Honoring those who epitomize the highest ideals of older adult living
The Sterling Friendship Award is one of many ways the Friendship Senior Options Foundation
recognizes outstanding and compassionate people who personify the positive attributes of aging through their continued individual development, contributions to the well-being of others and distinguished accomplishments in business and their community.
In 2016 we celebrated a couple who have contributed millions of dollars to people in need. John and Rita Canning have dedicated their time to serve others in a multitude of ways. From scholarships for students in the inner-city facing crime, violence, racism, and poverty to clinical care for people in desperate need of emergency healthcare services; from support for domestic abuse victims to educational resources to single parents and students pursuing college educations…the list goes on and on to describe the many facets of the Canning’s generosity. They invest in organizations that serve people in great need and continually find ways to use their philanthropy to improve the lives of others.
John and Rita personally support 100 students from Chicago Public Schools to attend private schools through the Canning Foundation. There are three rules to these students’ scholarships: no drugs, no alcohol, and no trouble in school. When one of their students doesn’t thrive in their academic environment, they don’t lose their scholarship – they gain a private meeting with John to talk about plans.
Rita has helped WINGS, Women in Need Growing Strong, open the first safe house in the northwest suburbs for women and children escaping domestic abuse situations. She helps these women find transitional housing, educational opportunities, and creates chances for a new life for women in desperate need.
John and Rita have touched the lives of thousands of people, many of whom they’ll never meet. They inspire us by their generosity and kindness and are most deserving of the Sterling Friendship Award.
Some of the more prominent recipients in past years include legendary Chicago newsmen Bill Kurtis, Walter Jacobson and Harry Volkman, former DePaul basketball coach Ray Meyer, Art Linkletter, Dr. Joyce Brothers and former Today show weatherman Willard Scott.
Past Sterling Friendship Award Winners
- Ray Meyer
Former DePaul University basketball coach
- The Honorable Virginia Macdonald
Former Illinois State Representative
- William Warfield
- Harry Volkman
Longtime Chicagoland weather forecaster
- Art Linkletter
Nationally known radio and television personality
- Dr. Joyce Brothers
Psychologist, author, and television personality
- Willard Scott
NBC "Today" show weatherman and television personality
- Dr. Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs
Founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago
- Ruth Park
Schaumburg Civic Leader and co-founder of the Schaumburg Business Association
- Tom Jaeger
President Emeritus and Consulting Principal of Jaeger, Nickola & Associates Ltd., Architects
- Michael Madden
Director of the Schaumburg Township District Library
- Robert M. “Bob” Alston
CEO of Friendship Senior Options/Friendship Village
- Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson
Famed Chicago newsmen
- The Alexian Brothers
- Al Larson
Mayor of Schaumburg, Illinois
- Merri Dee
Chicago community activist, WGN-TV anchor, author and AARP Illinois State President
- Jim Edgar
Former Governor of Illinois
- Larry Minnix
President and CEO of LeadingAge
- John and Rita Canning
Community leaders and renowned philanthropists