On May 1, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois gathered alongside several 2019 Luminaries for Dining & Conversation, sponsored by Sodexo, at Cinespace Chicago Film Studio for a Conversation with the Media in support of children in foster care.
A Conversation with the Media
In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month – a month of awareness and advocacy celebrated each May — Christian Bale kicked off our #Voices4FosterCare month-long campaign with a brief discussion of his longtime involvement with SOS Illinois. Bale spoke candidly to the gathering of nearly 100 members of the media, press, guests, and students on DePaul University’s Stage 15 of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios.
“There is such a simple love, and a simple fundamental element of what it means to be human and care about children, and care about families. There’s nothing complicated about that.” Bale shared about the Village Model of Care at SOS Illinois. “The Village is a wonderful model for America as a whole. The structure it brings and the care; keeping siblings together with a permanent parent in a home with the 24-hour therapeutic care. That’s just stunning. It’s absolutely brilliant.”
Other presenters included Alex Pissios, the President and CEO of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, and a 2018 Luminary for SOS Illinois’ Dining & Conversation event; Tim McCormick, CEO of SOS Children’s Village Illinois; Michael Landers, Vice President of Operations of Sodexo USA, sponsor of Dining & Conversation; and New Orleans-based actor and SOS Illinois Alumni, Tevin Marbeth. A precursor to the evening’s gala, our Conversation with the Media offered a unique opportunity for Dining & Conversation Luminaries, supporters, and the press to learn more about why so many notable individuals are interested in joining the conversation on foster care.
“We need to share the positive stories about foster care,” shared Pissios. “In the movie and television business, sometimes all you need is one good break. That is what SOS Children’s Villages Illinois gives to so many children every day – and it’s a game-changer. I am proud to support SOS Illinois’ innovative approach to traditional foster care and help keep brothers and sisters together in one home.”
Landers expressed similar support and praise on behalf of Sodexo USA.
“The approach [of Sodexo] really mirrors that of SOS Children’s Villages Illinois; the approach that they take to make the Chicago community better. It’s profound. It’s impactful. It’s not talked about enough. We need to get the word out because the results speak for themselves.”
Marbeth, who returned back home to the Chicagoland area to join us for this special moment in SOS Illinois history, also took to the mic to share his gratitude for the impact that SOS Illinois made on his development – particularly the strong influence of his now adoptive mother, an SOS Illinois Foster Parent.
“I grew up with my seven siblings at the Lockport Village,” Marbeth shared. “And we received care and love from our mom – Sandra, who is here in the audience today. With her support, I excelled in academics, graduated high school, then college, and was empowered to pursue my dream of acting… In sharing my story, I am helping raise awareness for children in foster care. I am proud to lend my voice to ensuring more brothers and sisters have the same opportunity I did to grow as a family with the help of SOS Illinois.”
Media and SOS Illinois Interviews
Following the Conversation with the Media, Bale and McCormick joined media representatives for one-on-one interviews on Bale’s involvement with SOS Illinois. Luminaries, Sponsors, Board Members, and special guests enjoyed tours of Cinespace and stopped for personal interviews with SOS Illinois staff. New and longtime supporters shared why it is of specific importance to be an advocate for SOS Illinois during Foster Care Awareness Month and why they chose to be part of the #Voices4FosterCare Campaign.
Grammy-nominated musician, Zach Filkins of OneRepublic, who resides in the Chicagoland area, shared why SOS Illinois caught his attention. “I was looking for something specifically local that I could, in any small way, give my time to.” Filkins remarked. “As soon as I found this, I realized this is just such a unique, such an incredible organization focused 100% on children, helping change their lives, and give them opportunities to really define it in a different way.”
For a number of Luminaries, the work at SOS Illinois ties hand-in-hand with the work at the center of their organizations, businesses, and practices.
“We grow programs around very similar components to SOS Children’s Villages Illinois.” Dr. Stuart Strahl spoke of the Chicago Zoological Society’s unique connection to SOS Illinois, which focuses on providing academic and enrichment opportunities for youth in under-resourced communities.
David Eigenberg, who plays Christopher Herrmann on NBC’s Chicago Fire, shared about feeling a personal connection to SOS Illinois – both as a real-life father, and a television character committed to protecting his community. “When you talk to real firefighters, the worst call any firefighter will get is when a child is impaired, or a child is hurt, or a child is at risk,” Eigenberg commented. “So it sits in my heart, it sits heavy when I think about kids who aren’t given the same advantages and care and understanding and compassion that most children in America are given.
We all know that, if parents can’t have their children with them, the heartbreak they experience, and the heartbreak the children experience alongside them. But, SOS Illinois tries to keep the closest unit of family – the brothers and sisters – together. It’s a real benefit to society.”
A number of our Luminaries left special words of encouragement and advice for the diverse youth in our care, with varying interests across many different academic and professional fields.
“Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do that.” Dr. Strahl shared. “That you can’t be a scientist. That you can’t go to college. That you can’t succeed. No matter where you are, you can still do really well.”
“So many of us are raised to believe you’ll never get there, you’ll never have that opportunity, you don’t know the right people, your family doesn’t come from enough money to get you in the right position to be a movie star, to be on TV, to be a doctor,” Fox Sports Anchor, Lou Canellis empathized. “I’ve lived it. I am living proof that if you have a dream – and those kids have dreams, I know they all do – chase them.”
Visit with SOS Illinois Foster Parents and Children
Following media interviews, Bale and Eigenberg joined SOS Illinois Foster Parents, Carmen and Tony Moyet and Jenny and John Wray, to learn more about the rewards of challenges of being a Foster Parent at SOS Illinois from those who experience it every day.
Each couple shared with our special guests about what drew them into our unique mission, and why they chose to expand their families by participating in our model of care.
Though Jenny Wray had grown up in a home that her mother opened to children in foster care, the SOS Illinois mission, quite different from her traditional experience, is what drew her in.
“This model of community-based care — where you actually move into the SOS Illinois homes, where community support is right there on your street, on your block, or across the street — was totally new to me,” Jenny Wray shared. “I can’t imagine doing this in a different way. If I need my caseworker, I know that they’re right across the street a majority of the time or just a phone call away. If I can’t get ahold of my caseworker, I can get someone else’s. I can call Ms. Carmen if I need help. I can say, ‘Hey, I know you’ve got a new baby. But what care do you give to a teenager?’ We can just talk about this stuff, and it’s great. You have a whole, built-in network.”
Each Foster Parent also shared their hopes for the longevity of SOS Illinois, made possible by the dedicated leadership, staff, and supporters of our mission.
“The children at SOS Illinois need love and protection 24/7, just like all children need,” Tony Moyet shared. “And that’s basically what our goal is: to make sure that they always get that. They get protection. They get fed. They get clothed. SOS Illinois provides all of that.”
As the greatest testimony of our services comes from the children and families we serve, we are of particular gratitude for our special guests to join us in this way.
Much Appreciation for Cinespace Chicago Film Studios
We offer our most sincere gratitude and appreciation to our friends at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, especially President Alexi Pissios, Rosie Burke, Karolyn Raphael, Angie Gaffney, and DePaul University’s Stage 15. As hosts for our Conversation with the Media, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios empowered us – and others – to collectively raise our #Voices4FosterCare during Foster Care Awareness Month, and propel our day forward as we prepared for the excitement of Dining & Conversation.
To learn more about Dining & Conversation and see how else we have been raising our #Voices4FosterCare, check out our blog about the event, and the media coverage below: