Marklund’s 20th annual Top Hat Ball broke all attendance and fundraising records, raising more than $600,000 in net proceeds.

“We are so grateful to the many generous sponsors and the more than 650 attendees who participated in making this the best Top Hat Ball in Marklund history,” said Jeannine Zupo, Marklund’s Director of Special Events. Marklund, founded in 1954, is a nonprofit organization that provides residential, therapeutic and educational services to children and adults with severe developmental disabilities. Based in Bloomingdale and Geneva, Ill, it serves families from throughout Chicago and the suburbs.

Held last month at the Marriott Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile, this year’s Top Hat Ball event was intended from the start to be particularly memorable as it featured a spectacular Knight in Camelot theme.

And what a night it was!

Dueling jousters, ladies in waiting, and knights in shining armor mingled among the guests, while a live owl and hawk, wandering monk, sword-in-the-stone ice sculpture, and an impressive castle and topiary garden all added to the ambiance. As a fitting start to the evening program, Bud and Binna Porter of St. Charles, event co-chairs, were knighted for their generosity and leadership to the event.

Silent and live auctions featuring spectacular vacations to Europe, Atlantis, the Caribbean, and Cancun, sporting event packages, and even tickets to the MTV Video Music Awards contributed to the fundraising success. Generous on-the-spot donations made during the event’s “Fund-in-Need” portion of the event, where guests make donations from $20,000 to $100, also pushed the totals above past records.

The evening also celebrated longtime Marklund supporter Karen Golden, who was named 2016 Friend of the Year. An active volunteer for Marklund since 1992, Golden, a resident of Naperville, joined the Marklund Board of Directors in 2000, serving as Board Chair from 2003-2010. She has helped cultivate numerous new donors to the organization. In addition, she has served on the Top Hat Ball committee since 2004, and was Event Chair from 2013-2015. Over the past 24 years, she has made significant personal contributions to Marklund, and continues her commitment to the ongoing work of the organization.

“When you see the work that they do at Marklund, it compels you to act, to support and to help our kids. I have gotten more out of Marklund than I could ever possibly give back,” Golden said in accepting her award.
As a major fundraiser for Marklund, the Top Hat Ball has come a long way from its inaugural year when a few hundred guests “Danced Among the Dolphins” at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, raising approximately $80,000. Since then, the event has continued to grow while keeping its goal of raising funds to support the care of those served at Marklund.

United Airlines and Viking Travel Services held major sponsorship roles serving as the official airline and travel sponsors for the event. Among the other major sponsors were Carol and Mike Donahue of Geneva, Porter Pipe & Supply Co. of Addison, Fitch Healthcare of Wheaton, and Zimmerman Ford of St. Charles. A full list of the Top Hat Ball sponsors can be found at

The 21st annual Top Hat Ball will be held on Feb. 4, 2017.