President Obama was creating all types of havoc in Preston Hollow and along the North Dallas Tollway with his Wednesday, June 9th visit to the area. At least that’s what Paul Divis and other guests at the Transverse Myelitis fundraiser groused at the Kessler.
Why, the Oak Cliff hood seemed like a sanctuary of seamlessly moving traffic and easy-going partying compared to north Dallas’ jammed and blocked off streets.
Little did Don Winspear know when he planned the fundraiser that south of Big Old D would be a haven.
But having encountered TM himself, Don has become known for being rather remarkable along with his wife Ellen.
After months of rehabbing and making progress, Don decided to add another “must do” to his list. An event that would raise funds and awareness of the rare autoimmune disease of the central nervous system.
That’s when his longtime friends got involved. Musicians Buddy Greene and Jeff Taylor, who met Don seven years ago, called Don up and said, “We’re on our way to Laity Lodge. Gonna be in Dallas. Any way we could put together a small little concert for you?”
Then Don’s local musician pal Brice Beaird joined the program.
Don even tapped former Dallas Cowboy Tom Rafferty, who now walks with a cane after being victimized by TM, to be the honorary chair.
The name of the event was a natural — An Evening Of Friends And Music.
As for where to hold the event benefiting Conquer Project at UT Southwestern Medical Center, the Kessler was perfect, since Don had invested in its return to the Dallas entertainment scene.
To build the awareness factor, Don found himself on Good Morning Texas and The Ticket with Gordon Keith, as well as in Keith’s Dallas Morning News column.
Still, holding a first-time event in July was chancy. Ellen said that one person told her they would be lucky to sell 80 tickets. Evidently that person didn’t know the pull of the Winspears. More than triple that number attended the concert.
When one person asked Don if he was proud of the fundraiser for the little-known disease, Don looked up, paused and said, “I am humbled.” He never expected such a turnout and the mix of bold faces from all around North Texas. Some had first-hand knowledge of the effects of TM, like Starpower Home Entertainment Systems’ David Pidgeon, who can’t bend his legs as a result of TM.
Others were just there to support the Winspears. Fort Worth’s Rosie and Mike Moncrief seemed like locals as they palled with friends and then hunkered down at a table for dinner. . . Hayley Hamilton Cogill and husband Gary Cogill were splitting up. No, it wasn’t what you think. Both were headed to the airport for different destinations. But after concluding their business obligations, they were meeting up in Paris. . . UT Southwestern’s Ruben Esquivel told friends, “I’ve known Don for many years, also Curtis Meadows (a TM patient).”. . . The Winspears’ Dallas Opera family was represented by Keith Cerny and Holly Mayer. . . The Dallas Zoo’s VP of Guest Experiences Sean Greene and President Michael Meadows told Tiffany Divis of plans the next morning to celebrate the one-year birthday of Winspear the cheetah and his companion/Lab Amani. Tiffany reported that she was going to present in spirit only. Seems she had to head to Chicago the next day. . Lynn and Allan McBee, who seem to be chairing everything in town reported that they’ve tapped Louise and Guy Griffeth to be honorary co-chairs of the Stars and Stripes Film Festival benefiting the Sons of the Flag. According to Lynn, it made perfect sense since they have a son in Afghanistan.
After the 250 guests settled into their chairs, a video featuring TM specialist Dr. Benjamin Greenberg was shown and the musicians played up a storm. Just as guests thought the performances were finished for the evening, up popped the surprise of the evening — Rudy Gatlin, who is always a crowd pleaser.
So, as others were stuck in traffic and others fundraised for political causes, more than 200 had a heck of a good time supporting a humble fella, who was victimized by a cruel disease. Little did TM know. Don has just begun the campaign to vanquish the disease with awareness, research and commitment.