Member Communications 5 min read

Welcoming Back a Community Celebration

By JCC Milwaukee June 1, 2022

Maybe it was the idea that we could once again get dressed up for a night on the town. Maybe it was the memory of celebrating with friends over a delectable array of food and drink. Maybe it was the promise of a take-home, chocolate-covered caramel apple.

Whatever the reason, the JCC’s KidShare 2022 – held on May 5 in a grand return to the Pfister Hotel – was an unprecedented, off-the-charts success, and an evening to remember for the 400-plus guests in attendance. Above all, our community of donors came together with a shared purpose: to make a difference in the lives of children throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

KidShare co-chairs Mark and Kaye Kass and Joe and Michele Ellner knew that they needed to reimagine the KidShare model, planning an event that would feel comfortable and safe for guests who have perhaps not yet stepped into a large ballroom packed with people. At the same time, they needed to deliver an evening of both merriment and mission, with a goal to raise important funds for all JCC youth-serving programs: Gan Ami Early Childhood Education, Kids Center Before & After School Care, Albert & Ann Deshur JCC Rainbow Day Camp, Steve & Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken JCC, JCC Center for Inclusion & Special Needs, and JCC Scholarships.

“Joe and I jumped into KidShare knowing it would have to be reinvented in many ways,” Michele Ellner shared. “Luckily, we had two important things: great space at the Pfister and a lot of creative ideas on how to reimagine the event.”

Our staff and volunteer team got creative opening up the Imperial Ballroom space – resulting in a lively social hour where guests bought raffle tickets, bid on auction items and tried their luck in the gift card pull. By relocating our wonderful restaurants, guests felt more space around them at their tables in the Grand Ballroom. Another new twist: it was back to Imperial for a festive “dessert extravaganza!” Featuring live music and additional door prizes, it served as the perfect after-party, and a memorable way to end the evening.

Ultimately, our co-chairs wanted KidShare 2022 more than ever to focus on great story-telling. To deliver on that wish, they kicked off the evening welcomes with their own JCC stories – emotionally compelling and beautifully told.

“Kaye and I agreed to be involved in KidShare because of our family’s long history with the JCC – from my mom swimming at the JCC daily to my brother Lenny running Rainbow Day Camp for decades to my growing up at both Camp JCC and Camp Interlaken to Kaye now teaching fitness at the JCC,” Mark Kass explained. “We have seen the important difference it can make in people’s lives, and we wanted to help it get the support it needs and deserves from our community.”

The Ellners and the Kasses have JCC journeys that go back generations; their heartfelt messages resonated with guests and set the tone for an engaging video featuring those we serve. From the youngest Gan Ami toddler to a pair of teen campers to Chaverim to grateful parents, the KidShare video warmed hearts and inspired financial investment – in what became the most successful Raise the Paddle in the history of KidShare.

Michele Ellner said, “Having attended KidShare many times, we are used to the outpouring of generosity. This year was a notch above. It was heartwarming to see people learn about the JCC’s mission and respond to the stories in a financial way.”

She added, “We walked away completely fulfilled as co-chairs and couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding volunteer experience.”

Mark Kass agreed. “We are thrilled with the amazing response from so many that made KidShare a huge success and will allow the JCC to expand its important mission to so many more.”

The JCC staff and volunteers behind KidShare are collectively overwhelmed with gratitude for the generosity of this community. We thank our new and returning sponsors, the dedicated restaurants that found a way to support during a particularly challenging moment in their profession (please visit them often!), the many auction donors, and all the KidShare attendees. You made a real difference for our community’s youth. Thank you!

This incredible evening would not have been possible without our generous sponsors, the restaurants who donated their food and time, and the many volunteers who dedicated themselves to making sure this event was a success. Relive the experience of celebrating with your community in this digital photo album.

Click here to read more stories of impact from the 2021-22 Annual Report.