La Marca put those lessons to good use when he took a leadership position as founder of the Associate Board and as co-chair of the Illinois Eye Bank’s Aviators’ Night for Sight. The Illinois Eye Bank is a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to restore eyesight through research and cornea transplants. When La Marca was looking to get involved in a worthy cause, he looked no further than the IEB. He was brought into the organization by a friend who was involved in a leadership position and who was looking for fresh blood and creative ideas.
The event was a collaborative effort, with La Marca and Morgan Stogsdill serving as co-chairs. The team was able to turn their vision of a top-notch event filled with sheer style and sophistication into a reality. In 2010, they launched the Chicago area’s only Jet Hangar Party and recently celebrated their second season on Oct 25, 2011. “There are so many charity events and competition is so high for donor dollars,” La Marca says. “It was necessary to create an event that the city has never seen before.”
Unlike many charitable events, Aviators’ Night for Sight began with no budget. “We had a 20,000-square-foot hangar, two multimillion-dollar jets and no funds to produce an event. Our greatest challenge was that we had to convince sponsors to donate money, service or time,” La Marca says. “Given my career in wealth management, I had contacts in the luxury products market. I had connections with Marquis Jets [a private jet company] and knew about their events in Miami and L.A. I thought it would be awesome to replicate one of their hangar parties in Chicago so we approached Marquis Jets to be our main sponsor and they agreed.”
Marquis Jets provided an aircraft hangar and two of their jets. Franco and his board reached out across the Chicago area and partnered with more than 20 company sponsors to produce the event. After two successful years, the event has raised more than $50,000 for the Illinois Eye Bank mission.
In their second year, 200-plus guests mingled in an airplane hangar while enjoying delectable foods and spirits, as well as the sexy international sounds of the dance band, Vagando. The food was provided by eight top Chicago restaurants, including RL, Le Coloniel, Roy’s, and the MidAmerica Club. Some guests even got to take an airplane ride over downtown Chicago in a Piper Warrior provided by Northwest Flyers while others simply took in the posh landscape of private jets and luxury cars. The evening continued with a runway fashion show produced by Kimberly Palmisano, raffles, a silent auction, and a dedication to 10-year-old Anthony Diaz, a cornea recipient.
La Marca and his board put on a successful event that raised the bar in local philanthropic pursuits. CS Magazine named the Illinois Eye Bank’s Aviators’ Night for Sight one of the top 10 charity events in Chicago. La Marca states, “We are very proud that we made it to CS Magazine and I have been approached by so many organizations asking for advice on how to launch their fundraising events.”
The passion for philanthropy that his parents instilled in him and his commitment to the IEB makes him highly respected, and he hopes he can continue to keep bringing fresh and innovative ideas to his events. “Our partners this past year are excited for another event next year,” La Marca states enthusiastically. “We are exploring a new and exciting concept or we’ll continue with another hangar party next year. It’s all for a good cause.”
For more information on the Illinois Eye Bank, visit www.IllinoisEyeBank.org or call 800-548-4703.
Outside of the IEB, La Marca is involved with the Italian American Chamber of Commerce and sits on the Alumni Board at Lake Forest College. He grew up in Park Ridge and attended Maine South High School, than Lake Forest College. He spent two years attending Waseda University in Japan studying international relations. From there, he studied international law at John Marshall Law School as well as the University of Sydney in Australia. He practiced law for a few years before being recruited by a tier-1 investment firm.
La Marca currently works at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management as a financial adviser and lives in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. This year, he was recognized by Lincoln Park Young Executives as one of the city’s Best of the Best, and he can be seen rubbing elbows with professional athletes as an adviser to the NFL Alumni of Chicago.