About the Ally Awards
liftUPlift’s 2nd annual Ally Awards fundraiser gala connects and honors Chicago’s greatest champions of Women and Girl Power, while all proceeds support our nonprofit mission to end violence against women worldwide.
Maker of the Year: Madeka Ricketts
Makeda Ricketts founded PinkThink to re-engage girls in STEM and create products that make STEM education powerful and relevant for girls ages 8-14. As a part of PinkThink, she launched Codable Style (cStyle) Bracelets that teach girls programming skills using a drag and drop coding method. Girls can use the codes to program their own bracelet to blink, fade and change color based on body temperature, ambient light and alerts.
“I love the fact that my work actually has a positive impact on girls and that ultimately we are opening up a world of new possibilities for them. Every time I think of what this means for the next generation of girls I get excited.”
Startup of the Year: Mission Propelle cofounded by Jill Carey & Annie Warshaw
Mission Propelle empowers young girls to accept and celebrate their natural body through an after-school program built upon 12 core leadership traits. In each one-hour class, girls learn one leadership trait through guided reading, yoga and mentoring. Guided reading draws from a curriculum of 100 original, fully-illustrated storybooks that feature a fun and fearless female protagonist that ages with the girls, allowing a girl to never see the same book twice. Mission Propelle is a space where girls can explore who they are in a safe and supportive environment that celebrates what it means to be a girl.
“We usher girls into adolescence with a foundation to navigate all the pressures and gendered challenges they will confront. Imagine a generation of girls who reach middle school with confidence in their brains and bodies. We could see a longitudinal shift in gender parity at all levels of leadership.”
Ally of The Year: Natasha Casanova
Founder of Kathmandu Yogi, Natasha Casanova works with Nepali and Peruvian artisans to make ethically produced meditation and yoga accessories for westerners. The company creates an open transaction, connecting the buyer to the artisans who created the product. Kathmandu Yogi just raised enough money to create 100 new jobs for women artisans and launch three new partnerships with fair trade collectives in Nepal. In the future, Casanova will launch a training institute where women will be able to learn language, business and technology skills.
“Be fearless. Don’t just dare to dream, but go after those dreams. And don’t forget to have fun during the process!”
Last Year’s Host: Sandee Kastrul
Last year’s awards would not have been complete without the fantastic and hilarious hosting of Sandee Kastrul. Beyond her stellar hosting abilities, she is the president and co-founder of i.c.stars, a workforce development organization and a social enterprise that finds and trains change-driven individuals excel in technology careers.
“I believe that the definition of leadership is making opportunities for others. I am a leadership geek and find that the richest opportunities for all of our futures lie in education. I believe that the world can be a classroom if we open ourselves to the notion that application, concatenation and liberation start with listening.”