Festa Parties, a Chicago-based event planning company known for its festive pub crawl events including TBOX, The Twelve Bars of Xmas in Wrigleyville, hosted another lively event for friends, donating proceeds to Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. Festa Parties has been planning and organizing great Chicago party events since its first TBOX back in 1996.
Mercy Home for Boys & Girls began as St. Paul’s Home for Working Boys in 1887 above a Catholic library in downtown Chicago by Fr. Louis Campbell, a Chicago priest. In 1889, it moved just west of downtown, to what is still its current headquarters. With continued growth, Mercy Home opened a home for young women on Chicago’s South Side in 1987. That same year, Mercy Home’s Friends First mentoring program began matching trained adult volunteer mentors with children in need living throughout Chicago. In August 2003, Mercy Home opened the Rev. James J. Close residence hall for boys on its Hay Campus. This new facility, which increased their capacity by 40%, enabled Mercy Home to provide healing for more young people in need than ever before. In fact, “Its residential, aftercare, and mentoring programs provide a safe home, emotional healing, education, and life-changing opportunities for more than 600 young people every year,” according to Mark Schmeltzer, Director of Communications at Mercy Home.
Schmeltzer continued to explain that, “young people come to Mercy Home in search of safe harbor from environments filled with abuse, neglect, abandonment, violence, poverty and other serious challenges. Mercy Home gives children like these stable, structured nurturing care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Its expert professional childcare staff provides life-changing therapeutic, academic and vocational support so that children may heal from the traumas of their pasts, prepare for their futures, and become self-reliant and successful adults. The impact of this work on our community is seen in the success of our kids after they go forward and contribute.” In addition, Mercy Home’s admissions counselors “make professional referrals to hundreds more troubled kids in crisis every year whose specific needs may be better met at qualified social service programs other than Mercy Home.”
Mercy Home operates under the mission of answering the Gospel call by ministering to children and families in need. They strive to save young lives by providing a safe, nurturing home, opportunity for an excellent education, and means for personal growth; support healing for families; be committed to raising public awareness of youth in need and encourages support to help them; be sustained by benefactors who believe in the miracle of God’s mercy in action.
The not-for-profit agency is 99.7% privately funded. Schmeltzer noted, “One of the unique aspects about how we help kids is in fact our funding structure. We raise nearly all of the resources we need to operate from private sources, like donations from individual men and women from across the country, foundation grants, corporate sponsorships and so on.” Their special events and campaigns, like Shamrocks for Kids, play a major role annually in securing the financial support. Throughout the month of March, the annual Shamrocks for Kids Campaign features family-friendly, Irish-themed events and activities to raise funds and awareness, including participation in four Chicago area parades – Forest Park, South Side, Downtown and Northwest Side – and culminating with hundreds of guests at the post St. Patrick’s Day Parade Celebration at the Hilton Downtown. Volunteers also distribute Mercy Home Shamrocks all over Chicago in exchange for donations that help young people living at Mercy Home. “What’s more, these events give us the opportunity to engage our core supporters in our mission, attract new friends who will help our kids in a variety of ways, and celebrate as a community—in short, to have a good time for a good cause.” Other major annual events include their black-tie gala, Ringside for Mercy’s Sake held in the fall, Leader Council Graduates’ Luncheon in May, and Have Mercy, their Junior Board’s gala. Mercy Home also either hosts or participates in dozens of smaller events throughout the year.
In March of 2011, Mercy Home ran the “Show Us Your Shamrock Smile” Contest on Facebook, granting the winner and friends access to ride aboard the Mercy Home float St. Patrick’s Day Parade float. Being a lifetime fan of the holiday, Christopher Festa, Owner and Founder of Festa Parties, decided to enter the contest, and he won the grand prize. “I have always wanted to ride on a float in a parade,” stated Festa. “I was very thankful to Mercy Home for giving me the opportunity. The contest helped raise my own awareness of the great efforts put forth by the wonderful organization, and inspired me to continue to get the word out.”
Festa continues to show his appreciation to Mercy Home by donating and raising over $1200, as well as new and used clothing, to the cause. In keeping with the St. Patrick’s Day spirit, Festa rented a bus for the day to take friends around the city to partake in the celebrations. In lieu of requesting payment for the bus, Chris asked each of the attendees to make a donation to Mercy Home. In addition, the group handed out Mercy Home Shamrock Stickers to promote awareness to other members of the community, while handing out promotional cards for upcoming Festa Parties events. Lindsey Glosniak was aboard the float two years ago, as well as the recent bus excursion. Glosniak commented, “It was a great experience, and a privilege to help represent such a wonderful organization. So, when I was invited to be a part of his charity bus trip this year, I couldn’t help but jump at the chance! It’s a simple recipe for philanthropic success: Take a group of fun-loving individuals who love their city, and love to give back to the community. Throw in some Shamrocks, and it’s a win-win situation for all parties involved!” Schmeltzer added, “We are blessed that many good-hearted people every year decide to support the Home by organizing their own fundraising events, or donate the proceeds from existing events, like Festa Parties.”
Festa Parties continues to contribute to several other charitable organizations as well, including Lakeview Pantry, CHICAGO Dance Marathon, and School Street Playlot. By frequently scheduling different events, Festa is finding new ways to promote the importance of giving to the community, and raising awareness and donations to worthy causes.
Festa Parties produces lively and popular events like TBOX, BeadQuest, and Cover Your Bases and contributes extensively to the local charities and community organizations. Festa’s upcoming events include its next pub crawl, Cover Your Bases 2013, the 5th Annual Baseball-Themed event on April 27th, 2013 in Wrigleyville.
Festa Parties, a Chicago-based event planning company known for its festive pub crawl events including TBOX, The Twelve Bars of Xmas in Wrigleyville, completed its sponsorship and participation in the CHICAGO Dance Marathon for the third year in a row, winning this year’s Top Team Fundraising Award. The event took place on March 2, 2013 from 8AM to 9:06PM, benefiting Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Festa Parties has been planning and organizing great Chicago party events since its first TBOX back in 1996.
With the growth of TBOX, Christopher Festa, Owner and Founder of Festa Parties, wanted to use this opportunity to formally partner with a local charity and help give to the Chicagoland community. Festa Parties became a Bronze Sponsor of the CHICAGO Dance Marathon in 2011, and then a Silver Sponsor in 2012 and 2013. The CHICAGO Dance Marathon is a 13.1-hour-long charity event during which participants can dance and hear the inspiring stories of patient families from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. The hospital, formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital, is a new state-of-the-art hospital located in downtown Chicago on the campus of its academic partner, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S.News & World Report. The hospital relies on philanthropic support to care for the children and their families. The funds raised from this event will be donated to the Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Over the years, Festa Parties and volunteers from the CHICAGO Dance Marathon have worked together in spreading the word of this charity. CDM volunteers have served as hosts at several Festa Parties events including TBOX and BeadQuest, where they’ve had the opportunity to distribute literature and fun stickers to the crowd to raise awareness for the benefit. “It has really been wonderful working with the people from the CHICAGO Dance Marathon over the past three years”, said Christopher Festa, “Unlike some other groups we approached, the CDM people immediately ‘got’ the idea of TBOX and they have many of the type of young, fun, ‘wire to wire’ demographic we attract to our events. TBOX just so happens to also start at 8AM, and also go over 13 hours, so it really seemed fated for our two events to work together!”
This year, Festa Parties had a team of 15 Royal Court Members (VIPs of Festa Parties events) and friends participating in the Dance Marathon. This is the largest group the team has had to date, increasing from five members in 2011, and seven members in 2012. The enthusiastic group danced, participated in trivia and other games, as well as interacted with families and children throughout the day. Festa Parties team member, Kira Elliott, stated, “I’ve been looking forward to dancing for 13 hours all week. I find dancing really freeing. When my sister did the Dance Marathon last year, I got really excited about it. It’s been really fulfilling to be able to do something I love and benefit a really good cause.”
For some of the other Festa Parties team members, the importance of dancing in the marathon touched home. Jessica Harrison, a returning participant, shared, “Last year was my first year. I did it as a way to give back to the community. This past year, my nephew had to go to the hospital to have surgery, so I now have a personal connection to the hospital, which makes this event even more special.” Cindy Studebaker took a bus six hours from Michigan to be on the Festa Parties team. Studebaker commented, “Charity work has always been rewarding to me and I wanted to help out the children and support the Festa Parties team. Seeing these families make me very thankful that I have a healthy child and didn’t have to face the issues that these families face.”
During the CHICAGO Dance Marathon, families spoke on stage and shared their stories of how the Lurie Children’s Hospital has helped them. In addition, each participating team was assigned a child to dance for during the day. At a designated time, the team members had the opportunity to spend some personal time with the child and family. The Festa Parties team was able to spend time with the Page family, and their daughter Harlow. Harlow was diagnosed with a brain tumor in her abdomen when she was only four months old. After speaking with several doctors, the Page family was referred to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. The medical staff was able to help save Harlow’s life. Jamie Page, Harlow’s mother, expressed her gratitude, “Lurie Children’s Hospital is an amazing resource for the children of the Chicago area and because of them our daughter Harlow has a bright future ahead of her. Lurie’s not only treated Harlow’s cancer but they also took care of our family. The doctor’s and nurses became a second family to us during Harlow’s treatment. They made us active participants in her care and were willing and able to do anything they could to make sure that they were not just treating her cancer but also trying to keep her childhood as normal as possible while going through such a hard time. The staff at Lurie’s were not just her doctor’s and nurse’s, but our friends and confidants in a time when we really needed support. There was a time where we thought Harlow may not make it to her first birthday but we’re now approaching her fifth and I truly don’t know if that would have been possible with any other hospital. We could not be more grateful to all that Lurie’s Childrens Hospital has done for our family.” For Festa Parties team participant, Christina Miller, stories like Harlow’s is why she dances year after year, “It is such an inspiration to listen to the family stories and feed off their positive attitude. This is my third year and I am going to continue coming back for years to come.”
At the conclusion of the event, the Festa Parties team was awarded with the prize for Top Fundraising Team, generating a total of $26,623.61 to be donated to the worthy cause. These funds will be able to cover several large expenses such as an infant warming bed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and one year of Caring Touch, a hands-on therapy intervention offered to children in palliative care to reduce their level of distress, tension and discomfort. Festa Parties plans to continue supporting this great cause for many years to come.
Besides the CHICAGO Dance Marathon, Festa Parties has been continuously contributing to other worthy charitable causes in the Chicagoland community, including Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, Lakeview Pantry and School Street Playlot. In addition to cash and food donations, they have also donated thousands of dollars in clothing in partnership with Festa’s other company, Great To Be Here T-Shirts. “It’s very satisfying in our business to be able to add value not only for our customers, but by contributing to good causes as well that can really use and appreciate our help. It’s also really gratifying to know that so many of our friends and customers are as enthusiastic and passionate about charity as they are about partying!”
Festa Parties is looking forward to continuing producing the lively and popular events like TBOX, BeadQuest, and Cover Your Bases and contribute extensively to the local charities and community organizations. Festa’s upcoming events include its St. Patrick’s / Lucky Charms Edition “BYOC” Cereal Donation Party at Irish Oak on Thursday, March 7th, benefiting Lakeview Pantry, and the next pub crawl, Cover Your Bases 2013, the 5th Annual Baseball-Themed event on April 27th, 2013 in Wrigleyville.
Christopher Festa, Owner and Founder of Festa Parties, a Chicago-based event planning company known for its festive events including TBOX, The Twelve Bars of Xmas in Wrigleyville, is motivating the young minds of DePaul students, after giving a lecture on Wednesday, February 13th in a Social Media Marketing Class. Festa Parties has been planning and organizing great Chicago party events since its first TBOX way back in 1996.
DePaul University Professor Steve Koernig invited Festa to give a one hour talk to his downtown campus class of 25 in order to show them a real life success story on the power of great marketing. Koernig stated, “I asked Chris to speak in my class because I consider his use of Facebook to build his business nothing short of extraordinary. I have seen what Chris has been able to accomplish with his companies, and I felt that he could inspire my students not only as a Facebook expert, but also as an entrepreneur.”
Festa spoke in detail and answered questions about how he built his business in both the early days of the internet, the pre-social media days, and in today’s current environment of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media tools. Mikaela Odell, a DePaul student that participated in the lecture, mentions that she, “got inspired by Christopher because he told me and my class about how he had been working an ordinary job and then he decided to start his own business. He started a business based on something he loved and cared about.” Odell later added, “He showed us that working with something that you love is possible. He showed us that an hobby can be turned into a business and that is really inspiring.”
Christopher Festa also shared his knowledge of building a business and his effective marketing strategy. He has long since used Facebook and other social media outlets to promote his events, as evident by the growing popularity of these festivities, and encourages other business owners to do the same. One of the key points Festa emphasized was the need to engage customers online in a fun, creative, personal way. “I must admit, I’m as hooked on Facebook as anyone,” Festa said, “and when I post messages to our Festa Parties Facebook Page, I try to mix information with fun, using a lot of fun illustrations, personalized memes, pop culture references, and countdowns to our next big event. Since I’m so personally passionate about the subject matter, it makes it a labor of love to keep our customers continually informed, excited, and ready for the next big adventure.”
Festa went on to describe how TBOX grew from under 60 people in 1996 to well over 20,000 in 2012, and how Festa Parties has used techniques including fangating, glogs, contests, and heavy photo tagging to increase their reach across Facebook. This advice answered several questions DePaul undergraduate student, Lili He, has had in regards to improving her career, “Frequently as a marketer, we have to face the decision to choose the right social network tool between Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook. Myself as a marketing undergrad at DePaul University, I have often thought which social network tool is the best for business. And thanks to the lecture, I learned if there’s only one social network tool for business, Facebook is all you need.” However, Festa also pointed out, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Facebook marketing is a blessing, but with the way they continually change policies and functionality, and the way they are now monetizing the promotion of posts, it’s not a slam dunk to reach your entire audience with everything you want to get out to them.”
After the lecture, Festa commented, “It was great to share experience and knowledge with the younger generation interested in entrepreneurship.” Koernig added, “The major lesson Chris taught my students was one he might not expect: He stressed that they should pursue their interests and that starting a business is not as difficult as they might think. A large number of students approached me after his talk and said that he served as an inspiration to them. Before Chris spoke to my class, about a third of the class had told me that they knew social media was important, but they thought that it could only be used by the large, corporate, ‘sexy’ companies. Chris demonstrated that the twin engines of hard work and passion for an idea, propelled by social media, were more than sufficient to build a successful organization from the ground up.” DePaul student, Casey Moroney, felt the strength behind Festa’s words. “What resonated most with me is that he told his story of how he started with just a small group of people doing something for fun and turned it into a successful business that is now the biggest biggest bar crawl in the city,” Moroney stated. “Definitely one of the most inspiring lectures I’ve heard during my time at DePaul!”
Festa Parties is looking forward to continuing producing the lively and popular events like TBOX, BeadQuest, and Cover Your Bases and contribute extensively to the local charities and community organizations.