Suitcase Party encourages more interaction with beneficiary

Ketul Patel

This year students walked away from the annual Suitcase Party fundraiser with more than prize baskets and paid vacations. Organizers also made sure the event on Friday night gave the 250 attendees a chance to get more information about the charity.

Suitcase Party raises money for a different charity or nonprofit group each year. For its 2006 event, the group chose to support Dreams for Kids, an organization that helps disadvantaged children and children with disabilities.

With their “passport,” students could participate in various activities, including dance lessons from BLAST, Dance Dance Revolution and a balloon pop game. But there were several additions, such as maneuvering through cones in a wheelchair, to help students become more knowledgeable about the charity, said Weinberg senior Karen Schaefer, the group’s co-chairwoman.

“We wanted to make sure that the people would talk with the beneficiary,” Schaefer said. “One of our goals this year was to get the beneficiary involved in the party.”

Schaefer said the group chose Dreams for Kids because it liked the group’s programs, which include a summer camp for children with disabilities and a Christmas party for disadvantaged children.

“We liked the fact that they were a small and a pretty new organization,” Schaefer said. “We felt like we could make the biggest impact with them.”

Schaefer said she thought the event was successful.

“I was really excited with the turnout, and people had fun,” she said. “The beneficiary was excited to talk to the students.”

The group had a harder time fundraising this year after the City Council passed a law Oct. 10 banning underage people from bars after midnight, Schaefer said. She said the final amount from Friday’s event has not yet been calculated.

“We would probably make $1,000 to $2,000 a year just through bar nights at The Keg (of Evanston),” Schaefer said. “It was definitely more difficult this year.”

Steven Pontikes, a director of Dreams for Kids, talked to attendees and discussed how his organization tries to bridge the gap between children with disabilities and their siblings. He said many children with handicaps feel alone because they see their siblings do things they cannot.

“I’m really indebted because your donations mean a lot,” he said. “It’s a really worthwhile organization. We want to make kids feel like they are not different.”

The main party was held in the Louis Room, where students could eat and enter raffles. With the price of admission, students also received a raffle ticket, which they could use to win several prize packages. Some included plane tickets from STA Travel and passes to local attractions. Students could purchase additional tickets for $1.

Some students had a strategy for winning the raffle.

Communication sophomores Becca Fleming and Katie McGroarty decided to put in 20 tickets for the “Get Sporty” package, which included NU gear from Beck’s Book Store, a one-month membership to Evanston Athletic Club and $50 worth of sporting goods.

“We’re theater majors, so we didn’t want to do more theater,” Fleming said. “We didn’t want to eat more, and we didn’t want to commit to a trip. We won the spa package last time, so we decided to go for the athletic one.”

Fleming and McGroarty had to compete in a dance-off when their tickets were picked, but lost to SESP junior Jennifer Sommer.

“I think we are a little bit hurt, but I think we were better.” Fleming said. “The former president of ASG (Music senior Patrick Keenan-Devlin) supported us through his cheers.”

Even though the competition didn’t turn out as she’d planned, McGroarty said she had no regrets about buying more raffle tickets.

“We like the fact that it is going to charity,” she said. “We feel better that it is going to a good cause.”

Reach Ketul Patel at [email protected]