Kandy Kane Ball packs in partygoers to collect more toys for kids

By Candace Jordan

For the 13th annual Kris Kringle’s Kandy Kane Ball, dubbed the “largest private toy drive in the city,” more than 800 partygoers packed Joe’s on Weed Street in Lincoln Park on Dec. 12. Clad in cocktail attire with a requisite toy in hand for entry, guests enjoyed live entertainment by Sorry for Partying and DJ Gusto, festive holiday decor and much more.

Through the years, thousands of toys have been collected at this event for distribution through Holy Family Church and Chicago Children’s Charities. On Dec. 19, the Rev. Michael Gabriel, along with volunteers and event founders, unloaded a 53-foot semi-trailer holding more than 4,000 toys collected at this year’s ball for distribution to kids at the church’s annual Christmas party. Toys were also donated to St. Anthony Hospital and All Things Through Christ Outreach Ministries in the Englewood community.

Mark Bell, a board member, said, “It’s important to note that this is not part of a big charitable organization where donations get lost in the shuffle. One hundred percent of all toys and donations get distributed the following week. Ticket prices are intentionally set at a fraction of the cost of comparable charity events in order to accomplish the event’s mission, to collect more toys!”

Inspired by the popular Candy Land board game, decor included giant fiberglass candy canes accented with holly and pine. Characters dressed as Candy Land characters Gramma Nutt (Mercedes Tyler) and Queen Frostine (Aurora Sexton) posed for photos with guests, as classic holiday movies played on 120 televisions. A lavish dessert station featured a 6-foot-high chocolate fountain.

The tradition for this event was conceived in 2002 as a result of a request from one of the event founders, Courtney Dempsey, who had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer (which she has since beaten). Her only wish was to provide enough toys to make an impact on less fortunate Chicago children. “What started as a simple 10-person gift exchange 13 years ago has now developed into one of the most recognized holiday charity events in Chicago,” Bell said.

Freelance writer Candace Jordan is involved with many local organizations, including some whose events she covers.

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