Wine Walk brings ‘energy’ to downtown Wilmette | The Wilmette Beacon

Download PDF | Link

By Alexa Burnell – October 15, 2018
The Wilmette Beacon

Folks raised their glasses to the Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association — an organization devoted to enriching the lives of people with disabilities through quality recreation services — during the Wilmette/Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce’s Wine Walk Saturday, Oct. 13, uniting residents and small business owners over the shared goal of generosity.

Julie Yusim, executive director of the chamber, helped greet more than 150 guests, excited to see so many coming together to enjoy the bustling Village Center, while giving back to a worthy cause, all at the same time.

“It’s wonderful to be surrounded by all this energy in the Village tonight,” Yusim said. “The turnout is great, bringing awareness to both our local business owners and to the evening’s beneficiary, NSSRA.”

Yusim also applauded Amy Lafontante, owner of The Bottle Shop, a staunch supporter of NSSRA. “[Amy] designed the program. She had a vision and a connection with NSSRA and was the one who suggested that they be our beneficiaries for the evening,” Yusim said.

Down the street, Anne Kelly, of A.S.K. Media Group, Inc., a chamber board member and member of the Village’s marketing group, was also instrumental in planning the event, such as securing North Shore Community Bank as the sponsor. To her, the growing noise level at The Wilmette Wine Cellar was a good indication that the evening was a hit among the crowd.

“We have a real nice turnout so far and we are excited to see all these residents coming to the Village Center on a beautiful Saturday night to support a great cause and enjoy our community,” Kelly said. “We have 12 local businesses participating tonight. Each one has a professional wine representative, educating visitors on the different wines.

“Many of the restaurants have offered appetizers and snacks. Last, but not least, I want to say how much I appreciate both Tom Boyle of the Wine Cellar and Amy Lafontante of the Bottle Shop for their great collaboration. In addition to all they have already done, they are donating 10 percent of proceeds earned on bottles of wine sold, back to the NSSRA.”

While Yusim and Kelly thrived on the energy within the community, Craig Culp, executive director of NSSRA, thrived on the goodwill surrounding him, knowing first hand how proceeds will benefit participants.

“For me, this night is all about bringing awareness to NSSRA,” Culp said. “All proceeds from tonight will go to our foundation, where funds will be used for scholarships, and to maintain all ten, wheelchair-accessible vehicles, that our organization uses to safely transport participants from one program to another. Funding is also used to support our two, major annual benefits that celebrate the participants, during the year.”

In addition to knowing the funding will go to good use, Culp appreciated the chance to spread the word that the NSSRA is looking to find more programming staff as well as a new home for the Northbrook-based organization.

“I’m telling everyone I can that NSSRA is hiring people age 16-years and older the we are looking to hire more staff to assist our growing population,” Cupl said. “I’m also excited to share that we are looking for new space, a place that will allow us to provide programming onsite for all of our participants.”

To learn more about NSSRA, how to get involved or for job information, visit

Having trouble opening PDFs? Download Adobe Reader here.