A Tribute to Roger Ebert & Empathy was held to celebrate his enduring influence.
Ebert's wife, Chaz, area filmmakers and friends gathered at the Chicago Theatre near the Ebert star plaque, right under the marquee.
"To me a great movie is a movie I cannot stand the thought of never being able to see again," deceased film critic Roger Ebert once said. "And that's what the movies are for: they enlarge us, they civilize us, they make us more decent people."
It's a voice that was silenced by illness before Roger Ebert took what he called his "leave of presence." But he spoke out with the power of his writing until the end.
The Ebert Foundation awarded $1,000 grants with "thumbs up" to 21 Chicago organizations whose efforts he believed in and that help people and the arts.
"Through the arts, through feeding them, through clothing them, through giving them a place to live, through giving them cameras to make movies about issues that are important," said Chaz Ebert, Head of the Ebert Foundation and Roger Ebert's wife.
"His insistence upon social justice and the empowerment of youth, really the foundation has made them front and center," said Rich Moskal of the Chicago Film Office.
"Roger's legacy to the film community, to the entire community at large, the opportunity to give back was always what he was doing," said Christine Dudley of the Illinois Film Office.
After the event at the Chicago Theatre, recipients, friends and fans went across the street to the Gene Siskel Center for another presentation.
"It's hard to get over the fact that he's gone and it just speaks to the fact that he does feel very much with us," said Steve James of Kartmequin Films.
"Some days it feels like he's right there next to me still, and some days I feel like he's been gone too long. I miss him terribly," said Ebert. "When I do things like this it feels like he's right there."