Big City Night: Atlantis

Big City Night was a Tidal Success!


Five hundred friends, families and partners of Aspire came together under one roof on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016 at Chicago’s beautiful Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel to enjoy a spectacular evening celebrating the 18th Annual Big City Night gala and what we’ve achieved together. The evening’s message, “Together, We’re Better,” which lies at our core, was wholeheartedly embraced by all.

Thanks to our sponsors and generous supporters, Big City Night: Atlantis was a success for Aspire Kids, raising more than $250,000 to support critical therapies and programs for 600 kids with disabilities over the next year.

Emceed by longtime Aspire supporter and NBC5 Chicago investigative journalist Lisa Parker and pediatrician, medical expert and Aspire Board member Dr. Lisa Thornton, the evening raised money and awareness for Aspire Kids, which provides therapies for kids with developmental disabilities and family support and works with schools to create inclusive classrooms.

Big City Night started with a bang with a surprise performance by Mucca Pazza, a local “marching band that thinks it’s a rock and roll band.” The twenty-odd piece ensemble that’s built a cult following in the underground music scene combines street theater and marching band instincts with avant-garde and rock band sensibilities. The band has performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Lollapalooza – and now Big City Night!

During dinner, guests were treated to yet another surprise performance. This time adults and young adults with disabilities from ABLE Ensemble took to the stage to deliver an awesome theatrical performance. ABLE is a local group that empowers people with special needs to discover their own unique abilities through theater. They had a great time and stole the show! Read ABLE’s blog post about the evening.

Throughout the program, we heard from speakers in-person and in video stories.

  • Angela Morehouse-Brown shared Brooke’s story. Born with spina bifida, Brooke’s been overcoming unique challenges since day one. Today, thanks to the help of her family, friends and therapists at Aspire, Brooke’s a sassy three-year old who just took her first steps with her walker. Watch Angela’s journey from the diagnosis during pregnancy to today. Watch here.
  • Reuben Slone, the Senior Vice President of Supply Chain and Logistics at Walgreens, has been an integral part of Aspire’s Board and received last year’s Advocate for Inclusion Award at Big City Night. Reuben took the stage to share how Walgreens is leading the way and creating jobs for people with disabilities.
  • Guests learned about Aspire’s groundbreaking independent living program, Life On My Own, that teaches adults with disabilities the skills needed to live independently in the community. Watch the video that shows how this innovative program works and how it’s changing the lives of people with disabilities, like Jesse who lives on his own. Watch here.
  • We heard from many of Aspire’s partners – from companies that drink Aspire CoffeeWorks, to volunteers to corporate leaders hiring people with disabilities. Watch here.
  • Big City Night chair Tracy Ullman shared the touching story of her journey with her son, Gabe, who has autism. Tracy has fought hard to make sure Gabe has every opportunity in life and believes in Aspire’s mission of inclusion. She wants for Gabe what other adults and young adults with disabilities are accomplishing with the help of Aspire.


The evening continued with the presentation of Aspire’s Advocate for Inclusion Award, which is given to an individual who has made a profound impact in furthering Aspire’s mission. Aspire recognized Raju Patel, former Aspire Board Member and Senior Vice President at Bank of America, for his outstanding dedication, leadership and generosity. Raju has played an instrumental role at Aspire, especially in the growth of Aspire’s ambassador groups, specifically the Associate Board made up of emerging leaders and young professionals across Chicagoland.

During dinner and in between speakers, guests bid on fabulous items and experiences during the silent and live auctions, which included an expenses paid trip to wine country, VIP passes to see the nation’s most popular late night comedians, and exclusive in-home dinners prepared by famous chefs.

After dinner, guests headed to the Pacific Ballroom for Poseidon’s Ball after party where they enjoyed dessert, including churros with an Aspire CoffeeWorks coffee-infused caramel cream dipping sauce. Partygoers had a ball at the Spin-To-Win wheel, taking home a variety of prizes from restaurant and retailer gift cards to Aspire CoffeeWorks coffee to a wagon full of wine, and danced the night away to the carefully curated beats of DJ Lonnie “007” Bonds.

Chaired by television producer and documentary film maker Tracy UllmanJessica Payne of InnerWorkings, and Street Scene Marketing President Denise Faulkner-Sims, the 18th annual Big City Night gala will go down in history, just like Atlantis!

To view all videos from the evening, visit Aspire’s Vimeo page.

To view photos from the evening, visit Aspire Chicago on Facebook.
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Thank you
to the generous sponsors and partners that helped make Big City Night possible: Walgreens, National Van Lines, The Private Bank, InnerWorkings, Unlimited Bliss Productions, The William D. Walsh Family, Complete Cleaning Company Inc., Garvey’s Office Products, Eurest, CBRE, CPT Network Solutions, Executive Construction, Inc., Super Electric Construction Company, Gibson Electric & Technology Solutions, The Hill Group, , MB Financial Bank, Molex, Navistar, Ansari &Shapiro, LLC., NBC5 Chicago, Canteen, Talmer Bank and Trust, Good Heart Work Smart Foundation, RSM US LLP, Assurance Agency, Blue Star Technologies, Gozdecki, Del Guidice, Americus, Farkas, & Brocato LLP, Mizuho Securities,Proviso Public Partnership, StratigIQ Commerce, Premier Asset Management LLC, Roland  Sales Vending, Hinsdale Magazine, Able Ensemble, Lonnie “007” Bonds, Steve Kocour, Mucca Pazza, Windy City Sound and Lighting, Uniquely Able, Paul Rogers and Inland Real Estate Brokerage & Auctions, Inc.

SINCE ITS INCEPTION MORE THAN 50 YEARS AGO, Aspire has pushed the boundaries of what is possible for people with disabilities. Today, we continue to promote models of inclusion ahead of society’s expectations. Through groundbreaking partnerships with industry leaders — including CBRE, Walgreens, Office Depot, and OfficeMax — we are launching innovative initiatives and programs that are changing the game for people with disabilities, their families, and the community. 

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