Fort Wayne, IN — Mad Anthonys is recognizing the co-author of one of Indiana’s great entrepreneurial success stories as its 2021 Red Coat honoree.
Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, the co-founder of international retailer Vera Bradley, will be honored by Mad Anthonys at its Red Coat Gala on September 11; the event will take place at The Bradley, the new boutique hotel Baekgaard has been instrumental in bringing to downtown Fort Wayne.
“We are incredibly honored and excited to recognize Barb as our Red Coat recipient this year,” said Sherri Miller, president of the Mad Anthonys Foundation. “From the basement of her home, she has helped build Vera Bradley into a global brand and amazing success story — all while giving back and strengthening the community she calls home. Her presence and participation in this year’s event will have a profound, positive impact on the support we generate for Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House.”
“Being named a Red Coat recipient ranks up there with any recognition I’ve received to date,” Baekgaard said. “It’s an honor to join the incredible list of previous recipients — and to help Mad Anthonys raise money for the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House and enhance the services they provide families throughout our region in the process. It’s a great way to give back to a community that’s given so much to me and my family.”
Baekgaard co-founded Vera Bradley (named after her mother) in 1982 in Fort Waynealong with Pat Miller with a vision to bring a much-needed injection of design and color to the luggage market; since then, they’ve built it into a publicly traded company and internationally recognized lifestyle brand providing a broad range of women’s handbags, luggage and travel items, fashion and home accessories, and unique gifts online and in retail locations around the world.
She served as co-president of the company from its founding until 2010, when she was named Chief Creative Officer, a position she held until 2017. Since the company’s founding, she’s provided leadership and strategic direction in the brand’s development by providing creative vision to areas such as marketing, product design and assortment planning, and to the design and visual merchandising of the company’s stores.
Her philanthropic efforts are equally impressive and far-reaching. In 1994, the loss of a close friend to breast cancer inspired Baekgaard and Miller to establish the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research. To date, the Foundation has given more than $36 million for breast cancer research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Not surprisingly, Baekgaard has earned ample industry and philanthropic recognition and awards, including the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the State of Indiana from Arthur Young/VENTURE in 1987 (awarded jointly with Ms. Miller); the Gifts and Decorative Accessories Industry Achievement Award in 2006; the Country Living Entrepreneur Award in 2007; the Lifetime Achievement Award from AmericasMart/Icon Honors in 2014; the ACE Humanitarian Award from the Accessories Council in New York City in 2017; and the Fashion Group International Humanitarian Award in 2018.
For the first time in the event’s history, the Mad Anthonys Red Coat Gala will not be held during the Pro-Am weekend. The 64th Pro-Am will be held June 28 at Fort Wayne Country Club; Mad Anthonys moved the date of the Red Coat Dinner to Sept. 11 to coincide with the opening of The Bradley. For Red Coat Gala ticket information, contact Kathy Eikenberry at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit madanthonys.org. For more information on the 2021 Mad Anthonys Pro-Am, visit madanthonys.org/proam.
About the Mad Anthonys
The Mad Anthonys is a charitable organization founded in 1957 and comprised of
business leaders and professionals from northeast Indiana. The Mad Anthonys Pro-Am is
one of the country’s premier charity golf events, raising millions of dollars for charitable
organizations in Fort Wayne. In 2007, Mad Anthonys began a partnership with Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House, dedicating its fundraising efforts to the organization.
About the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House
The Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House provides nearby lodging and support services for the families of children undergoing pediatric and neonatal treatment. Because Fort Wayne has become a health care hub for all of northern Indiana, southern Michigan and western Ohio, this function is critical to the families of children with severe illnesses and conditions.