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Chocolate Ball to recognize Shorewood HUGS’ 10th anniversary

It’s been a decade of Shorewood HUGS, and its organizational mission, affecting change in the lives of others in the community.

To help commemorate this milestone, Shorewood HUGS is hosting its annual Hugs & Wishes Chocolate Ball, 7-11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, at Clarion Hotel & Conference Center, 411 S. Larkin Ave., in Joliet.

“Ten years, it’s definitely a wonderful achievement,” said Molly Babyak, a current board member and past president of Shorewood HUGS. “I started a year after the organization started. When it began, they weren’t sure what direction to go or path to choose. In 2008, it was a time of great economic stress. They chose to help people who are deserving, disabled, or in need. To see that we can raise the funds that are needed, it means a lot to continue the tradition.”

This year’s theme, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, will take Hugs & Wishes Chocolate Ball guests back in time to revel in Manhattan’s socialite life depicted in the 1961 film of the same name.

Guests can expect much of the same at the fundraiser, though a champagne toast will be held this time around to commemorate Shorewood HUGS and its 10th anniversary.

Between raffle drawings and chocolate tastings to the Audrey Hepburn look-alike contest and silent auction, this year’s Hugs & Wishes Chocolate Ball is shaping up to be a success.

“The last three to four years, it sold out,” Babyak said. “It sold out a week earlier than it did last year.”

This year’s Hugs & Wishes Chocolate Ball has 10 chocolate sponsors, and one of them, Covered in Chocolate, is new to the list.

Chocolate judges for the evening will be Joe Baltz, Sandra Fleck, Lynne Lichtenauer, Mary Lancaster and Natalie Manley, and they will work on naming the “Best Chocolate Creation.”

Shorewood HUGS prides itself on its ability to raise money to support its mission.

The fundraiser typically aims to help about 100 families who reside within a 20-mile radius of Shorewood.

The goal, Babyak said, is to raise the money needed to grant wishes for 2018.

To date, Shorewood HUGS has fulfilled 638 wishes.

Past recipients have been granted the benefits of anything from iPads and car repairs to groceries and gas station gift cards.

“A lot of the time, it’s a surprise for them,” Babyak said. “A lot of times, they’ve not heard of us, so we explain. We talk to them, and they’re so touched.”

Shorewood HUGS has evolved over the years.

“Every year our organization has grown,” Babyak said. “The founders started with nine members, and we’re up to 50 now. The more our name is out there, the more wishes we fulfill, the more people come to the Chocolate Ball. We have followers who come year after year.”

Babyak said the work of Shorewood HUGS remains constant, even as the organization’s membership changes every year.

“The mission rings true for everyone,” she said. “Whenever you add people, members express what they’re passionate about and we do what we can to support those interests.”

In the past, for example, members of Shorewood HUGS have participated in the Multiple Sclerosis Walk, Relay for Life and other community events in the area to complement the organization’s work.

While the Hugs & Wishes Chocolate Ball is Shorewood HUGS’ biggest fundraiser, members of the board strive to make an impact in the community in additional ways. They support several scholarship programs and make donations to other causes.

Babyak said the biggest challenge to carrying out the organization’s mission is keeping the name out there.

“We do well with fundraising,” she said. “The people who know about us are supportive. It’s reminding people we’re here to help. Even though we’ve been around 10 years, it’s reminding people we’re here to help.“

The hope, Babyak said, is that Shorewood HUGS strives to keep making a difference in the years to come.

“[We want to] continue to do what we do and find other avenues to support the community we serve,” she said. “Everything we do is to help the community. If there’s something else they’re in need of, we’d be happy to do that, too.”

If unable to attend the fundraiser and interested in making a donation toward the Hugs & Wishes program, visit or send it via U.S. Mail to Shorewood HUGS: 1147 Brook Forest Ave., #174, Shorewood, Ill 60404.

This year’s Hugs & Wishes Chocolate Ball is co-chaired by Heidi Serena and Susan Underwood.

Shorewood HUGS was founded in 2008 by Rita Guenther, Laura Charland, Lorayne Wright, Heidi Serena and Sue Coyle.

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