] does not pay at all because of people like him. As a cancer survivor myself, I understand how these programs help people – and he understands.”
LivingWell Executive Director Nancy Vance said after Saturday’s event, she expects the French’s to have facilitated $2 million in fundraising for the center.
“This is a guy who opens up his personal home and provides complete access,” Vance said. “They have a 25,000-square-foot home, and we use every bit of it.”
Access to the house is so complete, Vance said, that champagne and caviar will be served in Karen French’s closet.
“Ed and Karen have amazing hearts and incredibly generous spirits,” Vance said. “Their unrelenting commitment to our mission is unparalleled. He’s the reason why we don’t have to turn anybody away. ... It’s a critically important event to enable us to serve everybody who walks through our doors. We would not be able to serve everybody without him.”