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  • Megann Horstead

Shorewood HUGS goes ‘007’

James Bond and several of his look-alikes took back the night during the seventh annual Chocolate Ball, mingling among socialites and community leaders over chocolate-filled martinis and chocolate-covered everything.

The theme for Shorewood HUGS’ annual gala was “007,” and festivities for the Feb. 6 fundraiser included a James Bond look-alike contest, live silent auction, and a raffle drawing.

Molly Babyak, a board member for Shorewood HUGS, said this year’s fundraiser was designed to be bigger than previous years,’ considering that the event was held at the Clarion Hotel in Joliet and tickets sold out ahead of the event.

“This year, [the theme] came out of one of our founder’s mouths,” she said. “We thought if we don’t do it this year, then it won’t happen. It was like connecting the dots. We thought it would be a fun thing to do.”

On average the fundraiser draws 400 guests. But, organizers for the seventh annual increased their expectation to 450 people. Babyak said the nonprofit hoped to beat last year’s fundraising effort, which pulled in $38,000 through donation.

Shorewood HUGS has granted more than 400 wishes, valued at $500 or less, since the inaugural Chocolate Ball held in 2008. Of the total number of wishes granted, 116 of them were awarded last year.

Sam Pavelka, of Shorewood, was one of those guests. He attended the fundraiser with his wife and said he was enjoying his night.

“I love coming here,” he said. “It’s date night.”

He said he loves how the organization is able to giveback to the community, adding that its mission is the reason he and his wife attended.

“They gave me a wish in 2012,” he said. “They gave my daughter a swing set. I asked for that. I was sick at the time.”

Cheryl Pavelka, of Shorewood, was also in attendance. She said she was impressed by how well the event was organized.

“I love the themes they come up with every year,” she said. “You get to mingle and socialize; knowing that you’re giving back to a good cause is wonderful.”

Sandy Moretti, of Joliet, was perusing the many assortments of chocolate on hand for the fundraiser. She said she attends the event every year.

“It’s a great event to socialize, see friends, and see everyone dress up,” she said. “The chocolate – what I really come for is the chocolate.”

Ken Minor, of Channahon, took some time to look at the silent auction items and said Shorewood HUGS is cause worthy of supporting.

“There’s so many things we could go to and we really like to support the organization and its sponsors,” he added.

Kathy Alexander, of Gardener, came to the fundraiser as part of a volunteer group. She said she’d never attended the Chocolate Ball prior to that evening, but was happy with the event – and the desserts.

“It’s for a very good cause,” she said. “And oh, my god! The chocolate. Everything is really good.”

Donations through the annual gala help Shorewood HUGS give back to the community, and Babyak added that granting those wishes is what makes events such as the Chocolate worthwhile.

Babyak said seeing how Shorewood HUGS is able to giveback to community and help others by granting them a wish means a lot.

“We get as much out of it as the recipients,” Babyak said. “It feels good to give.”

For more information on how to get involved, visit

The seventh annual Chocolate Ball was sponsored by Heartland Bank and Trust Co.

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