On May 3rd, AFP Chicago proudly honored eight amazing individuals who represent the very best of our community: they are transformative leaders, diverse thinkers, eager trailblazers, and prominent philanthropists — each a shining beacon of possibility, change, and hope for Chicago. These individuals leave an undeniable footprint on the work we do in and around Chicago. They represent the best and brightest of Chicagoland’s philanthropists and fundraisers, and exemplify the common bonds that connect us in our work. They are our mentors and yes, even heroes.

Please allow us to introduce you to this year's eight recipients!

AFP Chicago Honoree Spotlights


Richard W. Hutson, Outstanding Volunteer Award 

One would be hard-pressed to find someone more qualified to receive this year’s Outstanding Volunteer Award than Dick Hutson. Hutson exemplifies all the qualities of a volunteer who truly goes above and beyond for the causes and organizations he champions. His nominators speak to his leadership, inspiration, and commitment as making him so successful in not only his own initiatives but also in spurring others to action. He truly finds joy and fulfillment through giving back. His nominator Melissa Hilton of the Erie Family Health Center explains it best:

“Dick lives by a simple philosophy of striving to do something for someone else each day...In a virtuous circle, he feels that as he gives away more time, talent and resources, he receives more in return in terms of happiness and fulfillment.”

Before devoting his retirement to full-time volunteer work, Dick exemplified this spirit of volunteerism even while working as a Senior Principal for Hewitt Associates (now Aon Hewitt), giving back much of his time and treasure to his alma mater Ball State University. After founding an alumni club in Southern California in 1967, he later served as national president of Ball State’s alumni association, and he participated on three major capital campaign fundraising committees. Dick and his wife Sandra fund and mentor three outstanding students each year.

Upon retirement, Dick has devoted his time to serving those less fortunate and our veterans. He was a Deacon and Elder in his church where he managed the mission committee while helping establish a homeless shelter and a food pantry. He has been very active with Erie Family Health Centers in Chicago by helping establish a local resident advisory council and supporting fundraising for Erie’s newest health center in Waukegan. Another passion is working with Honor Flight Chicago, whose mission is recruiting our veterans and taking them on a free one-day trip to Washington, D.C. This trip is focused on honoring each veteran for their service to our country, whether it be WWII, Korea or Vietnam. Dick has recruited vets for these flights and has helped with fundraising efforts. He and his wife have supported these causes financially along with other local organizations, including Youth and Family Counseling and Lake County Haven, both based in Libertyville, Lake Forest Hospital and the WWII Museum in New Orleans.

Dick is devoted to his family as a husband, father, and grandfather. He is an avid fisherman traveling annually to Wisconsin and Saskatchewan and often to Costa Rica. His other passion is college basketball, which he follows with enthusiasm.

Dick Hutson shows us what it means to live with a truly giving spirit. AFP Chicago is honored to present him with this year’s Outstanding Volunteer Award.

Dan Weishar, Founder & President, The Andrew Weishar Foundation
Emerging Philanthropist Award

At the young age of 19, Dan Weishar had a mission to fulfill his brother's dying wish. Dan's older brother and hero, Andrew Weishar, passed away of cancer in 2012 at the age of 21, but he left an eternal impact on a community of thousands-especially on Dan. Before he passed, Andrew had one simple and selfless request to his family and that was to "Pay Forward" the kindness and generosity he was shown during his fight. To fulfill his dying wish, Dan created The Andrew Weishar Foundation ("Weish4Ever") in 2013 to bring joy and ease the financial burden felt by families battling cancer.

"During his final weeks, I sat at his bedside every day. However, it was not the life-ending illness that opened my eyes, but rather, how this young man carried himself through the struggle. He responded with confidence and optimism and he would lift our spirits with a smile," says Dan. "And despite all he went through, the one and only request he had for us was to ensure other families are shown the same kindness that we as a family received. I am motivated by these moments with Andrew and from his selfless wish to bring joy to others in need."

Dan works professionally in the Capital Markets and Debt Syndication group at Antares Capital. Outside of work, he volunteers his time as the Founder/President of the Andrew Weishar Foundation and is the Executive Producer of its annual music festival, WeishFest.

Hosting nationally-acclaimed talent and attracting 3,000+ attendees, WeishFest is a one-night music event unlike any other with all profits benefiting Weish4Ever. Under his leadership and efforts, and thanks to the support of the surrounding community, Weish4Ever has granted out nearly $1,000,000 directly to families battling cancer over the past six years.

"We pride ourselves on making a powerful and immediate impact on the lives of these families facing the most difficult moments of their lives.

LIZ THOMPSON, The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education
Outstanding Community Leader Award

Liz Thompson has thrived thanks to her roots. A lifelong Chicagoan, Liz credits her success to being raised in the Cabrini Green neighborhood, a place that shaped her experiences and character to prepare her for a successful career, one that has spanned both corporate America and the nonprofit sector. 

Her leadership roles with City Year Chicago, a Denver-based Montessori School and the Ameritech Corporation prepared her for her current role as the CEO of Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (CAFÉ), driving their mission that is laser focused on youth development through career readiness and college access and achievement.

Her widespread influence is also observed in her board roles which currently include Chicago Public Media/ WBEZ and Chicago Beyond. Liz is also Co-Chair of the University Minority Engineering Program Advisory at Purdue where she completed her degree in electrical engineering. Liz's deep knowledge and unwavering commitment to her work and the community also earned her a spot on Make It Better's list of Top Black Women of Impact in Chicago in 2018.

A treasure to the Chicago community, AFP Chicago is truly honored to recognize Liz Thompson as the 2019 Outstanding Community Leader.

Benjamin Franklin Award

Similar to many fundraisers, Christine Zrinsky "fell into" into our profession. Christine's original vision for her career was to become a journalist, having been inspired by "All the President's Men" and her high school journalism adviser and English teacher. Her entrée-point into to the world of professional philanthropy was during the summer 1986, when a colleague secured an interview with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). The rest, as they say, his HER story...

Christine began her career with the CSO as assistant to the annual fund director. She soon realized that passion for writing stories, articles, and editorials directly translated into crafting persuasive appeals, cases of support, proposals, and activating calls to action. It wasn't long her craft was honed that she was promoted to assistant annual fund director and then to director of individual gifts. Then, in 1994, she began her tenure with Chicago's renowned Lincoln Park Zoo, as director of individual and major gifts, which became her home base!

Christine's institutional legacy at The Lincoln Park Zoo is tremendous! She has served in five dynamic roles since joining the team. Under her leadership, Christine and her team of 30 has raised $13 million annually and grown the Zoo's endowment from $1 million in 1995 to more than $135 million today. Nearly every facility and exhibit on the Lincoln Park Zoo campus has been a result of the total $300 million in investments she and her team have secured. She also founded, over 20 years ago, the Advancement Committee of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums which is regarded as a best-in-class model for fundraising within her sector

Christine has been profoundly committed to our profession, volunteering, and mentoring. She is a proud Valpo alumna and has served with her University in various capacities. She is a member of the National Council for the College of Arts & Sciences and is chair of the President's Circle giving club.

CHRISTINE O'REILLY, Chicago White Sox Charities  Professional Grantor Award

Let us introduce you to Christine O'Reilly who is in her 37th season with the Chicago White Sox, her fifth as Vice President of Community Relations/Executive Director of Chicago White Sox Charities. Her friends and colleagues classify her as an exemplary leader who is kind, insightful and compassionate about the needs in the community. She is creative, understanding and goes out of her way to bring joy to the underserved.

Christine's path to the Chicago White Sox Charities started out as a summer job during college. Since then she has continued her passion for supporting children and education programs throughout the community. Her role allows her to have ongoing involvement in supporting families in complex situations and helping the community, and she is considered to be the driving force behind the White Sox extensive community outreach initiatives.

Christine was also instrumental in the creation of the Chicago White Sox Volunteer Corps which was established in 2009. To date it has contributed over 47,800 service hours to the greater Chicagoland community reaching out to more 4,900 White Sox fans, over the course of hundreds of service projects.

As Executive Director of Chicago White Sox Charities, Christine oversees the club's charitable donations to a variety of nonprofit and social service agencies, donating more than $30 million since CWS Charities was established in 1990.

Her interest does not just stop at White Sox baseball as she is deeply involved in the White Sox investment for inner-city youth baseball development, with nearly $500,000 in annual funding from the Charities. This alone impacts thousands of inner-city youth both on the baseball field and in the classroom.

Christine is an alumnus of Illinois State University. She and her husband, Greg, reside in Downers Grove with their two children: Hayley (28) and Brendan (24).

The Association of Fundraising Professionals Chicago Chapter is thrilled to recognize Christine O'Reilly. 

Distinguished Philanthropists Award

Alexandra and John Nichols build bridges in Chicago, both symbolically and geographically. While they were born in New York and Shanghai, China respectively, the Nichols have lived in Winnetka for the past 35 years during which time they have dedicated themselves to becoming visionary stewards of Chicago, helping to shape it by bridging the way for Chicagoans of every background to enjoy the arts, theater, outdoor space throughout the city and north shore, and gain access to quality education.

Their steadfast commitment to philanthropy is driven largely in the mission of the John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols Foundation, which supports the arts, culture, and education. Their extensive board service lends great thought leadership as well; Alexandra Nichols serves on many including, Harris Theater for Music and Dance who nominated her for this award, Music Institute of Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, and WTTW|WFMT. For John Nichols, they include University of Chicago, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago Community Trust, and the Lyric Opera among others.

Their avid support for a thriving, world-class city can perhaps best be seen while visiting Millennium Park, where they are founding members, underwriting the park with significant support to include the Harris Theater, as well as the Nichols Bridgeway which connects Millennium Park to the Modern Wing at the Art Institute, where they are also major benefactors. The many thousands of visitors to that area can enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of a vibrant city in large part because of Alexandra and John Nichol’s deep support.  

For these reasons and so many more, we are proud to recognize Alexandra and John Nichols as the recipients of the 2019 Distinguished Philanthropists award.

GEORGE S. Wright, Citi - Executive Leader Award

"George is a thoughtful leader in philanthropy who stands shoulder-to-shoulder with us. He understands the important role we play and deeply cares about the communities and constituencies we serve." The previous quote from the Chief Development Officer at Chicago Commons is a common refrain that we heard from a number of organizations that have received grants from Citi under George's leadership as Director of Community Development.

Since 2007, George has been responsible for Community Development in the Midwest Region, which includes 17 states in the U.S. and Canada. George is known for his "hands on" approach with non-profits where he encourages them to think beyond the grant in front of them, as well as come up with innovative and sustainable ways to take their non-profit to the next level. George sees the entire philanthropic picture and recognizes how a seed-funding grant from Citi can leverage support from additional funders, thereby doubling or tripling the impact on the community or organization. Because of George's humble nature, you would not immediately recognize him as an executive who manages Community Development, but if you ask any of the organizations that he has worked with, they will tell you how important someone like George is for changing Chicago for the better.

George has served on the Advisory Board for the City of Chicago/Accion CMI, Board Chair of the Chicago-Cook Workplace, Board Chair of the Center for Economic Progress and Board Chair for the Greater Englewood CDC. In addition, George has received an excellence award from the 100 Black Ben of Chicago, and he won the YMCA Black & Hispanic Achiever in Industry Award.

Most importantly, George is a role model and mentor for non-profit leaders. Through his work, George helps grantees clearly articulate and execute on a strategic vision. George loves to connect people, which has helped him establish a record of accomplishment in solving large-scale interdisciplinary problems through philanthropy.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals Chicago Chapter is thrilled to recognize George S. Wright. 


Join AFP Chicago in celebrating Chicago's philanthropic community on Friday, May 3, 2019, at the Hilton Chicago.




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