By CHRISTOPHER BRINCKERHOFF
Journal & Topics Reporter
A local non-profit organization that benefits military veterans and their families received a boost from a stage show at the Rosemont Theatre on Saturday, October 19.
A sold-out crowd of about 3,000 people gathered at theater Saturday to watch The Rat Pack is Back, a tribute show to Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joey Bishop. A total of $80,000 was raised for Salute, Inc., based in Arlington Heights.
This was the third year a fundraising show was held at the theater for Salute, said Gehrig Peterson, the event’s volunteer producer. Peterson, who also produces other shows at Rosemont Theater, said he chose the Rat Pack for several reasons.
The first two years the event was a magic show produced by the same people that started “Screams In The Park” haunted house at MB Financial Park, Peterson said. This year he booked the Rat Pack to appeal to an older audience, and because it’s been five or six years since the show was produced in the Chicago area.
“I thought it would do well, and I got lucky,” Peterson said.
Peterson said about $33,000 was raised for Salute in 2011, and $37,000 in 2012. Peterson said by marketing to an older audience this year, they were able to raise more money from ticket sales and sponsorships.
“Nothing against the magic show, I just wanted to take it up a notch,” Peterson said.
Peterson said the fundraising events for Salute, which spends 100% of its funds directly on veterans and their families, began when Mayor Brad Stephens made the suggestion.
Peterson said when they presented a check for a donation of $80,000 to Mary Beth Beiersdorf, founder and executive director of Salute, onstage, her hand was on her heart and she was shaking.
“The audience really was just blown away,” Peterson said. “So it was very fun, and brought me a lot of satisfaction.”
The weak economy makes producing shows challenging, Peterson said, but the annual Salute fundraiser in Rosemont continues to draw a crowd.
“I’ve been doing shows for 32 years, but I’ve never seen this amount of people coming together to try to help an organization,” Peterson said.