Shorewood HUGS’s 13th chocolate ball attracts hundreds to raise money for ‘Hugs and Wishes’ program.

In 15 years, nonprofit has fulfilled 1,100 wishes worth more than $900,000

Alex Bromeland and Kyleigh Carie of Plainfield look over the silent auction items at the Shorewood HUGS "Sweet Home Chicago" chocolate ball fundraiser in Joliet on Saturday, February 4, 2023.

Megan Grzetich, who co-owned and operated Jagged Edge Salon in Joliet since 1998, attended the Shorewood HUGS’ chocolate ball for the first time on Saturday night.

Grzetich learned about the ball from her friend and former co-worker Amy Bischoff owner of Aster and Gold Hair Studio in Studio.

Bischoff said Shorewood HUGS granted a “wish” to Bischoff’s sister last year. Bischoff said her sister is fighting breast cancer.

“We just like to give back to the community,” Grzetich said. “What Shorewood Hugs does is amazing.”

Shorewood HUGS, a nonprofit women’s organization, strives to positively impact people by granting small wishes to people in need with the goal of brightening their lives. Recipients must live within a 20-mile radius of Shorewood, according to Shorewood HUGS.

Since its inception, Shorewood HUGS has fulfilled 1,100 wishes worth more than $900,000, according to Shorewood HUGS.

Founding members are Laura Charland of Shorewood, Susan Coyle of Shorewood, Rita Guenther of Shorewood, Heidi Serena of Plainfield and Lorayne Wright of Shorewood. The 501(c)(3) organization now has more than 50 volunteers, according to Nadine Baxter, current president of Shorewood HUGS.

The 15-year-old organization hosted its 13th chocolate ball on Saturday night at Posh Banquets & Event Center in Joliet to raise money for its “Hugs and Wishes” program, according to Heidi Serna of Plainfield, one of the co-founders.

The fundraiser featured chocolate creations from the following venues: Bella Cucina Catering in Joliet, Biteable, Candy and Corn in Minooka, Home Cut Donuts in Joliet, Joliet Junior College culinary arts program. Mauve Nosh & Libations in Shorewood, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Sticky Stix of Joliet, The Great American Bagel of Joliet and Will County Brewing.

The banquet’s theme was “Sweet Home Chicago” and Shorewood HUGS volunteers laid out the event as if attendees were spending an evening in the city, Serena said.

‘Going through the streets of Chicago’

“As you walk into the event, it’s like going through the streets of Chicago,” Serena said. “You ‘hop on the L’ as you check into ‘Union Station’ – you begin at Union Station – to redeem your CTA pass to access the chocolate tasting at ‘Millennium Park.’”

CTA meant “chocolate tasting access,” Serena said. Anyone who tasted creations from at least six stations could redeem the CTA pass for either a bottle of wine or small bottle of tequila.

“Then go directly to the ‘Art Institute of Chicago’ to purchase raffle tickets,” Serena said. “Next stop – look for the ‘Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier’ for a chance to win a grand prize. The big Ferris wheel is lit up and sparkling.”

First prize was a $1,200 night in Chicago. The second was $1,000 of White Sox club tickets. Third was a package of Chicago excursions.

“From there, cheer on your favorite team as you visit ‘Soldier Field,’” Serena said. “Purchase HIGS specialty bears and other HUGS items to support our mission.”

In addition tasting just the chocolate, attendees also enjoyed food that represented parts of Chicago: Wrigleyville, Greek Town, China Town and Little Italy, Serena said. And they could stroll to “Nuts on Clark” and grab popcorn, Serena said.

The ball also offered two themed photo ops: Chicago theaters and Blues Brothers, Serena said.

Attendees were encouraged to visit the wishes tree at “Lincoln Park,” where wishes needing fulfillment and zoo animals hung from the “twinkling, trees,” Serena said.

Doing their parts to make a difference

Greg Modzelewski of Elmhurst, Baxter’s brother, said loves Shorewood HUGS’ mission and wanted to show his support at the chocolate ball with his wife, Melissa.

But also Modzelewski said he also hoped to “win lots and go home as champions.”

Dr. Thomas Moore, a Shorewood pediatrician, said he cared for all the founders’ children and has supported Shorewood HUGS for years.

Haley Wong, 20, of Joliet, became a member of Shorewood HUGS last year.

“I just wanted to make a difference,” Wong said.

Shorewood HUGS honored Michael Peters with its 2023 Making a Difference Award in honor of Lynne Lichtenauer of Joliet, who died from cancer in 2021 at the age of 81.

Lichtenauer was known as a “champion of Joliet,” having served on and directed many boards, organized many events, for her work with alumni relations at Joliet Township High School District 204 and as a longtime talk show host 1340 AM WJOL in Joliet, along with Manley and Mary Lancaster, whom Lichtenauer invited to serve as regular cohosts in 2000.

Peters, who started offering The Nightmare Haunted House in Minooka in 2017, when he was 15 as a fundraiser for Shorewood HUGS, has since raised $12,826, according to remarks at the Shorewood HUGS event.

And Illinois Sen. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, underscored the important of donating after Shorewood HUGS showed two videos: one showing the ways members contribute to the community and people in need the helped the following attendees are...not just here to socialize.”

And Manley underscored the important of donating after Shorewood HUGS showed two videos: one showing the ways members contribute to the community and people in need they helped the following year.

“What they do matters,” Manley said, “And they do it from their hearts.”

To nominate someone for a wish, visit