The Trains At NorthPark With Kid Conductor Ruth Daniel Kicked Off The Ronald McDonald House Of Dallas Fundraiser

Change can be good. And The Trains at NorthPark breakfast kick-off on Saturday, November 22, proved just that.

Tia Wynne and Jamie Singer

Tia Wynne and Jamie Singer

Face painting

Face painting

Connie Yates and Tom Thumb

Connie Yates and Tom Thumb

The biggy change for the annual roll of the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas fundraiser was the relocation. Instead of many past Trains at NorthPark being on the upper level between Neiman’s and Nordstroms, the 2014 ever-popular train depot was located downstairs in the old Coldwater Creek space. Event Co-Chairs Jamie Singer and Tia Wynne were thrilled about the relocation and the setting. The rustic boards on the walls made it perfect for trains to roll by.

Ribbon-cutting participants

Ribbon-cutting participants

Another advantage of the lower space was a lot more square footage in the common area to do face painting, balloon-creature making and food.

Still another change was the emcee. In the past couple of years WFAA has been the media sponsor and provided the emcee like Colleen Coyle and Janet St. James. This year the emcee was KXAS news anchor Meredith Land.

Meredith Lamb and Jill Cumnock

Meredith Land and Jill Cumnock

Luckily, there was no change in the presenting sponsor. Once again Bank of Texas was on board.

As for the kid guests, they were darn adorable. One just might suspect they were hired from Central Casting.

While kids and parents partied big time waiting for the doors to open, Honorary Co-Chairs Regen and Dr. Jeffrey Fearon and six-year-old Honorary Conductor Ruth Daniel and her family were touring the collection of trains inside. Surrounded by miniature trains and amazing backdrops, the Daniel family was the real attention getter.

Regen and Jeffrey Fearon, John Daniel, Jeremiah Daniel and Robin Daniel

Regen and Jeffrey Fearon, John Daniel, Jeremiah Daniel and Robin Daniel

In many ways, they looked like the rest of the families on the other side of the doors. But they were truly unique. From Tyler, Robin and John Daniel have seven kids — John David (14), Joshua (11), Rachel (10), Rebekah (8), Josiah (7), Ruth (6) and Jeremiah (16 months). Of that count, five were adopted. Which ones? Who knew and who cared? They were all Daniels.

The Robin and John Daniel's family

The Robin and John Daniel’s family

But it was little Ruth who was the reason for the family’s involvement with Ronald McDonald House of Dallas. This past October 27, Ruth and Jeffrey spent some very serious time together. It was on this day that Jeffrey “performed craniofacial surgery to help Ruth with her severe sleep apnea (by having a Le Forte 1 with a halo distraction performed). He also pinned her ears to better fit her hearing aid and glasses.”

John Daniel and Ruth Daniel

John Daniel and Ruth Daniel

But there were more issues facing the Daniels family. They needed a place to stay during the days leading up to Ruth’s surgery and recovery. It had to be a nurturing place where the staff understood and could assist the family and the little girl, who has Down Syndrome.

According to Jeffrey, “The Ronald McDonald House of Dallas is a unique and very special place. It provides a warm supportive environment where families who have a sick child needing specialized treatment that takes them far from home can rest and decompress from all the associated stresses. My patients uniformly have nothing but wonderful things to say about the House.”

Robin recalled, “I was so glad that she had a place to be able to play and have fun and decrease her stress and anxiety about the upcoming surgery. She loved the outside playground, playroom and the library of children’s books.  When we came back from the hospital to check out of the Ronald McDonald House, all Ruth could talk about was wanting to go play.”

Once again the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas was there to help a family who has sought medical care in Dallas for their child. And once again, the little trains are hitting the rails to provide funding for such a home-away-from-home for these families.

Change Of Plans: MySweetWishList Rolls Out Ramps Up



MySweetCharity is getting clobbered with wishes, so an executive decision has been made… or in this case, decreed.

Queenie and the elves have canceled the annual holiday soiree. Kate and William were so disappointed. Even little Georgie Porgie made a sad face. He simply loves playing with the mini-Koala bears, but doesn’t everybody?

Instead the MSC team is going to make an all-out push in the days leading up to Christmas, so all the wishes will hopefully find a benefactor.

What’s that? No, the request aren’t going to be for just the usual toys and clothes.

Nope, in the days ahead there will be all types of wishes. In fact, one is for a tattoo machine.

Don’t scoff. There’s a very important reason for this group to have one.

Even if you haven’t got a “tuppence” to spare, you just might want to read about the various organizations that are making a difference for good in North Texas.

MySweetWishList: AT&T Performing Arts Center

According to AT&T Performing Arts Center President/CEO Doug Curtis,

Doug Curtis*

Doug Curtis*

“The nonprofit AT&T Performing Arts Center’s wish is simple: to enrich the community through the performing arts. For as little as $40 dollars, you can provide an experience that will bring joy to a child or family during the holiday season, and memories to last well beyond that.

“When you donate to the Center, you help fund our Open Stages education program, which allows students to learn from Broadway performers, enjoy professional performances and receive career training in the technical arts.

“We also partner with nonprofits like The Family Place, Jonathan’s Place, Jubilee Park, Lumin Education, Nexus Recovery Center, The Ronald McDonald House, Vickery Meadow and the Wilkinson Center to donate tickets to their constituents.

“This holiday season, we wish that more people could access the arts on the Center’s campus, in the heart of the Dallas Arts District. Please consider making a meaningful contribution:

AT&T Performing Arts Center**

AT&T Performing Arts Center**

  • “$40 buys an individual ticket for one of our Community Partners
  • “$160 gives a family of four a holiday memory at one of our performances.
  • “$250 buys dinner for students on our campus learning about the performing arts.
  • “$500 covers the transportation for 100 students accessing the Center’s education programs this month.
  • “$1,000 will enable one of our partnering Dallas ISD schools to attend a Broadway show!

“The arts are a powerful tool to educate students, enrich families and strengthen the community. Please support them by making a tax deductible donation today!”

-Doug Curtis, AT&T Performing Arts Center President

* Photo credit: Carter Rose 
** Graphic provided by AT&T Performing Arts Center

Dallas Film Society’s 2014 The Art Of Film With Marisa Tomei Came Off Thanks To Flexibility

When it comes to special events, flexibility is the key to success. And it got a pretty healthy test for the Dallas Film Society’s The Art of Film.

After four years of guy-types on stage (Robert Duvall, John Lithgow, Val Kilmer and Lee Daniels), it was about time for a pair of high heels to make the grade.

DFS President/CEO Lee Papert and the crew were so proud that they had signed up Aussie Toni Collette. And instead of fighting traffic to get to the historical Hall of State in Fair Park, the Friday, November 21st event was being moved to the Perot Museum with its Hoglund Foundation Theater.

Then less than a month before “the big show,” Toni’s people reported that due to her shooting schedule in another country, she was going to have to curtsy out.

In lightning speed a replacement was found — Marisa Tomei.

Some film fans privately confessed that the change was an upgrade. After all, Marisa’s Oscar win for “My Cousin Vinny” trumped Toni’s Academy Award nomination for “The Sixth Sense”.

Everything was falling into place until the night of the event. One of the falling things was drip-drops of rain. That meant moving the red carpet show-and-swell inside. Easy to do. It just might be better in the lowest level of the Perot. That way guests could mosey to the elevators for a quick ride to the Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals exhibit on the third floor, where the VIP and cocktail receptions were taking place.

Then word was passed among insiders that Marisa had missed her original flight. But no big deal. She had caught the next flight and was on the ground in Dallas en route.

Julianne Harris and Sam Johnson

Julianne Harris and Sam Johnson

Steve and Anne Stodghill

Steve and Anne Stodghill

In the meantime, the red carpet was underway with still photographers and videographers playing nicely across the ropes. Only problem — unlike other red carpets events when VIP guests strutted their stuff, this red carpet only had about 10 couples walk the carpet. The rest just made their way behind the herd of photographers to the check-in and to the elevators.

Word eventually passed that Marisa was stuck in traffic congestion due to the Mavericks’ game down the road. The good news was that the 300 guests weren’t bothered. For some it was a first time to check out the Perot. For others (Kara and Randall Goss, Julianne Harris with Sam Johnson, Tanya and Pete Foster, Jack Bunning and Jeff Sauers, Jennifer and Coley Clark, Tara Lewis, Kit Sawers and Janie and David Condon), it was just fun talking films with plenty of adult beverages and pass-around-food.

Jack Bunning, Veletta Lill and Jeff Sauers

Jack Bunning, Veletta Lill and Jeff Sauers

DFS Artistic Director James Faust recalled having interviewed Marisa when she was at the Angelika for “The Wrestler.”.Proving that he knew his Marisa Tomei filmography, he admitted that his fav Tomei movie was “The Paper”…Melina McKinnon and Michael Cain were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. After Art of Film, they were spending the night at The Joule… After just getting back from AFI tribute in L.A., Steve Stodghill said of his outfit, “I went totally L.A. — black on black on black.”.. Veletta Lill was solo due to husband John’s hand surgery…Gary Cogill reported that he has a Morgan Freeman movie coming out next year, but wasn’t working on a production currently …Gonzalo Bueno and Michael McCray were planning to take Faisal Halum out the next night to celebrate his belated birthday.

Michael McCray and Gonzalo Bueno

Michael McCray and Gonzalo Bueno

At 8:16 p.m., someone spied Marisa arriving behind the sponsor wall. Within seconds she was out front and inviting folks like Co-Chairs Pam and Mark Denesuk, Honorary Co-Chairs Barbara and Steve Durham, Libby Allred, Sheila and Jody Grant and Myrna and Bob Schlegel to join her.

Mark Denesuk, Marisa Tomei and Pam Denesuk

Mark Denesuk, Marisa Tomei and Pam Denesuk

As the line grew and grew for a photo opp with Marisa, it was decided to put a hold on the grip-and-grin so the “conversation” could take place in the theater. The rest of the photos would be taken afterwards.

Once in the theater, DFS Board Chair Don Stokes introduced Lee, who thanked the Denesuks and advised guests that Pam’s cookies were in their goody bags. Then DFS Artistic Director James Faust took over the mic telling the 300 guests that in the past four years more than $600K had been raised from Art of Film. He then introduced film-pert Elvis Mitchell, who has each year traveled to Dallas to conduct the interviews.

Egyptian Eye of Ra

Egyptian Eye of Ra

When Marisa was introduced, she appeared to have changed from a dress worn upstairs to red slacks and a print blouse with stilettos and her Egyptian eye of Ra tattoo on the top of her right foot.

Elvis kicked off the conversation asking her what it was like working with “titanic” actors. She admitted that she had indeed felt nervous working with Jack Nicholson. However, upon meeting him that first day of shooting, he told her that he was always nervous about filming. That seemed to calm her nerves. Other conversation highlights included:

  • She liked Barbara Stanwyck.
  • Robert Duvall told her to always name her pets after her characters, so her cat is named “Mabel” (for her Mabel Normand character in the 1992 Chaplin movie).
  • When Elvis mentioned that “Danika” was a favorite of his, Marisa responded, “I didn’t think it came together, so glad you said that…I couldn’t follow it myself, personally.”
  • About “My Cousin Vinny”: “I still like Vinny, like everybody else does.”
  • Marisa Tomei

    Marisa Tomei

    Recalling her days growing up in Brooklyn, she said she watched a lot of musicals — Gene Kelly, Ann Miller — “I wanted to be musical star.”

  • Marisa emphasized the physicality of acting. She told how in one scene of the “Ides of March,” the director told her to lean back instead of forward. It changed the whole feel of the scene. He also told her, “You’re holding the cards!” She laughed, adding that she later found out that he said the same thing to the other actors in the film.
  • Actor/directors are her favorites to work with, more than writer/directors, who keep it all in their heads. “I love language, word play.”
  • One of her email aliases is Sugarpuss O’Shea, a character portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck in “Ball of Fire.”
  • Regarding her appearing in “Seinfeld,” she doesn’t even remember filming the one-day job.
Don Stokes, Steve and Barbara Durham, Marisa Tomei, Pam ad Mark Denesuk and Deborah Stokes

Don Stokes, Steve and Barbara Durham, Marisa Tomei, Pam ad Mark Denesuk and Deborah Stokes

After the conversation, she was presented with the Art of Film Dallas Star Award, more photos were taken and guests headed to the lobby, where the dinosaur with a Christmas stocking cap stood in place.

A couple of ladies in the audience commented, “She’s so cute” and “She’s darling.” Not bad for a gal from Flatbush who was just two weeks shy of turning 50.

MySweetWishList: Homeward Bound Inc.

According to Homeward Bound Inc. Executive Director and Co-Founder Doug Denton,

Doug Denton*

Doug Denton*

Homeward Bound Inc. began in 1980 as a volunteer outreach of First Presbyterian Church of Houston’s Jail Ministry Program to address overcrowding in Texas jails.

“We grew out of a pilot project in Dallas to serve first offenders and probation violators who were judged to need stability and employment rather than a prison sentence. We learned that treatment for substance abuse and/or chemical dependency were primary underlying problems, and we modified the program based on principles of recovery and the peer support groups provided by 12-step programs.

“Today, we operate facilities in Dallas, Waxahachie and El Paso and a transitional housing unit in Old East Dallas. We provide substance abuse treatment to about 6,000 people each year. Our clients need help desperately, and most do not have the ability to pay for it. About 95 percent are indigent, 45 percent are homeless and 60 percent suffer from a mental illness. Because we rely totally on grants and donations, we operate on a shoestring.

“We sincerely believe that substance abuse treatment is the key to solving our homeless problem in Dallas. We are changing lives at Homeward Bound and reuniting people with their families. We need your help to continue our mission.

“We are a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit and the largest provider of counseling and residential treatment for indigent adults with mental health and substance abuse problems in North Texas, and one of the largest in Texas.

“Please consider us when you select recipients of your year-end giving. We need a van to transport people who are too ill to take the bus to their medical appointments. We need scrubs to clothe them while they are here; most clients come to us with nothing but the clothes they are wearing. We need to replace sheets, pillows and blankets that wear out with constant washing.

“To make a donation, visit our website,; our donation page is Thank you.”

-Doug Denton, Homeward Bound Inc. Executive Director and Co-Founder

* Photo provided by Homeward Bound Inc.

Aging Mind Foundation Trio Announce Plans For “Living With Bob: A Salute To Robert A. Wilson”

Overlooking the Dallas Arts District, the Klyde Warren Park, Perot Museum and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, there was no more spectacular place to kick off a new fundraiser on Friday, November 21. The spot was Laree Hulshoff’s and Ben Fischer’s palatial nest at Museum Tower.

Ben Fischer

Ben Fischer

Dr. Michael "Mick" Rugg

Dr. Michael “Mick” Rugg

Steele Cooper and Kenny Goss

Steele Cooper and Kenny Goss

Talk about the ultimate in so many ways — the views, the layout and the décor! As guests (Jeff Bryon, Kevin Hurst, Claire and Dwight Emanuelson, John Clutts, Dr. Sami Arslanlar, Kenny Goss, Steele Cooper, Jennifer and Coley Clark and Center for Vital Longevity’s Dr. Michael “Mick” Rugg) departed the private elevator to the mansion-in-the-sky, it was pretty obvious who was a returnee and who was a newcomer. Those who had visited the home before immediately headed to their fav spots. The newbies just wandered throughout trying to take it all in. If they needed escorts, Laree’s two Shih Tzus were just a whisker away.

Laree and her co-chairs/conspirators “The Barbs” (Barbara Buzzell and Barbara Daseke) right-like officially revealed the creation of the Aging Mind Foundation fundraiser for the Center for Vital Longevity that will take place at The Joule on Saturday, February 21.

The evening will celebrate “Living With Bob: A Salute To Robert A. Wilson” with The Joule as the presenting sponsor.

Laree Hulshoff, Barbara Buzzell and Barbara Daseke

Laree Hulshoff, Barbara Buzzell and Barbara Daseke

Co-Chair Laree and the Barbs and Honorary Chair Bill Booziotis have also arranged for Bob’s son/actor/former S&D Company waiter, Owen Wilson, to handle the special guest duties.

According to the trio, following cocktails, a seated dinner and a presentation in the Praetorian and Mosaic ballrooms, the crowd will head to the Joule Terrace for dessert and dancing.

The evening committee includes Jo Marie Lilly, Caleen Mathura, Holly Hull Miori, Lisa Shardon, Shelle Sills and Julie Tregoning.

If The Aging Mind Foundation is new on your radar, its purpose is to “address and support critical issues unique to the aging mind including research, treatment, education and advocacy.

Bit of trivia: In addition to co-chairing the upcoming event, interior designer Barbara D. also partnered up with Laree and Ben in creating the spectacular residence.

MySweetCharity Photo Gallery Alert: The Art Of Film

Despite some changes in plans and damp weather, the Dallas Film Society‘s The Art of Film had its first female recipient of the Texas Star Award — Marisa Tomei.

Marisa Tomei

Marisa Tomei

While Marisa made her way through a traffic jam of Dallas Maverick fans to get to the Perot Museum, guests partied in the Lyda Hill Gems and Mineral Exhibition and hardly noticed the delay.

Steve and Barbara Durham and Sheila and Jody Grant

Steve and Barbara Durham and Sheila and Jody Grant

The post will go up tomorrow, but check MySweetCharity Photo Gallery for some photos now.

Hanukkah Sameach!

Tonight at sunset (5:23 p.m.) Hanukkah commences with the lighting of the first candle. Each of the following nights an additional candle will be lit for eight days. On Wednesday, December 24, the Festival of Lights will end.

Happy Hanukkah!

MySweetWishList: The Wilkinson Center

According to Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder,

Anne Reeder (File photo)

Anne Reeder (File photo)

“The holidays can be so joyful but also a stressful time for everyone. They can be particularly difficult for families who experience food insecurity.

“My immediate wish is for turkeys and hams to stretch food donations at the Wilkinson Center Food Pantry, or if you prefer, just a donation check with the notation ‘Turkey/Ham Bucks,’ so that Wilkinson Center can purchase these items.

“Please share the joy of this blessed time with families that need your help. Thank you!”

-Anne Reeder, Wilkinson Center Executive Director

Round Robin November 20: Tyson Chandler Delivery, DSOL Debs, A Night Of Light And Vine And Dine

Just a week before Thanksgiving and a whole lot of nonprofits were squeezing in events before folks headed out of town or shut down for the holiday. Thursday, November 20, had everything from basketball stars to debs.

Tyson Chandler Delivers

Tyson Chandler and Sayge Chandler

Tyson Chandler and Sayge Chandler

When Dallas Maverick Tyson Chandler makes a home delivery, he does it in a big way and he brings along the entire Chandler clan. Need proof? How about his pulling up to the Vogel Alcove to deliver full-fledged Thanksgiving dinners for single-parent families in the Mavericks bus? And he was in the driver’s seat. Well, he was squashed into the seat. After all, the driver isn’t normally 7’1” tall.

Tyson specifically wanted the meals provided for single-parent families because he had been raised in such a family headed up by his mother Vernie Threadgill.

According to Tyson, “I watched my mom struggle to provide and just keep our heads above water. So, for someone in my situation, there’s so much pleasure to give back to families who are there, too. I’m just as thankful as they were for the opportunity. Meeting them was my favorite part.”

Kimberly Chandler

Kimberly Chandler

Along with him was his sharper-than-a-stiletto and gorgeous wife, Kimberly, and their munchkins — Sacha, Tyson II and Sayge. It was important for the parents that the children come along to distribute the food. They wanted the kids to understand that such things as Thanksgiving dinners were important to families who might not have all the advantages that the Chandler children enjoy.

Dallas Mavericks crew

Dallas Mavericks crew

Evidently, the adult Chandlers have little to worry about. All three schlepped the bags, along with the Mavs Dancers, Mavs Man and Champ and ManiAACs, to the third floor, where the recipient families waited. Just watching Tyson slightly bend over to make it through the doorway amazed children and parents alike. But after the initial photos were taken, the Chandlers got about the handing out of food with Kimberly at one end of the lengthy table and Tyson at the other end.

Debs Sip And Slip On Slippers

With the holidays comes the battle royale for parking at Highland Park Village. But the sparkling lights in the trees and the lights glowing from the shops ease the search for a parking spot.

Dixey Arterburn and Annabel Toole and Catherine Toole

Dixey Arterburn and Annabel Toole and Catherine Toole

According to 2014 Dallas Symphony Orchestra League Deb Chair Dixey Arterburn, she had gotten her destinations mixed up and mistakenly marched up to the Goop party. Giving her name and saying that she was meeting So-And-So inside, she gained entry. Once inside, she didn’t recognize any of the 20- and 30-something gals and got that feeling that something just wasn’t right. Then she realized the DSOL party was taking place across the way at Louboutin.

Amita Singh, Brice and Cynthia Beaird and Jennifer Hudson

Amita Singh, Brice and Cynthia Beaird and Jennifer Hudson

Talk about a change in atmosphere. The 2015 Dallas Symphony Orchestra League debs, moms and past participants like Honorary Co-Chairs Cynthia and Brice Beaird and 2013 DSOL deb Annabel Toole and her mom Catherine Toole were happily sipping champagne while trying on Cinderella-style slippers that feet dream of, thanks to the Louboutin team of Amita Singh and Jennifer Hudson.

A Night of Lights

Though it was “downsized” from a three-course dinner for a large crowd at the Hilton Anatole last year to “family-style” grazing at the Meyerson Symphony Center, the Center for Nonprofit Management’s 2014 Awards of Excellence program on Nov. 20 was received no less enthusiastically by the evening’s 400 or so guests.

Before the 2014 “A Night of Light” event, the program—which recognizes and celebrates nonprofit excellence in North Texas—had given out $375,000 to 75 nonprofit agencies and the people who lead them. The totals swelled by $25,000 with the 2014 excellence awards, which honored five winners in categories including Nonprofit of the Year, Nonprofit CEO of the Year, Nonprofit Communicator of the Year in Honor of Robert Miller, Corporation of the Year, and Nonprofit Board Leader of the Year.

Dan and Tina Weinfurther, Catherine Cuellar and Paul Williams,  and Sara and Cass Robinson*

Dan and Tina Weinfurther, Catherine Cuellar and Paul Williams, and Sara and Cass Robinson*

Following a reception attended by the likes of Yvonne Crum, Bobby Lyle, Jan Langbein, and Nikki and Crayton Webb, the program got underway with Dave Lieber of the The Dallas Morning News serving as master of ceremonies. Leiber called the Awards of Excellence the “Oscars of the nonprofit world,” and said he had learned the essence of being a Texan: “It’s not what kind of car you drive, but what charity do you volunteer with?”

Latoya Stewart and Dana Beckman*

Latoya Stewart and Dana Beckman*

Following brief talks by Cass Robinson, the CNM board chair, and Dana Beckman of Alliance Data—Alliance was the presenting sponsor—Honorary Chair Catherine Cuellar took the stage. Cuellar, who’s executive director of the Dallas Arts District, told the crowd that they could see “effective nonprofit management” everywhere they turned in the Arts District, from Klyde Warren Park and the Dallas Performance Hall to the Dallas Opera and the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

Larry James and Charles Elk*

Larry James and Charles Elk*

Then, after a video featuring Tina Weinfurther, the CNM’s president and CEO, it was finally time for the awards. This year’s winners, who each received a $5,000 cash award, were:

  • Nonprofit of the Year — The Concilio;
  • Nonprofit CEO of the Year — Larry James of CitySquare;
  • Nonprofit Communicator of the Year — Fort Worth Opera;
  • TXU Energy (Corporation of the Year); and
  • Nonprofit Board Leader of the Year — Tim Durst, Leukemia & Lymphona Society.

Vine And Dine

Clay and Brenda Cockrell*

Clay and Brenda Cockrell**

And finally, a report from the field, or rather Neiman Marcus Downtown,

“The seventh annual Vine and Dine dinner and charity auction supporting Ability Connection Texas was a delightful success! The intimate setting of the Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus downtown combined with wonderful wine provided by Brenda and Clay Cockerell, Coquerel Family Wine Estates and delicious cuisine, was one of the must attend events in Dallas.

“Event chair couples Suzanne and Don Laidlaw and Christie and John Reniger, along with honorary chairs Sue and Bill Knudsen, President and CEO, Ability Connection Texas, greeted everyone at the VIP reception where hors d’oeuvres of pizzettes eggplant caviar, baby stuffed purple potatoes with caviar and sour cream and more accompanied a Le Petit Coquerel Sauvingnon Blanc, Napa Valley 2012 and the specialty drink of the evening, spiced appletinis.

Neva Hall, Inette Brown, Laurie-Jo Staty and Amy Hughes

Neva Hall, Inette Brown, Laurie-Jo Staty and Amy Hughes**

“Don and John welcomed the crowd, thanking Neiman Marcus for their longtime support, having hosted the event since its beginning seven years ago and especially Neva Hall and Marjon Henderson, for achieving excellence in every detail. The room was dazzling elegance as tables were dressed in mint satin cloths, topped with white hydrangeas and roses overflowing in their vases and silver service matching the silver and mint holiday wreaths and the Zodiac décor.

Meredith Woodworth and Katy Moore*

Meredith Woodworth and Katy Moore**

“Special recognition went to Meredith and Jack Woodworth for their major sponsorship and special thanks to the Ability Connection Texas team, including Mark Denzin, incoming President and CEO.
Brenda announced the wines for the evening, sharing the story behind the name of the dessert wine La Douce Revanche, meaning “sweet revenge.” In 2008 a frost killed the fruit and the Cockerells recreated it. And a very special surprise, she and Clay will donate 15% of each case of wine purchased that evening back to Ability Connection Texas.

“Jack Woodworth a member of the board, shared the news of Bill Knudsen leaving ACT, saying Bill has always been the clients’ best friend. During his ten year tenure the number of people served has increased 640%. For the past 25 years, he has put clients and their families first.

Bill Knudsen*

Bill Knudsen**

“Bill took the stage, saying he had to put on his reading glasses – huge clown glasses and a red rubber nose and toasted the crowd to cheers! With heartfelt gratitude, he recognized current and past board members and ended saying, “On behalf of everyone we serve, you are the wind beneath their wings,” to a standing ovation.

“Mark thanked Bill saying for the past seven and-a-half years he has helped him to grow and be ready for the next step in his life. Clients served have grown from 200 to 1,500 each day and ACT is now regional in four states with 2.4 million hours provided by the ACT team.

“Jay, a client who resides in Jubilee House, told how since he moved there, this is his first time to be independent and through the Impact program, he grows each day, ending with an enthusiastic, ‘It’s a wonderful place.’

“Neiman Marcus Corporate Director and Chef Anita Hirsch and Zodiac Executive Chef David Crow served a fabulous gourmet three course dinner and as the name suggests, luscious wines. A Terrior Coquerel Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2011 accompanied the first course of seared day boat scallops, parsnip puree, brussels sprouts leaves, apple and kohlrabi salad. Second course included grilled filet mignon, wild mushrooms and autumn vegetable succotash, potato gnocchi and a caramelized shallot demi-glace with a Coquerel La Petite Sirah, Napa Valley 2010. Topping it all off was a dessert of flourless chocolate cake and amaretto crème brulee gelato with a Coquerel La Douce Revanche, Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2009.

Hayden Hrncir and Kendall Jennings*

Hayden Hrncir and Kendall Jennings**

“The lights went up and Mike Sadler of Heritage Charity Auctions took the stage and began the exciting live auction as guests snapped up fabulous items including a Givenchy handbag, Brioni custom suit, U.S. Capitol trip, Parigi Prepared Evening, Cucinelli Shopping Spree, Kevin Garvin Personal Chef Experience, Custom Made Lukken Leather Boots and more.

“The mission of Ability Connection Texas is to provide a full range of services for people with physical and intellectual disabilities as they strive to achieve their highest level of independence. Whether advocating for the rights of people with disabilities, teaching the letters of the alphabet to a child with autism, or training an adult with a head injury to re-enter the workforce with the use of adaptive technology, Ability Connection Texas is the preeminent organization leading the way for people with any type of disability.

“As a regional health organization, Ability Connection Texas takes pride in its excellent stewardship of funds raised with 90 percent of contributions going directly to programs and services. The important work of Ability Connection is supported by tax-deductible contributions from individuals, companies and organizations.

Visit the website for more details about Ability Connection Texas and their mission at

* Photo credit: James Edward 
** Photo credit: Andy Keye and Whitney Keye