Bulls host 26th annual “An Evening with the Chicago Bulls” charity gala

By Adam Fluck | 02.27.2015

As Bulls players and coaches know, a commitment to the game of basketball is required in order to win at a high level.

It involves hard work, focus, dedication, and doing what it takes to be prepared. Those same elements apply to the organization’s pledge to give back to its community, which was precisely the theme on Thursday when the team hosted “An Evening with the Chicago Bulls”, its 26th annual charity gala.

Presented by BMO Harris Bank, the event was emceed by Val Warner and Ryan Chiaverini from ABC 7’s Windy City LIVE! and featured a performance by comedian Gary Owen. For the first time, it was held at the Advocate Center, the team’s new practice facility across the street from the United Center.

“Bringing it over to the Advocate Center is like bringing it into our living room,” explained Nancy Reinsdorf, president of Chicago Bulls Charities. “It’s an incredible setting, so intimate and beautiful. We couldn’t be more excited to showcase our new home on a night like this. This is where our players and coaches are most comfortable, so it is nice to welcome some of our biggest fans and share it with them.”

“I look forward to this night every year,” said Leslie Forman, vice president of Chicago Bulls Charities, as she and her husband, Bulls General Manager Gar Forman, greeted guests during the cocktail reception. “We count down starting the day after the previous year’s event. We’re all thrilled to be here as part of an organization that goes out and works in our community to help kids and families in our Chicagoland area.”

Joakim Noah, who in the last year has worked with the Bulls to host his One City Basketball Tournament and various initiatives for his Noah's Arc Foundation, agreed that to make an impact off the court as well as on it is a matter of putting in the work.

“This is a world class organization. All the work that the Bulls do off the court, they aren’t always things that everyone gets to see,” Noah said. “People like Nancy and Leslie do a great job in making sure it’s more than just basketball. There are a lot of people who understand that here and I’m just really proud to be a part of it.”

Along with Michael Reinsdorf, president and COO for the Bulls, Noah, his teammates, coaches, ambassadors and broadcasters were on hand for a progressive cocktail reception, dinner, live entertainment and a silent auction.

One of the highlights of the event was a BullsTV-produced video featuring the team’s Community Relations interns: Alan Batrez, Lavell Gamble, Sherdell Mallett and Monica Ocampo. The interns came to the Bulls through the team’s partnership with Urban Alliance, an organization that works with companies to provide under-resourced high school students with one-year internships that involve formal training and mentorship.

On Thursday, Mallett and Gamble, who are brothers, spoke to the crowd about how the experience has affected them and better prepared them for life. Mallett shared that he plans to be the first person from his family to attend and graduate college. Gamble followed up by saying he’ll be the second.

Dinner was provided by Lettuce Entertain You restaurants, SPLASH served as the event’s print media sponsor, and Athletico Physical Therapy was the matching sponsor of the “instagive program,” matching donations to Chicago Bulls Charities at the event up to $10,000.

“Having partners like Athletico and BMO Harris and Lettuce Entertain You, it’s overwhelming when you see people who are so willing to jump in, help out and be supportive,” said Reinsdorf. “It’s hard to include everyone, but when people are knocking down the door to be a part of it, it’s an amazing feeling.”

Chicago Bulls Charities also partnered with Chicago-based neckwear and men’s accessories retailer, The Tie Bar, on a special line of ties, pocket squares, and socks designed in collaboration with Bulls players. The Chicago Bulls Charities Collection debuted at the event and are now being sold at the in-arena team store, on The Tie Bar’s website, and at their location in Lincoln Park. A portion of proceeds from the collection will benefit Chicago Bulls Charities.

“We ask the community to support us all the time, as players and a team,” noted John Paxson, executive vice president of basketball operations. “So to have a charitable component like the Bulls do, one that reaches out and helps so many parts of our city, it’s the right thing to do. Ever since Nancy took this upon herself to spearhead everything, Chicago Bulls Charities has grown and it’s becoming bigger and better every year. It’s important. Sometimes you have to put everything in perspective and nights like this do that.”

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau echoed Paxson’s comments when it comes to the collective efforts that surround him.

“The people in our organization do an unbelievable job of getting this organized and putting it all together,” said Thibodeau. “A lot of work goes into it and we certainly appreciate all our sponsors and fans. It’s for a great cause and we feel it’s important for our team to be involved in the community. Chicago is such a great city and it is what should be done. We’re proud to be part of the community here and we just want to do our part.”

The players, among the most visible members of the organization, are well known individuals with the ability to make a great impact. And as many of them acknowledge, support from the team and Chicago Bulls Charities is crucial when it comes to doing just that.

“It means everything,” said Noah of the team’s support. “Doing these kinds of things, it definitely puts everything in perspective. It’s about more than winning and losing basketball games. To be able to do things for the kids and uplift the city a little bit is great and I’m really happy to be a part of it.”

“It’s always great,” said Taj Gibson. “I’ve been here for a number of years and the way the foundation is set up, it’s only getting better and easier to contribute. I’m happy to be a part of it.

“It’s big, putting in the work off the court is very big,” Gibson continued. “The city of Chicago needs a helping hand and the Bulls are one of those organizations that is always giving back. It’s going to keep on giving and I love being a part of it and helping with the daily ins and outs.”

“It’s a nice give and take that the organization offers,” Mike Dunleavy stated. “We like to be active out in the community and in turn the organization works with us to provide us opportunities of interest where we want to help. It’s a great relationship where both sides are benefitting. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Perhaps it was Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, who is currently a special advisor to the president and COO for the Bulls, who summed up the night as well as anyone.

“It’s a great event, 26 years and strong as ever,” said Pippen. “It’s something that has been very beneficial to the city of Chicago. It’s something that I know the players look forward to and it’s a great opportunity to get out and mingle with some of our sponsors and fans. On a night like this it’s easy to see what this organization is really all about.

“Chicago Bulls Charities has really been the identity of the organization with all the team does out in the community day in and day out,” Pippen added. “It’s not just a couple events here and there. It’s a daily operation that shows this organization really puts forth an effort to better its community. It’s something that has grown over the years and a lot of great partnerships have been developed. At the end of the day, it’s the city of Chicago that really benefits.”

All proceeds from “An Evening with the Chicago Bulls” will support Chicago Bulls Charities. Under the leadership of Nancy Reinsdorf, the charity’s president, and Leslie Forman, its vice president, Chicago Bulls Charities provides annual financial support to Chicagoland nonprofit organizations that share the Bulls’ commitment to youth education, youth health and wellness, and violence prevention. Chicago Bulls Charities and the entire Bulls basketball family work to address community concerns and find ways for the organization to make a positive impact on the lives of those in need.