Lodging Association Ponies Up for Kids

CHICAGO—The future of hospitality is in today’s classroom and the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA) wants to set these students up for success.

“The demand for exceptional talent in our industry is greater than ever, and we know we must continue working hard to meet the anticipated growth,” said Marc Gordon, president and CEO, IHLA. “The rising cost of tuition has become prohibitive for many promising students, but with increased financial support, the number of recipients and award amounts can continue to grow. Contributions help us support promising future hospitality leaders and help our industry meet its staffing needs.”

The organization’s 11th annual Pony Up for the Kids event supports the IHLA Educational Foundation (IHLAEF) Scholarship Program, which serves as a leading source of financial assistance for Illinois students pursuing degrees in hospitality.

“We continue to be wowed by and are tremendously grateful for the continued generosity, support and commitment of our IHLA and IHLAEF board of directors, members and partners,” said Gordon. “We are particularly appreciative of our IHLAEF Scholarship Committee for continuously dedicating their time to the lengthy process of selecting our scholarship finalists and winners each year.”

IHLAEF is the not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) educational arm of IHLA. Incorporated in 1992, IHLAEF has been a primary source of scholarship assistance for Illinois college students pursuing hospitality management degrees throughout the country, awarding more than $450,000 since its inception.

“The foundation focuses on three major initiatives: scholarships, educational programming and high school to career curriculum and workforce development. The scholarship program is the true bread and butter of the educational foundation, and all IHLAEF fundraising endeavors go directly to the scholarship fund,” said Gordon. “Pony Up for the Kids is IHLAEF’s signature fundraising event, and the only annual IHLA event specifically benefitting the IHLA Educational Foundation Scholarship Program. The event attracts IHLA members and young professionals ready for an exciting day at the races at Arlington Park racecourse.”

The event started with an idea. The organization already had several golf events, dinners and luncheons each year. Gordon suggested a different kind of event.

“Since I knew several people at Arlington Park racecourse, we were able to set up an annual group event to raise money for scholarships. In 2007, we hosted our first Pony Up for the Kids event,” he said. “Each year, we encourage our IHLA and IHLAEF board of directors, members and partners to support the event by attending and helping promote the event and the worthy cause.

The events team also promotes the event on the organization’s website, via eblast, monthly member newsletter and social media. To drive further awareness, the event’s partners also cross-promote the event to their network.

According to Gordon, the event—held in July—was a success, exceeding this year’s goal by $3,700 in net revenue. Another standout moment involved IHLAEF Board of Directors Chairman Nabil Moubayed, who is also GM of the Kimpton Gray Hotel and area director of operations Midwest for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.

“He was not satisfied with the total amount of cash in our 50/50 Split the Pot Cash Raffle, so right before he was supposed to draw a raffle ticket and announce the winner, he got on the mic and announced to all of the attendees that we could do better,” said Gordon. “He put in an additional $20 for a ticket and asked everyone else to do the same. The next thing we knew, there was an enormous line out the door of the event suite into the hallway with guests holding out $20 bills to purchase additional raffle tickets and contribute more to our scholarship program. The IHLA staff could barely keep up with the ticket sales and next thing we knew, the pot reached over $1,000.”