Top billing-- 'Signature Event' may be one for the record books

By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

In today's bleak economy, most fund-raising committees have decided to set their sights considerably lower than the pie-in-the-sky expectations of yesteryear.

With good reason, of course.

Corporate downsizing, widespread layoffs, and the freefall in the real estate market have put the squeeze on charitable giving throughout the state, especially in the "auto alley" of Southeastern Michigan.

Correspondingly, the outlook for this year's "Signature Event," the chief money-maker for the Oakland County Bar Foundation, was chancy and challenging at best, according to Mike Sullivan, president of the OCBF.

"We were hopeful, but we also were realistic about our chances of raising the kind of money that we have in past years," Sullivan says. "We knew it would be exceedingly tough in this kind of economic climate."

Pessimism would normally abound in such circumstances, possibly serving as a recipe for fund-raising disaster among those charged with making the calls and pressing the flesh in search of donations.

Just not this year, Sullivan reports.

"We have sponsorship commitments approaching $143,000, which is a remarkable amount considering the state of the Detroit area economy," says Sullivan. "It's a testament to the extraordinary generosity of the legal community and the hard work of our fund-raising committee."

Organizers of the 11th annual Signature Event, which is scheduled for Friday, April 16 at posh Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, predict the final fund-raising figure likely will top the $150,000 mark, a record amount. Upward of 350 people are expected to attend the legal gala that runs from 7 to 10 p.m. and features a strolling supper. Tickets are $150 per person.

"We are fortunate to have Cooley Law School back as a Platinum Sponsor ($10,000 donation) and to have four Gold Sponsors ($5,000 each) in Bank of Birmingham, Conway MacKenzie, Kohn Financial Consulting, and Orlans Associates," Sullivan says. "Our list of Silver ($2,500) and Bronze ($1,000) Sponsors also includes a number of firms and businesses that have traditionally supported this event, year after year."

Proceeds from the dinner will be channeled into a number of legal aid programs and educational projects that OCBF supports, according to Sullivan. Among the beneficiaries are the Family Law Assistance Project, the University of Detroit Mercy Mobile Law Office, the Adams-Pratt Law Library, the RESTORE Foundation, the Youth Law Conference, Senior Law Day, the Michigan High School Mock Trial Tournament, and Beaumont Hospital Legal Aid for Children.

"We're not in the business of sitting on money that we raise," Sullivan says. "We funnel it directly to programs that we support so that they can supply the type of legal help that many people need but are not in a position to afford. We aggressively support area legal aid clinics and educational programs that provide tangible benefits to those involved."

Alan Ackerman and Diane Dietle are co-chairing the fund-raising committee for the OCBF. Other members include Mark Stern, Tom Cranmer, Mike Schloff, Tom Tallerico, Joe Papelian, Cynthia Brazzil, Liz Brown, Dan Quick, Eric Pelton, and Sullivan.

"We have a nice mix of old and new blood," says Sullivan of the committee's makeup. "They have done a phenomenal job in reaching out to the legal community for help and we are fortunate that our message has resonated with those in a position to lend a hand."

Those interested in purchasing tickets to the April 16 event can contact Katie Tillinger at the Oakland County Bar Association for more information, (248) 334-3400, ext. 223. Sponsorship opportunities also are still available by contacting Tillinger or by visiting the Oakland County Bar Association's Web site at

Published: Mon, Mar 22, 2010