By Dana Getz
The Gary Sinise Foundation hosted its first-ever local Chicago event Saturday, June 15 at the Montgomery Club by Gibson’s. An “Inspiration to Action” dinner, the foundation partnered with sponsors Michigan Avenue Magazine, Josh Cellars, Reyes Holdings and Moet Hennessey USA to raise over $300,000 for the foundation, whose many programs provide assistance and support for our nation’s defenders.
Guests enjoyed a live performance by Katherine McPhee, American Idol breakout and star of NBC’s “Smash,” as well as appearances by comedian Tom Dreesen, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis and actor, musician and Steppenwolf Theatre co-founder Gary Sinise. The private dinner also included a VIP cocktail reception and a “Raise Your Paddle” pledge for EOD2 Taylor Morris, an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Tech who lost all four limbs after stepping on an improvised explosive device while leading a team in Afghanistan.
Sinise started the foundation in 2011 as an expansion of his individual efforts to aid our nation’s servicemen and women, including the formation of his band “The Lt. Dan Band” in 2004 to entertain troops serving at home and abroad. According to Sinise, his passion developed through a “long process” that began with veterans in his family and grew through his involvement with local veteran groups in Chicago during the 1980s. After playing a concert Thursday, June 13 with his band at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Sinise’s old friends from Steppenwolf offered to host the event if he stuck around for a few more days, the actor said.
“It’s Gary’s hometown so of course that holds significance,” said Davis, the evening’s honored guest, on the importance of the dinner, “but Chicago is also a ‘do it’ town, and all they had to do is become aware.”
Davis said his favorite part of the night was “to have a group of likeminded people coming together for a purpose” and to inspire others to lend a helping hand.
All proceeds from the evening will go toward building quadruple amputee Morris’ smart home as part of the foundation’s “Building for America’s Bravest” program, which will expand its efforts from 10 to 13 homes this year according to executive director Judy Otter. The foundation will also extend its arts and entertainment outreach to the Geffen Theater in Los Angeles, as well as add USO Las Vegas, San Diego and Dallas/Fort Worth to its Serving Heroes program. Though Sinise said he will be “keeping plenty busy” with his foundation and band, since CSI:NY’s end in February he’s been hoping to work on some new acting projects as well.
“It was a great run—nine years— I can’t complain,” Sinise said, “but I’m looking forward to something else down the road.”