Our History: Over 30 Years of Giving
Originally, the Spirit conducted a direct mail Annual Campaign, enlisting the support of the entire Lake Forest community. Results were gratifying. Donations for the initial year (1985-86) were $13,000 and the second year produced nearly $25,000.
In 1988, the Annual Campaign included solicitation of major gifts from foundations, corporations, and interested individuals. Donations for that year exceeded $75,000. Approximately $45,000 of these funds were granted for equipment and programming for an innovative, student-accessed computer network. Another $15,000 was granted to a variety of cultural and educational enrichment programs; and the remaining funds were designated by the donors for staff development and the Norm Erickson basketball tournament.
The Spirit of Science campaign from 1995-97, raised funds for nine new science labs for all of the schools in the district. The Spirit contributed over $350,000 which included major gifts from foundations, corporations, and individuals. In addition to the facilities improvements, the Spirit grant included enhancements to curriculum and teacher training throughout the district.
As a way to thank District 67 families for their support, the first Family Night was held in 1997 at the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. The museum was open only to the families of the District, not as a fundraising event, but a means of expressing appreciation for their support of the Spirit. Family Night became an annual event and rotated among museums in the Chicago area, including the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, the Peggy Notebaert Museum, and Discovery World Museum in Milwaukee. Over the years, the event changed from Family Night to Member Appreciation Night – a way to selectively thank Spirit contributors.
Also in 2000, a new fundraising program, the Apple Spirit awards, recognized the outstanding efforts of teachers, administrators, and staff in the district. Contributions were made by families honoring a specific individual, who were thanked with a personal card, plastic apple filled with something special from the giver and a donation to the Spirit in their name. Contributions were collected and distributed directly back to each school with spending monitored by School Councils.
Searching for new sources of revenue for the Spirit, a new special events committee was formed in 2002. The committee reviewed a variety of options and recommended a home tour be held. Besides raising significant funds, this fundraising event has the benefit of extending awareness of the Spirit further into the community. In its first year, the “Opening Doors For Education” Home Tour raised over $25,000. The Home Tour has continued to prosper in the subsequent years, and due to its success, it has become an annual fundraising event.
Also in 2002, a group of volunteers formed the Lake Forest High School Foundation, an organization with a similar mission to the Spirit, with the help & support of the Spirit of 67.
In 2004, capitalizing on an opportunity presented by a district family to partially underwrite a golf fundraising event, the Spirit organized the “Chip in for Education” Golf Outing. Not only did this event raise additional funds for the Spirit, but it also expanded the awareness among district spouses and other local businesses. The event raised $45,000 its first year. Over the course of the next four years, a silent auction and luncheon that drew non-golf participants became the larger draw, and in 2009 the golf portion was eliminated in favor of focusing on creating a larger silent auction and luncheon. In its first year, the “Centerpieces of Education” Benefit Luncheon raised over $45,000 with over 230 attendees.
In 2005, Deer Path Middle School produced a faculty talent show and named the Spirit as beneficiary. The DPM Faculty in Review, along with a silent auction, raised $6,600. In 2007, the event name changed to the “Who’s Got Talent?” Faculty Revue and was extended to all District 67 faculty, becoming a biennial fundraising event. The silent auction was eliminated and the event became a true talent experience.
In 2005-2006, the City of Lake Forest agreed to sponsor the Spirit of 67 Vehicle Sticker Program. The city offered all residents a choice of two different vehicle stickers – a traditional sticker or, for an additional $25, a resident could purchase a Spirit of 67 fundraising sticker. A contest was held for the creation of the artwork displayed on the sticker and all district students were invited to participate. The program resulted in the sale of over 800 Spirit of 67 vehicle stickers and over $20,000 in sales. In 2006-07, the City of Lake Forest opened the event to nine additional local charities. The program resulted in the sale of 200 stickers and over $4,900 in sales. The city no longer offers this fundraising option.
Tracy Tolmie, President from 2004-06, recalls, “During my tenure our grant amounts increased significantly. In 2005 and 2006, we gave out approximately $200,000 and $240,000 in grants. There was also a major shift into technology, providing access to mobile laptops in all schools as well as LCD projectors, screens and visual presenters to all core curriculum classrooms, among others.”
In 2007, the Spirit raised funds by offering district families tickets to attend a Chicago White Sox baseball game in a Spirit-only section. Family Baseball Night was very popular, also changing venues throughout the years to Milwaukee for the Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs contest. This event was discontinued after 2011 when it on
During the 2008-2009 school year the Spirit introduced a new logo to update the look and attract younger donors. They also began new Corporate Fundraising efforts that continue to be critical to the fundraising success of the organization.
In 2009, the Spirit announced the “YOU are the Spirit” Membership Drive and focused energies on achieving a membership goal of 100% of district families by establishing membership categories with benefit levels. The Spirit partnered with the Lake Forest Chamber of Commerce to create the Shop with Spirit program. Members donating at the Honor Roll level and above receive a Shop with the Spirit card, providing access to discounts or specials at favorite local restaurants and shops. The Spirit conducted the “YOU are the Spirit” Membership Week, implementing a district-wide phone-a-thon, culminating in the “Centerpieces of Education” Benefit Luncheon.
In 2012, all donors began receiving a Spirit of 67 magnet for their car in order to increase visibility of the Spirit in the community and give donors a way to demonstrate their support. Melissa Burger, President from 2011-13, recalls, “The CUBE was such a big endeavor! Collaborating with the district to create that space for the DPM kids was reminiscent of large grants of the past like The Spirit of Science in which Spirit and the district worked together to make a very large impact in one space or department.”
Starting in 2014, the Spirit began Grant Day, a full-day celebration where grant ‘dollars’ are awarded to selected recipients for implementation during the following school year. Grants are awarded in person by the Spirit Grants Committee to teachers and students, helping to build awareness of the impact of the Spirit throughout the student and teacher populations.
In the fall of 2015, the Spirit conducted the first “Raise your Hands for Education” Online Auction and “Kick up your Boots for Education” Barn Dance Benefit. The Online Auction was open to all families and community members, widening the reach beyond only luncheon attendees and the week culminated with the Barn Dance Benefit, once again allowing spouses to join in and support the Spirit. Over two years these fall events raised over $85,000. During the fall of 2015 the Spirit also introduced a new way for businesses to support our organization called Partners in Education. The businesses who participate make a significant annual contribution in support of our mission and they are recognized throughout the year in our publications and at our events. The Spirit continued to run the immensely popular and profitable annual “Opening Doors For Education” Home Tour, drawing hundreds of attendees, advertisers and sponsors. In 2016, the Home Tour brought in over $70,000 for the Spirit.
During the fall of 2016, the board created Founders’ Fund Grants, in honor of our founding board members, as a means to address time sensitive and important opportunities that arise outside of the annual grant cycle. In 2017, the Spirit again partnered with the District by making a gift of $250,000 towards the renovation of the Haskins Center at DPM West. This reimagined 21st century learning space will be designed to provide students and teachers opportunities for collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. It’s worth noting that in the early years of the organization an idea for funding “Exploration Centers – multifaceted Media Centers” for each school was considered at great length but was abandoned when the estimated cost of $300,000 each was prohibitively expensive and project would be a major undertaking beyond the capacity of the foundation. It’s exciting that three decades later our organization has supported the re-imagining of the information resources centers at all of our buildings through various grants.
In 2017, after holding the Barn Dance for two years, the fall event moved back to a ladies luncheon and was renamed the Thanks 4 Giving Benefit Luncheon which was held at Knollwood Country Club. This event featured guest speaker Steve Pemberton and coincided with the “Raise your Hands for Education” Online Silent Auction, raising over $57,000 for the Spirit. Home Tour was held in the spring, featured 4 beautiful homes and raised over $78,000. As a way to increase family participation, a Crosstown Competition Contest was launched. Schools that reached 80% participation received $1,000 and the school with the highest participation received bragging rights and a trophy to display along, with a popsicle party for the entire school.
Benefit levels for receiving the popular Shop with Spirit card were restructured at the start of the 2018/19 campaign and two different levels of cards were offered to donors based on their contribution. A $167+ donation entitled donors to a “blue” card for deals to many local businesses and a $300+ donation entitled the donor to a “gold” card which included restaurants. Donations soared and the Spirit reached over 50% participation for the first time ever. The Thanks 4 Giving Benefit Luncheon was held in the fall, along with the online silent auction, and raised $86,000. Capitalizing on an opportunity presented by a District family, a new fundraising event “Night at the Casino – Bet on 67” was held in April 2019 at Lake Forest Sports Cars. This couples event featured blackjack, roulette, craps and other fun games and raised over $50,000. All elementary schools reached 80% for the first time and overall participation was over 67%
The fall event switched gears in 2019 and the “Stand Up for Spirit” Ladies Night Out was held at Onwentsia and sold out in 10 days! The event featured comedian Pat McGann and in conjunction with the online silent auction raised almost $100,000! Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Home Tour was postponed in the spring of 2020.
For the 2019-20 Fiscal Year, all elementary schools reached 80% participation, Deer Path Middle School participation reached over 61% and overall family participation was over 68%.