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The festive annual Off the Street Club luncheon that almost wasn't

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OTSC-0807.jpegThe Chicago advertising and public relations industry's annual Off the Street Club holiday luncheon almost didn't happen this year.

Jack Rooney of Ogilvy & Mather/Chicago delivered that shocking and grim bit of news at the top of what turned out to be a very festive affair Thursday at the Fairmont Hotel Chicago. Rooney said he was told early in the summer that no ad agency or public relations firm had stepped forward to sponsor the 2010 luncheon. Usually by that point, planning would be well under way for an event typically held early in December each year.

Tradition has it that one ad agency or public relations firm is the luncheon's lead sponsor. But times being what they are (hard, in case you hadn't guessed) in the Chicago ad world, no agency apparently raised its hand to follow in the steps of Euro RSCG/Chicago, lead sponsor of last year's slickly-executed luncheon.

Rooney made it clear Ogilvy wasn't prepared to shoulder the responsibility of doing this year's luncheon all alone. But before panic set in, a decision was made to pull together a consortium of agencies that are part of the Chicago chapter of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and let the bunch of them share the responsibility of doing the planning and execution of this year's event.

The luncheon's near collapse notwithstanding, we are pleased to report it went off without a hitch, with upwards of 700 in attendance. As always, the highlight was the naming of the Off the Street Club Boy and Girl of the Year. This year they are Jovan Bradley and Latarsia Jackson.

We never cease to be amazed at what poise and polish these hugely promising youngsters demonstrate when they stand all alone before a large crowd of strangers to give a speech and share a little bit of what makes them special. Jackson wants to grow up to be a poetess, and she read a lovely poem about peace and giving thanks. Bradley proudly channels Justin Bieber, and he gave a performance that demonstrated Bieber has nothing on him.

Altogether, the luncheon is expected to raise in excess of $400,000 to help the Off the Street Club continue its decades of work with children from the city's west side, where drugs and gang violence are constant concerns.

For the record, the ad agencies that helped make the 2010 luncheon happen are (in alphabetical order): Cramer-Krasselt; Digitas; Energy BBDO; Euro RSCG; Leo Burnett and Ogilvy & Mather. Edelman/Ruth did the video presentation. "Hope" was the theme for the luncheon.

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This is a delayed reaction to your article. I came across it while getting online information about Off the Street Club. I'm trying to spread the word about the club to children's authors.

I've been a volunteer for not quite 25 years. My main goal at OTSC is to get as many books as possible into their library. I've been in their tutoring program for about 20 years. I must brag that Latarsia Jackson is my student in Time to Read, a one on one tutoring program sponsored by Time Warner, Inc. I love sharing the wealth of poetry.

Kudos to Marybeth Chianakas, a Time Life employee, who has run Time to Read selflessly since its inception. She has put her all into this successful program.

The staff at OTSC consider their work a vocation, not a job. They dedicate their lives to improving the future of the kids in the West Garfield Park neighborhood.

I am so glad that the club received funds to keep it going strong. Donations to the club are not wasted. Ralph Campagna and Arnett Morris run a tight ship. Not a penny is wasted.

Long live OTSC!

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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This page contains a single entry by Lewis Lazare published on December 2, 2010 3:14 PM.

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