Shop Oak Street Chicago: Help the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and The World

“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo
Win/win/win virtuous circles is a powerful idea whose time has come.
So is growing what is great about the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  For decades it’s been ranked the best rehabilitation hospital in the country.

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Civic leaders know that Dr. Henry Betts led RIC to the top of the rankings because of his  extraordinary focus on patients, talent for advocacy and ability to implement leading edge research for people with disabilities.  Learn more here.

His successor, Dr. Joanne Smith, not only carried forward Betts’ legacy, she improved upon it. This includes her brainchild, the Ability Lab,” which put a high quality, light filled rehab therapy space decorated with positive messages next to appropriate research scientists and laboratories.  This proved extraordinarily effective and is one of the many good reasons behind RIC’s campaign to build a new hospital filled with similar spaces.

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Improving business by supporting local treasure nonprofits is another great idea whose time has come.  So, Make It Better is happy, happy, happy to be the media sponsor of the Oak Street Shop Around this Thursday, June 18 from 10 – 6 pm, at which participating stores donate 15% (not just 10%, rather 15%) of their sales to RIC.Could there be a better win/win/win, virtuous circle than this?You enjoy the best shopping in Chicago to support the best rehabilitation research and facilities in the country, with festival-like amenities that include live music, summer drinks and photo shoots too.
Please join us.Register here and you earn a free raffle ticket for fabulous prizes too:

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium Names Baby Sea Otter!

The name is in: Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium named its sea otter pup Luna! Welcome Luna to Chicagoland!

Here’s one more adorable reason to love Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium – Pup 681, a rescued sea otter pup. Watch This 

We are big supporters of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and here’s a simple way you can help our iconic institution– Vote to name their new sea otter pup. The Shedd is partnering with ABC’s Good Morning America to help pick out the perfect name for sea otter Pup 681. Voting on the GMA website begins today through Dec. 11. Please chime in and take a look at these adorable pics and the video of the cute ball of fuzz!

Here’s the schoop one the Shedd on the darling pup:

Pup 681 came to Shedd on October 28 through it’s collaboration with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  She’s been swimming past significant milestones over the last few weeks and has already doubled in size – now weighing a little over 10 pounds, Because Shedd has a history of naming animals that are rescued affiliated with the locations of which they were found, the names under consideration were: 

  • Cali – To honor the California otter
  • Ellie – Año Nuevo State Park is well known for its elephant seals, also Elkhorn Slough – an area that is right up the coast from Monterey that is home to many sea otters
  • Luna – Derived from nearby Half Moon Bay
  • Poppy – California State Flower
  • Aña or Anya  – Derived from Año Nuevo State Park

And Luna was the winner!

THE 5 Ps Of Effective Philanthropy

Effective fundraising made easy by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Make It Better:

Fundraise Like The Pros In Honor of National Philanthropy Day

Etymologically, “philanthropy” means love of humankind.

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, philanthropy means “the practice of giving time and money to help make life better for other people.”

However you define philanthropy or choose to practice it in your life, you can celebrate it this Saturday, Nov. 15 on National Philanthropy Day. This day is sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), which generates philanthropic support for a wide variety of charitable institutions.Philanthropy

The holiday is meant to recognize the great changes that philanthropy has brought to the world and to encourage people to work to better the lives of others. President Ronald Reagan officially proclaimed Nov. 15 as National Philanthropy Day in 1986.

Tips for Wise Giving (and How Make It Better Can Help):

According to the AFP, there are five Ps to wise giving: Passionate, Proactive, Prepare, Plan and Powerful.

Here is how Make It Better applies these five P’s to our philanthropic efforts. We would be honored to help your favorite nonprofit this way, too.

Power of PhilanthropyPassionate: At Make It Better, we support organizations run by people who are truly PASSIONATE about the work they do—whether they work to improve education, fight for social justice or save the environment. We believe the attitude behind an organization fuels its long-term success.

Proactive: Make It Better PROACTIVELY seeks organizations to partner with across the North Shore and the Greater Chicago Area that are working to grow their support network and spread their mission. We are always open to hearing from new nonprofits. You can connect with us through our website at or email our Philanthropy Editor, Maura Flaherty, at

Prepare: Once Make It Better decides to partner with your organization, we will PREPARE a contract called a media sponsorship agreement. This agreement allows us to learn as much information as we can about your organization’s history, mission and fundraising events and details your role as our partner.Prepare

Plan: Make It Better prefers to partner with an organization several months prior to important events or fundraisers so that we can PLAN the most effective editorial coverage around them.

Powerful: By planning which editorial coverage to use with your organization, such as placement on our Online Calendar of Events, Better Letter Sponsored Listing or in the Give Time, Things Support section of our magazine, Make It Better allows your organization to receive maximum impact and POWERFUL support from our readers and followers.

Top 11 Chicago Female Philanthropists

If you missed my recent Make It Better article on these Top 11 Chicago Female Philanthropists, I wanted to highlight this list of amazing women I mentioned in April, 2014 when Mayor Emanuel created this tribute.

In honor of Women’s Philanthropy Week and the#WomenLeading Philanthropy Symposium in Chicago, Make It Better announces our Top 11 Chicago Female Philanthropists.

This list, which is ordered alphabetically, is made up of women we admire who are doing wonderful things in—and for—our community.


1. Frances Comer—Founder, The Comer Foundation

The widow of Lands’ End founder Gary Comer continues in the philanthropic traditions she started with her husband, focusing primarily on children’s health and education. More than $50 million has been invested in Gary’s childhood community on Chicago’s South Side, including the creation of the internationally recognized Gary Comer Youth Center, a top performing college prep school, and an affordable housing initiative. Additionally, major investments have been made to theUniversity of Chicago, most especially $42 million for the Comer Children’s Hospital and Pediatric Emergency Department.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Rosemary-Connelly2. Sister Rosemary Connelley—Executive Director, Misericordia

Connelley has been a champion of better care for children and adults with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities since she began working at a small South Side facility in 1969. She has grownMisericordia into a vibrant, loving community for 600 residents in the Rogers Park facility (for which she lobbied hard) with an annual budget of more than $50 million. Along the way Connelley has also earned seven honorary degrees, numerous other awards, and a beloved and much-respected reputation as a leading champion in the developmental disabilities arena.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Paula-Fasseas-new3. Paula Fasseas—Founder, PAWS and Peter & Paula Fasseas Foundation 

Fasseas founded the animal shelter PAWS Chicago in 1997 as a volunteer movement to help stray dogs find homes. Her passion for the cause grew the nonprofit into a “no kill” model with a state-of-the-art facility admired and adopted within the national PAWS organization, which rescues a variety of animals. Impressively, the Fasseas Foundation’s reach is extensive and goes beyond PAWS. In 2011 alone, the Fasseas Foundation donated $1,318,350 to promote volunteerism, philanthropy and grant-making foundations. (Photo by Sofia Spentzas.)


MAD-female-philanthropists-Francia-Harrington4. Francia Harrington—Senior Vice President Corporate Social Responsibility, JPMorgan Chase

Harrington manages the extensive civic relationships and philanthropic efforts of JPMorgan Chase. She also sits on the boards of LISC Chicago, ChiArts High School (which she also helped found), Ingenuity Incorporated and Chicago Lights. Harrington has been a longtime champion of the power of female philanthropists; JPMorgan Chase is the premier sponsor of this week’s #WomenLeading Philanthropy Conference, which will draw national attention to Chicago’s prominence in this area.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Joan-Harris-new5. Joan Harris—Former Chairman, Irving Harris Foundation

Known as the Patron Saint of Arts in Chicago, and also considered a national arts powerhouse, Harris and her late husband, Irving, championed development of the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, which created a home and new opportunities for scores of arts organizations. She has served on the National Endowment for the Arts,Arts Alliance Illinois, and as the Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as on the boards of the CSO, Juilliard Schooland Aspen Music Festival and School. The Foundation also supports programs, policies research and organizations for early childhood initiatives and the Jewish community.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Mellody-Hobson6. Mellody Hobson—President, Ariel Investments

Hobson, youngest of a single mother’s six children and the only one to graduate from college, has long championed education and equal opportunities for all in Chicago. Her marriage to filmmaker George Lucas helped shoot her into the civic philanthropic stratosphere. She and Lucas gave recent donations of $25 million to both After School Matters and the University of Chicago Laboratory School. Hobson also serves on the boards of the Chicago Public Library, Field Museum, theChicago Public Education Fund and the Sundance Institute. (Photo by Joi Ito.)


MAD-female-philanthropists-Liz-Lefkofsky-new7. Liz Lefkofsky—Founder, Lefkofsky Family Foundation

Lefkofsky is a rising star in Chicago’s philanthropic community. She and her husband, Eric, who founded Groupon, have given away $25 million to Chicago-area nonprofits working in education, medical research, fundamental human rights, and arts and culture. She’s also creating opportunities for female tech entrepreneurs with the foundation’s recent support of 1871 FEMtech. Her philanthropic drive predates Groupon’s success. As a child, Lefkofsky helped her mother stuff envelopes in support of the American Brain Tumor Association, which her mother founded, and later served as a director of the Printer’s Row Book Fair and Gallery 37 arts community. Thanks to her recent signing of Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge with her husband, this commitment will only grow; they have pledged to donate half of their net wealth to charitable causes.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Ann-Lurie8. Ann Lurie—President and Treasurer, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Foundation; Founder, Africa Infectious Disease Village Clinics, Inc.

Lurie, a self-proclaimed hippie in her early years, also worked in public health and pediatric nursing before starting a family and never lost her passion for this work. Now, through the Foundation and her personal giving, Lurie engages in direct and transformational philanthropy and research grant funding in education, social services, arts and health care organizations around the world. Now perhaps best known for her $100 million gift to the Lurie Children’s Hospital and deep commitment to transforming health care in Africa, Lurie also has funded a long, diverse list of other programs through other institutions, including Northwestern and University of Michigan. Better yet, Lurie doesn’t just give money; when she takes a project to heart, she gives substantial time, too.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Diana-Mendly-Rauner9. Dr. Diana Mendley Rauner—President, Ounce of Prevention Fund; Founder, Rauner Family Foundation

She’s currently best known as the wife of the Republican gubernatorial candidate, but Rauner has long been a determined advocate for children and a thoughtful force behind her family’s prodigious philanthropic gifts. This includes launching the state-of-the-art Rauner Center for theAmerican Red Cross of Greater Chicago, founding six charter schools and supporting numerous other education and scholarship programs. She also serves on the board of Lurie Children’s Hospital. She’s most passionate, though, about the importance of early childhood education, leading her to take on a full-time commitment to theOunce of Prevention Fund, which is a national leader in the area.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Shirley-Ryan10. Shirley Welsh Ryan—President and Treasurer, Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Foundation

To understand the rocket-fuel power of strategic ideas amplified by philanthropic dollars, spend a little time listening to Ryan discuss the visions behind her family’s philanthropy, like the Ryan Opera Center of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Ryan Education Center of the Art Institute of Chicago, Pathways Center for Children, and manyNorthwestern University (her alma mater) programs. Ryan thinks deeply about a nonprofit’s mission and creates and/or funds programs with remarkable vision, while quietly deflecting attention from her valuable efforts.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Bernarda-Wong11. Bernarda Wong—Founder/President, Chinese American Service League

In 1979, with the belief that she could make the transition to a new life, language and cultural expectations better for Asians moving to the United States, Wong founded CASL in Chicago on a mere $30,000 budget. She based this on her own experience moving here from Hong Kong as an 18-year-old. Wong grew the Service League into a significant institution with a $12 million annual budget, and was recently recognized by President Barack Obama. She was the first Asian to serve on the boards of theChicago Public Library and the United Way of Chicago. Her public service also includes several city and state government advisory councils, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations(CCHR), the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) Board, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) Board, and Illinois Council on Aging.

Aubrey Sings to Support JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes

Behind every great young person is a fantastic mother.  Aubrey and Jennifer Woolford prove this point.

Aubrey Woolford

Team Aubrey, mother Jennifer is the first one on the left in the front row

Jennifer Woolford is a fantastic mom. When her daughter Aubrey was diagnosed with childhood Type 1 diabetes, she helped Aubrey turn this negative into a powerful positive –becoming a leader in finding a cure. Along the way, Aubrey has inspired many others and made interesting and powerful friends too–like the Jonas Brothers and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk.

Aubrey and Jennifer invite others to join Aubrey’s Wings team in the JDRF Walk along Chicago’s lakefront this Sunday, October 6th, or donate directly to JDRF with the message below written by Jennifer:

It’s a day we have come to celebrate too, all that Aubrey Woolford has become in this fight to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

Some facts about Aubrey:

· She’s a child that during her first year of diagnosis, at age 10, made a speech at Discover Card’s Headquarters in front of 2000 people determined to put an end to her days of multiple shots and hassles when she should just have been spending her days being a kid.

· She’s a child that continues to speak any chance she is asked by JDRF to groups of Walk Teams out there walking for kids all over Illinois. This year at the close of one of her speeches, Aubrey had a group of 50 year old men rise to their feet clapping, inspired by her strength and commitment. The sentiment was from the heart and made great impact.

· She’s a young woman who went to Washington D.C. as an Illinois Delegate for JDRF’s Children’s Congress to thank the supporters of research funding and ask for even more!

· She’s a born leader who this summer had “the best summer of her life” as a Counselor in Training for Camp Barton, a Type 1 camp in North Oxford, Mass.  According to Aubrey, she was honored to carry a “reaction bag” to treat little ones managing this big disease by helping young campers test sugars and work to keep things in check. A constant issue for these kids…. all in the middle of summer fun and camp experiences. There is just no vacation from this disease.

We could not be more proud of the strength of Aubrey’s commitment to make an impact and forge on. It is so important to so many and she is steadfast in her commitment to keep the fight going strong.

So, please consider walking with us October 6th by joining her team “Aubrey’s Wings”. Its a chance to show your continued support of Aubrey, and a cause important to our entire family.

It isn’t easy managing this awful card, its super disruptive, isolating and scary sometimes, annoying and always, always there. No one should have to think about 3 hours from now.  They should just be able to enjoy now. We may take this for granted–Aubrey cannot.

We are grateful for your consideration as there are so many worthy organizations to support. This year, we hope you will consider any donation to help us make an impact on the daily, hourly, all encompassing challenges of this disease. We so want to nail it!  Click here to help.

Pictured above are:

1) Our Aubreys Wings Team from 2013
2) Aubrey with Senator Mark Kirk when selected a delegate for JDRF’s Childrens Congress in Washington, DC.
3) Aubrey and her brother Cooper and Best Pal when they met The Jonas Brothers. Nick Jonas is also Type 1 and super active.
4) Aubrey singing The National Anthem at a WAlk to Cure Diabetes in 2009

Let me know if you need any further information and thanks for the support! We are walking on the lakefront Sunday, October 6th at 9am!

Who Are The Power 10?


“Ruthlessly compete with your own best self.” – Apollo 12 Engineers

Chicago’s northern suburbs brim with fascinating people who have successfully competed with their own best selves and others to attain positions of power.

We hope to highlight 10 inspiring examples in the January 2014 Make It Better issue. So we ask you:

Who do you recommend as the most powerful individuals who live or work in the northern suburbs and what traits do you most admire about them?

And The Winners of Best of 2013 Are:

Congratulations to the Make It Better Best Of 2013 winners.  These winners were selected by over 50,000 audience votes – no small accomplishment. Make It Better is proud to celebrate them in our August magazine and online at

A. Perry Homes

Anthony’s Tailoring

The Art Institute Of Chicago

Audrey Gordon

Baha’i Temple

Baker Boys Bakery

The Barking Lot

Big Blue Swim School

Bikram Yoga North


Bonnie Lecal Designers

The Book Stall

The Brothers K


Chicago Botanic Garden

Children’s Gift Shop

Classic Kids



Dr. David Center

Edzo’s Burger Shop

Egea Spa





Forest Park Beach

Get A Grip Cycles

Good Grapes

Hester Painting & Decorating

Jeweled Elephant

Massage Therapy Center Of Winnetka

John Plunkett Design


Kohl Children’s Museum

Kohler Waters Spa

La De Da

Lake Forest Beach

Lake Shore Travel

Lewis Floor & Home

Lori Neuschel, @Properties



Maya Papaya & Tony Macarony

Dr. Michael Byun

Millenium Park


Mollie Milano, Style Spies

The Noodle Cafe

Orren Pickell Maintenance Group

Peet’s Coffee & Tea


The Pit Shop

Peachtree Place

Principessa Children’s Boutique

Raven & Dove


Red Mango

Red Door Spa

Running Away Multisport

Ruth’s Chris

Schwartz’s Intimate


Teddie Kossof Salon & Spa

Trifecta Grill

Two Buds Boutique

Vintage Nest

Thank You League Of Women Voters

“To the wrongs that need resistance, to the right that needs assistance, to the future in the distance, give yourselves.” Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League Of Women Voters.

Catt’s quote is as true now as it was when the League of Women Voters was founded in Chicago over 90 years ago. And the League still provides the best source for unbiased analysis of election issues that could help assist rights, resist wrongs, and create a better future for all.

The Illinois League of Women Voters just celebrated 100 years of voting rights for women. We thank them for their continuing good work.

The members of the League of Women Voters take a moment to join with the League Lady for a picture from left to right: Barbara Marsh, Henrietta Saunders, Sheri Latash, Joan Ziegler, Mary Hummel, Janet Kittlaus, Jane Ballengee

Impact 100 Chicago Awards $100,000 to Umoja

Marybeth Lernihan Impact 100 Chicago, Lila Leff Founder of Umoja, Ted Christians CEO of Umoja and Michele Polvere, Impact 100 Chicago

Marybeth Lernihan Impact 100 Chicago, Lila Leff Founder of Umoja, Ted Christians CEO of Umoja and Michele Polvere, Impact 100 Chicago

Impact 100 Chicago is a women’s philanthropic organization that annually awards $100,000 to a deserving organization.  This year, they awarded $127,000 to four Chicago-area nonprofits at their annual Grant Award Celebrations on June 6th.

This year’s main winner–the recipient of $100,000–was Umoja, an organization that partners with Chicago’s most challenged public high schools and helps reduce school violence, promotes academic success, and increases college enrollment.  The grant will be used specifically to expand its Restorative Justice Program at two high schools.  Kudos to them.

The remaining three finalists were ENLACE Chicago, La Casta Norte, and Sarah’s Inn, each receiving $9,000 for their work.  Find out more about Impact 100 Chicago and its amazing women here.



Last night I judged the Public Speaking contest at Build, Inc., a wonderful nonprofit serving 3500 students in 22 of Chicago’s worst communities – including Cabrini Green and Austin. Nine high school students each stood up in front of a large crowd to share their life story, emphasizing the difficulties which brought them to BUILD, Inc. and how the organization has helped.

Talk about troubled childhoods!

The winner, Carissa Knox, who is standing just to the right of the banner in the photo below, moved me to tears with her journey from being unable to ever speak in the first person because she had been molested by her uncle as a child and no one believed her. “I came from a family of separation… BUILD, Inc. awakened my inner poet, helped me speak with my own voice, become social and have ambition.”

Hector Rodriguez is the youngest of 4 boys and 1 girl, raised by a single mother. His two oldest brothers joined rival gangs. The eldest was in prison by the time Hector was 7. The second oldest has been shot – “laying covered in his own blood” – 10 different times, usually by his brother’s gang. Hector called himself “short, fat and frightened” when he found his way to BUILD, Inc. He’s now tall, fit, confident and has great smile as you can see in the photo. He is just to the left of the banner.

LEFT SIDE OF BUILD BANNER – Dr. Roslind Blasingame, Executive Director; Christine Bakkalar, Highland Park; Lavelle Rodgers, Gala Dinner Speaker; Rachel Gray, 3rd Place; Hector Rodriguez, Honorable Mention and Gala Dinner Speaker.
RIGHT SIDE OF BUILD BANNER – Carissa Knox, 1st Place and Gala Dinner Speaker; Marci Klein, Winnetka; me; Aramis Pates, 2nd Place; Amarian Pates; Ron Libman, US Messenger President.

My admiration, and society’s thanks, go to the North Shore’s Marci Klein and Christine Bakkalar for many years of passionate and creative work to build BUILD, Inc.’s capacity. It’s new colorful, light filled facility should attract more youth too. Thanks also to Ron Libman, US Messenger President and Rik Vazquez, BUILD, Inc.’s Positive Youth Development Coordinator who worked most closely with the speakers too. Thanks to their hard work, every teen who spoke should feel like a winner.

BUILD, Inc.’s annual gala dinner will be May 3rd at Soldier Field’s United Club. Make It Better is proud to be the media sponsor.

For more information on BUILD, Inc. or the event, please see

Selected Quotes on Build, Inc.:

“BUILD helps protect Chicago’s at-risk youth and empowers them to rise above the influence of drugs, gangs and violence. BUILD’s many programs give children the support and tools they need to achieve their dreams and be a positive, driving force in their community.” – Illinois Governor Pat Quinn
“When I hear the stories of our youth, I know the importance of why BUILD exist. Our youth are my inspiration to continue to provide a place where they can find their voices and realize their God-Given potential.” – Dr. Roslind Blasingame-Buford –
“I have respect for BUILD’s vision and programs and commend them for their long history of commitment to provide assets-based assessments and services that empower youth and communities. I have confidence in BUILD’s ability to be an asset within the Austin Community with the overall impact of transforming highly “at-risk” youth at the margins in our community into greatly “at-hope” youth who will enter and enrich the mainstream of our society.” – Deborah Graham Alderman, 29th Ward