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Bright lights for Little City at Friday luncheon

Eleni Bousis is co-chair Little City’s Runway Exclusive. | Chris Zoubris

Eleni Bousis is co-chair of Little City’s Runway Exclusive. | Chris Zoubris

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◆ 11:30 a.m. Friday

◆ Fairmont Chicago,
200 N. Columbus

◆ $150

◆ (847) 221-7807;


Updated: July 7, 2012 8:31AM

Little City’s Runway Exclusive fashion show will have glamor in spades. Ford models, decked in looks from Neiman Marcus, will strut the runway. The Fairmont will serve up a decadent lunch. Auction prizes include Christian Louboutin accessories and swank restaurant and theater packages. But even these luxury goods can’t outshine the residents of Little City, the real stars of the event.

For more than 50 years from its 56-acre campus in Palatine, Little City has served adults and children with developmental disabilities, including the most vulnerable in our world: abandoned children, wards of the state and high-needs kids and adults who need 24-hour clinical and therapeutic care that families can’t provide.

“Little City has taken the word ‘disability’ and turned it into ‘ability,’ ” says Eleni Bousis, who is co-chairing the luncheon with the Sun-Times’ Susanna Negovan. “They show that if everyone is given equal opportunity and equal chances in society, they can be productive, too.”

Nobody knows this better than Andrea Hockfield. Her brother, Jerry, who is blind with developmental disabilities, has been a Little City resident for 43 years. After struggling in standard schools as a young child, at Little City he began to thrive.

“For the first time he was recognized for having abilities,” says Hockfield. “They found all the things he could do well and helped him develop those skills.” Today, Jerry spends his days exercising, planting in the horticulture center, throwing pottery, playing music and dining with his fellow residents. For Hockfield’s family, all of whom are involved in the organization (her husband is foundation president Edward Hockfield, her brother is on the board, and her children started the young professionals group), knowing Jerry is at Little City is a gift. “It’s peace of mind, knowing not only does he have a roof over his head, but he’s with people who care about him and respect him.”

Runway Exclusive is one of five major fund-raisers for Little City, which relies heavily on philanthropic support. The organization weathered the brunt of the economic downfall, but recent government cuts for the disabled have made fund-raisers essential to meeting operating costs, which are on the rise. “As the economy suffers, more people are in need of service,” says executive director Shawn Jeffers. But despite the economy, he’s amazed by the commitment of Little City supporters. “People can’t give as much, but they still give. It’s a mission that’s hard not to be touched by.”

This Friday afternoon, Runway Exclusive will celebrate style and raise funds, but it also will honor the Little City residents. In addition to the luncheon and runway event, there will be a musical performance by Hockfield’s brother, Jerry; artwork by residents up for auction; and adults, kids and families from the Little City community on hand to help attendees learn more about the organization and the population it serves.

“We cannot walk in their shoes, but we can try to understand, and try to help,” says Bousis.

The Chicago Sun-Times is the media sponsor of this event.

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