“A howling, blinding snowstorm blew into the Windy City on Wednesday, paralyzing air traffic, reducing rush hour auto traffic to a crawl and stranding couples out on the town to celebrate Valentine’s Day.” - (Chicago Sun-Times, February 15, 1990). And so began the inaugural St. Rita Valentine Dinner Dance, where 50 of the registered 100 guests bared the elements to begin this wonderful tradition. Under the guidance of our first Chairman John Madigan, we’ve come a long way from that original intimate gathering at the Galleria Marchetti. Now, 25 years later, under the guidance of Chairman Don Petkus and his wife Nancy, the Valentine Dinner Dance continues to be a signature gala where first-time guests as well as regular attendees gather to enjoy a spectacular evening out on the town.
On February 8th, 536 people packed the Grand Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel to celebrate the Silver Jubilee Valentine Dinner Dance. Those in attendance enjoyed the St. Rita Jazz Band, a wonderful plated dinner, silent and live auctions and a spirited recognition of several people who have made and continue to make a significant impact on our young men. This lively evening netted over $285,000 - a record - all of which benefits the scholarship and Tuition assistance efforts of St. Rita. In the 25-year history of the Valentine Dinner Dance, $ 3,900,000+ of financial support has been raised.
This year’s award winners include Couple of the Year Mark ’84 and Jennie Kelly. The Tolle Lege Community Service Award was presented to John Schwan, the Crest of St. Augustine was presented to Fr. Robert Prevost, O.S.A and the Organization of the Year was presented to Teddy Bear Day Care, founded and operated by Ed Schmitt, ’63 and his wife Debbie and family who were involved in the inaugural dinner dance on that snowy evening in 1990. These award winners are life-long supporters of St. Rita and its Augustinian mission of truth, unity and love and are deserving of such recognition.
One of the highlights of the evening was the speech given by current St. Rita senior Ray Keane, Jr., ’14 (see related article). Ray is a remarkable young man dedicated to his education and his family, helping to care for his Dad Ray Keane, Sr., ’79, who has been battling ALS for many years.
Thank you to all who attended the 25th annual Valentine Dinner Dance, and the extreme hard work of each of the committee members. Special thanks go to Mike Zunica for his leadership on organizing the event – his 18th – and Sue Connolly and Bridget Allen for all their organizational and graphic design efforts.