The inaugural Havana In Chicago, a four-hour fundraiser for First Hand Aid, was an overwhelming success.
Organizers were hoping to raise $10,000, but the event generated $25,000and all 50 silent auction items were sold.
"We're blown away" by the success of the fundraiser, held at Sidetrack March 23, said Art Johnston, co-owner of Sidetrack and the event organizer.
About 200 attended the fundraiser, most from the LGBT community.
First Hand Aid delivers much-needed medical supplies and more to Cuba. Johnston and his longtime partner, Pepe Pena, have gone on multiple relief trips to Cuba over the past few years, and they are heading back to Havana on April 3.
"The hallmark of the [LGBT] community is its generosity, its caring/concern for others. That shined through," at the fundraiser, Johnston said. "It was a remarkable response. People had a wonderful time; the energy in [the bar] was amazing."
One of the fundraiser highlights was a trip-to-Cuba auction, including needed paperwork. That auction started bidding at $2,000, and Alberto Senior ultimately claimed the trip for $3,200.
"I think everyone had a great time, and we're so appreciative for so many very generous [donors.] Plus, everyone learned about Cuba and the organization."
The event featured Cuban food from Paladar and Cuban music from Grupo Zye, winner of the 2012 Jammie Award (Best Jazz Album).