Canine Therapy Corps has received..." /> Bitcoin enthusiast gives big to charity, plus dishing on Lyric wine auction

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Nancy Searle, left, and Marilynn Thoma peruse wine at the 2015 Lyric Opera Wine Auction. 0

Mystery bitcoin enthusiast gives big to Chicago charity, plus dishing on Lyric wine auction

February 11th, 2018

Canine Therapy Corps has received a $250,000 donation from “Pine,” the mystery bitcoin enthusiast who’s giving away his cryptocurrency wealth through the Pineapple Fund.

Canine Therapy is a Chicago nonprofit that connects people in need to trained support dogs.

Pineapple Fund is anonymously donating approximately $86 million in Bitcoin to select charities who applied to the fund last year.

“This is the largest gift in Canine Therapy Corps’ 26-year history,” Executive Director Callie Cozzolino said.

In 2016, the nonprofit started expansion plans, and the Pineapple donation will  “catapult our ability do that,” Cozzolino said.

She told me she and Pine corresponded back and forth over the course of a few weeks about the donation, though she still has no clue of Pine’s identity.

“I wish I knew,” she said. “He/she/they continue to be anonymous to everyone, even people helping them out with the Pineapple Fund project. Nonetheless, their kindness, compassion, and hope for our world shine through, both in their correspondence (which is always brief, but warm) and in the charities they have funded. Pretty amazing stuff. The stuff of dreams.”

Goldstein and Searle

OH, THE EXTRAVAGANCE! The Lyric Opera’s wine auction is about ready to take off, and organizers couldn’t wait to dish on some of the details.

The fundraising event that benefits the opera company is April 14.

The auction has an aura of extravagance about it, mainly because it’s held just once every three years. Ticket prices starting at $1,500 lend to that feeling of exclusivity, too.

This year’s event will feature dinner on the opera stage. Expect a rich meal paired with amazing wines. Chateau Gruaud Larose was on the menu at the last auction in 2015.

The foyer of the opera house is full of energy at these events. Guests dress to the nines, sip wine and weigh which auction items to pursue. A safari with wildlife photographer Sue Flood went for a reported $78,000 three years ago. It’s up for auction again this year.

The 2015 event raised $1.8 million and organizers this year hope to exceed that.

Co-chairs are Women’s Board members Keith Kiley Goldstein and Nancy Searle, who have worked ’round the clock for nearly three years to put on an unforgettable experience.

Searle is especially excited about six bottles of Chateau Margaux Grand Vin 2015, which is the first time in the estate’s history that a special bottle has been created for a vintage release.  The bottle commemorates the life and work of the late Paul Pontallier, Chateau Margaux’s beloved managing director, and was released in a limited edition.

I wondered if Searle traveled the world to secure such big donations.

“No world travel,” she acknowledged, “just lots of e-mails and letters sent in our solicitation process.”

The event has about 65 lots in the live auction and 135 lots in the silent auction. Lots include wine, spirits,  wine experiences, travel and luxury items.

Goldstein is excited about a trip to Cape Briton Island that’s been donated by golf-course developer Mike Keiser.

The big challenge: “How do we top the last auction? I don’t want to spoil any surprises with decor, but this year will be the first time we’ve engaged Lyric Opera’s production team to help decorate. We thought, ‘We have this enormous resource under our noses.’ We’re hoping it’s unique and exciting.”

For information or to make a donation, contact the Women’s Board at 312-827-5682 or

Sarah Hamilton

HANDLING OLYMPIC STARS. Chicago PR pro Sarah Hamilton is in South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics. No, she’s not competing.

Hamilton is a managing director at Kivvit, the media affairs and public-relations firm that works with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). She’s been in Pyeongchang for more than two weeks “to work with athletes to prepare them for media at the Games, as it’s unlike most other sporting events,” she told me in an email.

“It’s been really cool to see the athletes–many of whom compete in solo events –all interact as one team,” Hamilton wrote, adding, she’d just returned from helping out at the men’s luge. “I’m frozen!” she said.

Shani Davis

I wondered if she handled speedskater Shani Davis, who was angry about not being selected as the flag bearer for the opening ceremonies. (He tweeted about it in a sour-grapes way.)

“I assume he worked with the USOC directly or via U.S. Speedskating,” Hamilton wrote. “I was not involved.”

Too bad. she knows how to work with clients who don’t want to be handled, per se. Before Kivvit, Hamilton was director of communications for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.


Joe Mansueto

MANSUETO CALLED IT. A Chicago-based meal-kit delivery service, just got an infusion of financial support from Tyson Foods.

No word on the extent of its support but it’s a deal that could give Tovala an edge in the competitive subscription food business.

Before partnering with Tyson Foods, Tovala had early financial support from real-estate mogul Larry Levy, Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto, Origin Ventures and Pritzker Group Capital Venture.

Tovala sets itself apart from similar companies by also offering a WiFi-programmed steam oven.

CEO David Rabie describes his company as the “Netflix of food.”

He has an interesting back story. He founded the company while in business school at University of Chicago. Rabie brought an expertise from working at Veggie Grill and for a frozen-yogurt chain. He teamed up with another young entrepreneur, Bryan Wilcox, who’s the brains behind the steam oven that heats Tovala meals.

Toni Preckwinkle

SHE’S A LANDMARK. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is among honorees at this year’s Landmarks Illinois gala.

Landmarks praised Preckwinkle for working “collaboratively to implement major reforms and reshape county government.” Preckwinkle previously served 19 years as a city alderman for the 4th Ward, where she has been credited with supporting projects on historic buildings.

Property-tax incentives enforced by government also give breaks to developers who invest in historic buildings.

Dan Levin, founder and chairman of the Habitat Co., is also being honored. His company has helped transform the city’s skyline with residential towers and helping revitalize River North–that’s thanks much to his East Bank Club (he’s CEO). Over the years, he’s partnered with some of the most notable names in architecture, including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Berglund Construction will receive the Corporate Landmark” honor. That award will be accepted third-generation owner Fred Berglund.

CONGRATS to Mika Stambaugh on launching her public-relations business, TMI (The MAS Ink), and to Kathleen Kenehan Henson on re-branding her long-time Henson Consulting PR firm. It’s now called Agency H5. Officially, the new name represents the company’s five core values– creativity, passion, integrity, hustle and kindness. But she’s a passionate mom to five great kids, so you can count on that name having a double-meaning.


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