Last night on the campus of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, hundreds of guests raised thousands of dollars for people with disabilities during the Anixter Center’s 7th annual gala, held this year in honor of Cinespace President Alexander Pissios.
Temporarily converting a former Ryerson steel structure into a vision of elegance, the exquisite lighting, white tablecloths, and abundance of celebrity at last night’s Anixter Gala made a perfect complement to the event’s theme, “Sharing Strengths, Building Partnerships.”
Executive Producer Phillip Koch, Chicago Cub pitcher Kerry Wood, Tribune Executive Larry Wert, Illinois Film Office Director Christine Dudley, columnist Candice Jordan and her husband, Chuck, the founder and owner of former Chicago creative shop JTC advertising, were among the guests.
CBS weekday anchor Rob Johnson hosted a pre-dinner auction. Strolling through the crowd with a microphone, he frequently described how the evening’s proceeds would help Anixter Center continue its mission.
Founded in 1918, Anixter Center provides an array of services to help those with disabilities and related challenges live, learn, work and play in the Chicago community.
The organization offers 35 programs and services across the greater Chicago and touches the lives of nearly 8,000 people every year.
A sports package with box seats to a Cubs’ game, drawings signed by artist Scott Smith, and several other goodies were sold at auction. They generated funds that, as Johnson reminded the audience, would help Anixter provide hearing aids, training, and placement for the job seekers that it assists.
In his opening remarks before the bidding commenced, guest of honor Alex Pissios told the crowd that, “my father is the reason I am standing before you tonight and why I support Anixter Center.”
A Chicago Public School Special Education Teacher for more than thirty years, Spiros Pissios worked two jobs so that his wife could stay home to raise their son Alex and his two brothers.
“I had the privilege of seeing my father wake up each and every day and help children with special needs,” he continued. “Here at Cinespace, I have a similar opportunity to make a difference helping young adults in North Lawndale receive job training in the film industry and then go to work in the film business.”
Since launching in 2011, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios has become the second largest film studio facility in the world and a driving force in Chicago’s film and TV production boom. Home to Empire, The Chi, Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, and Chicago PD, the 70-acre Windy City production campus is a branch of the original Cinespace Studios in Toronto.
Pissios opened Cinespace Chicago with his Uncle Nick Mirkopoulos, who founded the original Canadian location in 1988. Since then, the nephew has established himself as an ambassador of Chicago’s production community while the uncle, who passed in 2013, has become a legend throughout the industry.
“We have produced over 16,000 film related jobs,” Pissios continued, “and over $4 billion in revenue for Chicago and the state of Illinois.”
Besides donating $25,000 prior to the gala and then matching it with another $25,000 during the festivities, Alex and the Pissios family help run The Cinecares Foundation.
Cinecares provides opportunity for people who live near Cinespace Studios. In 2017 — with a boost from partners like NBC, Dick Wolf, and Local 476 — it placed nearly a dozen candidates into paid internships, four of whom land jobs with the Chicago Studio Mechanics Union.
Cinecares’ Executive Director Sheilia Brown, as well as several key professionals who own businesses located on the Cinespace campus film incubator known as Stage 18, attended last night’s gala.
Together with the Anixter Center, they helped the Chicago film industry notch one of the most significant milestones of the year.
Click here to view Reel Chicago’s Facebook photo album of the Anixter Gala.
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