The Mission of the Sommer Foundation is to provide college or university scholarships to deserving high school seniors who have experienced the death of a parent and despite the resulting emotional trauma, have performed in an exemplary manner during their high school career.
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The Sommer Foundation does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender (including sexual orientation or gender identity), national origin, disability or age.
A Band of Brothers
From the late 1970s, throughout the 1980s, and into the early 1990s, four men built an incredible bond. Al Rigoni, Bob Kiely, Bill Sommer and I were professional colleagues, trusted friends and confidants. We worked hard and played hard. We shared personal and professional triumphs and tragedies. We learned from one another and about one another, keenly aware of our differences. We were as thick as thieves. A Band of Brothers.
The relationships we developed were priceless, built on trust and a relentless consistency of behavior. We were four friends, in the truest sense of the word, who could be trusted with the most private thoughts, hopes and fears. We drew incredible comfort from the honesty, openness and unstated affection which flowed between us.
Some of our most memorable times occurred during the golf trips we took together. It was non-stop fun, a refuge from the everyday pressures we felt as public managers, sons, husbands, and fathers. Those trips helped shape who we would become as men because we learned so much about ourselves, about relationships, about life. It was a chance to shut out the noise.
The game of golf can be a window into a person’s character. It exposes your human flaws, your frailties, your ability to accept good breaks and bad ones. The game can reveal the real you. Each putt made, each wayward drive was an opportunity to grow as a person and learn from one another. With every passing year, the band of brothers marched on, living life with gusto. Age brought us perspective. It reminds me of the Emerson quote, “The only way to have a friend is to be one”
The Sommer Foundation and the Power of Friendship
Sometimes the Unthinkable Happens
Bill Sommer was turning forty years old. We planned a golf trip to celebrate the big birthday. We were going to the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida to celebrate this milestone in his life. Reservations were made, tickets were purchased, the tee times were booked. We looked forward to the trip with great anticipation.
On a Tuesday evening at about midnight in the early spring, 1992, the four of us said good-bye in a parking lot in Skokie following one of the many Bulls games we attended together. We would never see Bill alive again. On March 6, 1992, after coming home from a Village Board meeting in Lincolnwood, Bill Sommer, son, husband, father, friend, unexpectedly and suddenly died of a massive coronary.
The enormity of the event was mind numbing because it was so unexpected. A soul crushing, unthinkable event had happened. He was the life of the party, the social director. He was the one who would never go to bed at night when we were away from home without calling to talk to his two children before they went to bed. People like Bill Sommer did not die suddenly at 39 years old. We lost an integral part of our foursome, and we did not even have a chance to say good-bye. It hurt too badly to even discuss. It was mind numbing. The wake and funeral were a blur. It was difficult to see anything clearly through the tears and enormous sense of loss. The emotional upheaval was dramatic, and we felt helpless.
The Sommer Memorial Golf Tournament
We had to do something to help ease the pain, to fill the void, to help Lynn and children, Anne, and Jay. That is when the idea for the Sommer Memorial Golf Tournament was born. We would use the sport that was so important to the development of our bond as friends to remember Bill and provide funds to educate Anne and Jay. The first Sommer Memorial Golf Tournament was held on June 9, 1993, and raised $2,323 for the Anne and Jay’s education. Forty-six players participated. It was a labor of love, but we were rookies at designing and presenting a charity golf event. The outpouring of support from friends and colleagues was heartwarming. A tradition had begun, and we knew we could do better.
Our foursome was, however, short a player, the Band of Brothers was missing one. Joe Cavallaro entered to fill the void. Joe worked as Bill’s assistant in West Dundee and became Village Manager there when Bill went to work in Lincolnwood. Joe seamlessly joined the foursome and has been an integral part of the group ever since.
The Sommer Foundation
Thanks to the sponsors and participants of the Sommer Memorial Golf Tournament from 1993 to 1998, we were able to invest enough proceeds to provide for the future higher educational pursuits of Anne and Jay Sommer. Our initial mission had been met thanks to the support of many kind people who supported the cause during the first six tournament events.
It was time for a new mission. We decided as a group to transition to providing scholarships to high school seniors who had endured the hardship of losing a parent early in life. We would distribute the scholarships via the newly incorporated Sommer Foundation, a not-for-profit limited liability corporation. High school seniors would compete for a Sommer Foundation Scholarship based upon academic achievement, participation in volunteer and school activities, employment experience and financial need. An application and interview process were designed and implemented beginning in 1999.
When the initial Sommer Foundation Board of Directors was established, the original Board members were Founding Members Al Rigoni, Bob Kiely, Joe Cavallaro and I joined, by Bill’s wife Lynn and Bernie Oglietti (Bernie served until 2006). As the success of the Foundation continued, the decision was made to expand the Board of Directors by three members. Bob Irvin, Carol Sente, and Ryan Waller were appointed to these positions. In October 2010, a vacancy on the Board occurred when Carol Sente decided to leave the Board. Long-time supporter, Peter Koukos, was appointed to fill the vacancy. In 2012, Bill’s daughter Anne and my daughter Kate were elected to the Board of Directors, becoming “legacy” members. Both women began their involvement with the Foundation mission as young as 8 years old when they sold raffle tickets at the event. They were quite persistent and successful salespersons and now, welcomed Board Members, adding new ideas and added energy. Another new Board Member was elected in 2013, Roslyn Turner, who was also a raffle ticket selling alumni partner of Anne and Kate. The Board continued to add more youth and energy.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Sommer Foundation Golf Event in 2018, we created an anniversary video which premiered at the event dinner.
A Leadership Transition
During the pandemic affected years of 2020 and 2021, the founding members had some serious conversations about their continued involvement as the Foundation approached the 30th anniversary. The decision was made to add a new category of Emeritus Board Member and that the active leadership of the Foundation’s work would be transitioned to the next generation leadership group. Al Rigoni, Bob Kiely, Bob Irvin, Lynn Sommer, and I transitioned to Emeritus status in 2021. Emeritus Members would continue to be involved in a non-voting role providing historical perspective and assistance as needed.
The new leadership group consists of ongoing Board Members Kate Limardi Laux (new Chairperson), Ryan Waller (new vice-chair) Roz Turner Ioffe (new secretary), Joe Cavallaro (a Founding Board Member who will remains in an active, voting member role), and Anne Cardella (who accepted the role of scholarship coordinator). Additional Board members were elected including Tom Burhmann (new treasurer), Bridget Colleran (the first past scholarship winner to join the Board) and Mike Laux.
Since the inaugural event in 1993, 3,328 players have been golf participants and $632,836 has been contributed to the 156 scholarships that have been awarded. The Foundation is very proud to list the names of all scholarship recipients on the Foundation Website by year awarded.
It has been an honor and a pleasure for those of us serving on the Sommer Foundation Board of Directors to be involved in the pursuit of our mission. We are so grateful to all of our sponsors and participants for having a positive impact on the lives of future leaders and for helping us remember our friend, Bill Sommer.
As the old African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” The history of this Foundation proves this proverb true.
-- David Limardi