Grovel Alert: A Chance To Soar Luncheon

Just heard from Jonathan’s Place CEO Allicia Graham Frye that as of noon today, there were just 10 tickets left for Tuesday’s “A Chance To Soar Luncheon” at the Hilton Anatole.

Trevor and Jan Rees-Jones (File photo)

No wonder! Just some of the VIP types in attendance will be enough to have cell-photos being taken nonstop. Co-Chairs Julie Bagley and Rachel Stephens have arranged to have Tiffany Cuban, Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki, Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones, Meredith Land and Dillard’s Corporate Beauty VP Gary Borofsky tableside.

Simone Biles*

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the darling of the 2016 Olympics Simone Biles will be the keynote speaker. Her life story reflects Jonathan’s Place’s mission to provide a safe, loving home and specialized services to children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected.” Let’s hope that she doesn’t get eliminated on Monday night’s “Dancing With The Stars.” That would mean her taking the red-eye to NYC for Tuesday morning’s “Good Morning America.” But the money’s on Simone remaining as part of the cast and overnight flying to North Texas. And who knows? Maybe her dancing partner Sasha Farber will be with her at the lunch.

Remember, just 10 seats are left, so get that reservation in now.

* Photo provided by Jonathan's Place

Skinny Girl Sangria And Margaritas Plus Peanut Butter Balls Were On The Menu For Community Partners Of Dallas’ Chick Lit Toast

Skinny Girl beverages and Chick Lit glassware

Like a glamorama pep rally, the Community Partners of Dallas Chick Lit Luncheon crowd held forth at Chick Lit Honorary Chair Gail Fischer’s Preston Hollow estate for the Skinny Girl Toast on Tuesday, March 21.While Skinny Girl Founder/Chick Lit Headliner Bethenny Frankel was ways away from the ZIP code making headlines, she was well represented thanks to pitchers filled with Skinny Girl drinks — Grapefruit and regular margarita, White Cranberry Cosmo, White Sangria and Chardonnay — at the bar and making the rounds.

As one gal said, “The sangria is healthy. Just look at all the fruit.”

Cassandra’s peanut butter balls

Across the way on a buffet table loaded with edibles was the star of the yummies — Cassandra Tomassetti’s peanut balls smothered in dark chocolate. A couple of those would fatten up even skinny Bethenny. One gal looked as if she was going put one or two in her purse for a late-night snack.

Jana Nobles, Mary Moore and Paige McDaniel

For the toasting occasion, CPD masterminds Paige McDaniel and Joanna Clarke had the drinks served up in stemless glasses boasting the Chick Lit Luncheon logo. Little did the guests know that they would have similar glasses and mints to take home. 

Laura Pickens, Mary Martha Pickens and Gail Fischer

As the 100 guests Like Luncheon Co-Chair Mary Martha Pickens with her niece Laura Pickens, Cindy Turner, Suzy Gekiere, Susan Farris, Jan Nobles and Mary Moore filled the home, Gail fiddled with her remove control navigating the Smart TV’s music categories. She wanted to play the right music, but husband Cliff Fischer, who is usually the one in charge of remoting, was out of town on business. With a try at jazz, Carol Seay played advisor, suggesting to move on to something a little more upbeat.

Cindy Turner, Suzy Gekiere and Susan Farris

Tickets for the Friday, April 21, CPD fundraiser presented by Lara and Dr. Robert Tafel at the Hilton Anatole are available here. Proceeds from the event will help CPD serve “more than 20,000 of Dallas County’s abused and neglected children this year.”

JUST IN: Jonathan’s Place Adds Tiffany And Mark, Dirk And Jan And Trevor To “A Chance To Soar Luncheon” Namedropping Lineup

Simone Biles*

Boy, talk about name dropping! As if the Jonathan’s Place’s “A Chance To Soar” luncheon on Tuesday, April 25, at the Hilton Anatole wasn’t gangbusters enough with Olympian Simone Biles as the featured speaker, an impressive array of nationally known locals have been added to the lineup.

According to Jonathan’s Place CEO Allicia Graham Frye, “We are so grateful to Tiffany and Mark Cuban for their continued support of Jonathan’s Place and are very proud to have them serve as honorary chairs for the luncheon this year.”  

In addition to Simone chatting it up with NBC 5’s Meredith Land, the following distinguished Jonathan’s Place supporters will be recognized:

  • Award of Compassion: Dirk Nowitzki (Dirk Nowitzki Foundation)
  • Award of Service: Dillard’s
  • Award of Excellence: Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones (Trevor Rees-Jones Foundation)

Trevor and Jan Rees-Jones (File photo)

While sponsorships are still available, folks who purchase tables at $2,500 will also receive tickets to a VIP reception and photo opp with Simone.

At this date the following sponsors have already signed up:

  • Champion Sponsor: Insperity and Mohr Partners
  • Hero Sponsor: Al G. Hill Jr.
  • Guardian Sponsors: Julie and Scott Bagley, Allison and John Carlisle, Tracy and Ben Lange, Macy’s, Larissa and Mitchell Milby, Kay Sim, Rachel and Brad Stephens, Strategic Dealer Services and Stacey and Reid Walker
  • Defender Sponsors: At Home, Dana and Brad Ayres, Barbie and Bill Borlaug, Keri Brookshire and Susan Mattox, Kimberly and Christopher Cocotos, ConnectThree, Serena Simmons Connelly, Suzie and Bunker Curnes, Mary and Ted Fredericks, Icon Partners, Amy Mahoney and Nikki Wolff, Jenny and Jason Lichty, Alexandra Lovitt, Beth Maultsby and Goranson Bain PLLC, Jennifer and Bradley Norris, Josephine C. Olson, Kerry and Don Peterson, Stephanie and Todd Phillips, Marcellene Malouf and Royal Furgeson, Julie and Eliot Raffkind, Katherine and Eric Reeves, Cordelia and David Rendall, Republic National Distribution Co., Randa and Doug Roach, Southern Enterprises LLC, Verner Brumley Mueller Parker PC, April and John Willingham and Linda and Ken Wimberly

Let Your Party Dresses Pay It Forward For The Third Annual Prom Dress Drive

It’s Super Bowl weekend, but who cares? It’s just not the priority it was when there was a chance of Dak, Zeke, Jason, Dez and the Cowboys heading to Houston. Why, word has it that since the ‘Boys were eliminated, ticket sales drooped like a beehive hairdo in the rain.

Adding to the weekend dreary wearies, the lovely temperatures of the past days have been replaced by chilly, humid conditions.

But don’t get all down and out. Instead, head to that closet and edit. And while you’re picking dresses, accessories and goodies that don’t fit in your future, don’t forget those party pretties. Come on. Bite the bullet and admit it — you may have had a love affair with that pink organza or that bare-shoulder white silk, but you’ve moved on.

Now, what to do with your gowns, purses and heels? Have we got an answer for you and you’re gonna feel like a Super Bowl champ!

Comerica Prom Dress Drive*

For the third year Comerica is holding its Prom Dress Drive during the month of February. No, the dresses are not going to be given to Comerica staffers, but you knew that. Instead, the formal attire will be offered to youngsters from Dallas CASA and Boys And Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas just in time for spring proms.

According to Dallas CASA’s Rosanne Lewis, “It is a wonderful thing to give girls in foster care a chance to experience the fun of prom in a fancy dress, feeling beautiful. Once all the dresses and accessories are here and organized, we will have two prom dress boutique-shopping days for the girls we work with. Shoes, bags, lots of bling, plus help with makeup and hair make it a great day for the girls.”

All you have to do is gather up your collection and take it to one of the following Comerica Banking Centers:

  • NorthPark — 8850 Boedeker Street (Dallas)
  • Forest-Inwood — 5200 Forest Lane (Dallas)
  • Cole-Fitzhugh — 3202 North Fitzhugh (Dallas)
  • Preston Center — 8225 Preston Road (Dallas)
  • Chapel Hill-Tollway — 2560 Dallas Parkway (Plano)

After you drop the items off, head to your favorite store and treat yourself to some new clothes. After all, there is a now some empty space in your closet.

* Graphic courtesy of Comerica

MySweet2017Goals: Lynn Davis

Lynn Davis (File photo)

According to Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center President and CEO Lynn M. Davis,

“The Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center’s goals for 2017 are to operate as a data-driven organization utilizing research and insights, to optimize direct impact by ensuring that all children who need services receive them, to ensure all kids who need to receive services are being served through coordination and collaboration with partner agencies, and to advance best practices regionally and nationally though innovation and training.”

JUST IN: Bethenny “Skinny Girl” Frankel To Be Keynote Speaker At Community Partner’s Of Dallas’ 11th Annual Chick Lit Luncheon

Chick Lit Luncheon*

There were naysayers who doubted that Community Partners of Dallas could actually come up with an author/speaker for their annual Chick Lit Luncheon to top their 2016 speaker Tim Gunn.

Bethenny Frankel*

Well, it looks like they’ve gone and done it — Bethenny “Skinny Girl” Frankel!

According to CPD President/CEO Paige McDaniel, “We are absolutely thrilled to announce Bethenny Frankel as the featured speaker for this year’s Chick Lit Luncheon. Following last year’s record-breaking tenth anniversary event, we know Bethenny’s straight-forward and witty approach to relationships, nutrition, business, parenting and all things-‘Real Housewives’ will certainly keep our devoted attendees entertained. This year is not to be missed!”

If you’re new to Bethenny world, hold on to your gelled nails. A week in her life is the stuff that keeps “Page Six” reporters salivating. In addition to creating the Skinny Girl brand of cocktails, chocolates, etc., she shot to fame thanks to reality TV (Bethenny Ever After, Bethenny Getting Married?, The Real Housewives of New York City and you know the drill).

But long before she became the reality boob tube darling/diva, her childhood was fraught with drama. When she was four, her father left her mother Bernadette Birk. A year later her mom remarried. Bethenny has described Bernadette as “trying to commit suicide in the kitchen in front of me. We had abuse, we had alcohol, we had gambling. What mother would ever do that to their child?” That may explain their 12-year estrangement.

But wait, there’s more. Just this past year she divorced husband #2 Jason Hoppy after battling in the divorce courts for four years, got depressed this past year and found happiness six months ago with multimillionaire Dennis Shields, who is married to a high school chum of Bethenny. You can’t make this stuff up!

In her spare time, she has written books with the most recent book seeming appropriate — “I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To: 10 Rules For Not Screwing Up Your Happily Ever After.”

Mary Martha Pickens (File photo)

Tricia George (File photo)

Chances are that by the time Bethenny hits Dallas for the Friday, April 21, luncheon at the Hilton Anatole, she’ll have even more tantalizing tales to tell about her life as the “skinny girl.” The luncheon is being co-chaired by Tricia George and Mary Martha Pickens with Katy Bock, Marybeth Conlon and Lori Anna Dees co-chairing the underwriting.

Table sales and sponsorships are available now! As for individual tickets, they will be available in April… “if space permits.” Translation: Get your buddies together and lock down that table pronto.

* Graphic and photo provided by Community Partners of Dallas

MySweetWishList: Dallas CASA

According to Dallas CASA Executive Director and President Kathleen LaValle,

Kathleen LaValle (File photo)

“Sixteen-year-old Daniella grew up in a chaotic environment filled with drinking, domestic violence, poverty and hopelessness. Up to 16 people lived in her tiny, wood-frame house at one time.

“Daniella was removed from home after her mother was arrested for driving drunk with Daniella’s four siblings in the car. No family members in Dallas were able to care for the child, but a cousin in Oklahoma agreed to take in the defiant and angry young woman. Removed from home, separated from her siblings, in desperate need of anger counseling, living in a new town with family she barely knew and attending a new school, Daniella felt abandoned and disconnected.

“But while Daniella felt forgotten in Oklahoma, Dallas CASA never forgot about her.

“Daniella’s Dallas CASA volunteer, Marie, visited the child often, driving to Oklahoma monthly for more than a year to stay connected. Daniella and Marie spoke often by phone, and Marie kept Daniella’s Dallas-based Child Protective Services caseworker up to date.

“Dallas CASA’s wish this Christmas is for gas cards and airline miles so no children have to go without a CASA to speak for them.

“Due to Dallas’ lack of adequate foster homes and residential treatment centers, up to 40%

of Dallas children are placed in protective care outside the county. A child might be placed in Houston, Lubbock or El Paso, but decisions made about that child still happen in a Dallas courtroom. And many of the children placed in distant locations are teenagers in the permanent custody of CPS and living in treatment centers, some of the most vulnerable children we serve. Almost half the children our volunteers serve are living in long-term foster care.

“Marie visited Daniella frequently in Oklahoma, observing the teenager settle into life with her cousin, her cousin’s husband and their two young children. She helped Daniella understand her cousin’s curfew and rules about who she could hang out with, both new concepts to Daniella. She made sure Daniella saw a psychiatrist regularly. Marie helped Daniella get an identification card and her school records transferred to Oklahoma. Marie facilitated contact with Daniella’s younger siblings, all living in foster care. And when Daniella’s parents’ rights were terminated by the court leaving Daniella in the permanent custody of CPS, Marie helped Daniella talk through her options. Should she consider being adopted? Or plan to age out of foster care? What did she want her future to look like?

“While living with her cousin, Daniella chose to attend a local vocational high school for healthcare professions and got a job at a fast food restaurant three afternoons a week. For the first time in her life, she had money to spend on herself, a home free of addictions and violence and hope for her future. Consistent love and care gave Daniella clarity for her future, stripping away her anger and defiance and replacing it with a caring heart and a big smile.

Dallas CASA*

“Today, Daniella, at 17, has been adopted by her cousin, giving her permanency before adulthood. CASA attended the adoption and sent photos to CPS afterward. Daniella is considering going to college for nursing, something Marie has encouraged with a visit to a local college with a strong nursing program. Marie even called friends in Dallas who could offer Daniella advice on different nursing degrees and the salary she could expect.

“Daniella was forced to grow up fast, but with Marie by her side, a permanent place to call home and a strong plan for her future things look bright. Dallas CASA’s wish this holiday season is that no child ever feels forgotten. With gas cards and airline miles and airline gift cards, we can ensure our volunteers can travel as far as they need to so all children know they are important and valuable.

“For more information on donating, contact Becca Leonard at [email protected] or 214.827.8961.”

-By Kathleen LaValle, Dallas CASA executive director and president

* Graphic provided by Dallas CASA

MySweetWishList: Friends Of Wednesday’s Child

According to Friends of Wednesday’s Child Board Member David Lam,

“Are you excited for this upcoming holiday season? I can already smell the cookies, see the Christmas lights in the neighborhood, and taste the hot chocolate.

David Lam*

David Lam*

“The winter holiday is my favorite time of the year because everyone gets to share it with the people they love the most. We all have friends and family we enjoy being with during this joyous occasion, however, for some children it can be a difficult time of year. Have you ever considered what the holidays mean for the children whom do not have friends and family? Did you know that 1 in 5 kids in foster care will actually be homeless and not even have shelter, let alone have family and friends?

“While I do not understand what it is like to not have a family, I know what it is like to lose a loved one. My father passed when I was 12 and I remember the pain of losing a parent and also all the implications of that. We could no longer afford our home, my mom had to get rid of the business and I fell behind in school. I was one of the lucky ones that had a community of teachers and advisors that pulled me into one on ones and ultimately got me back on track. My sister and I were the first to graduate high school and get into college. I am now working in an exciting field and I also serve on a Board of Directors at age 26. It was that adversity that taught me the importance of consistent support and the role it plays in your success.

“At Friends of Wednesday’s Child, we understand that children are setup for failure because they do not have the support that many of us do. We envision a world where foster care children have the necessary tools to succeed in school, thereby succeeding in life. To do this, we offer programs such as Success in School, where education specialists are hired to help students academically. Foster care children typically move from family to family and school to school but having a consistent specialist can prevent poor performance they may encounter from switching schools frequently.

Friends of Wednesday's Child*

Friends of Wednesday’s Child*

“To all the MySweetCharity readers out there, I hope this story resonates with you. If it does, I would like to make a couple of requests that may be small to you but is life-altering to others. First, I encourage you to educate yourself about youth in foster care and their unfortunate outcomes. Second, I ask that you visit Friends of Wednesday’s Child to see how we help foster care children succeed. Lastly, support us by making a donation. Your contribution goes to funding our programs so that we can hire more education specialists and get more students enrolled into our programs.”

-By David Lam, Friends of Wednesday’s Child board member

* Graphic and photo provided by Friends of Wednesday's Child

Champion Of Children Award Dinner Guest Speaker Antwone Fisher Strikes A Chord As Dallas CASA Honors NorthPark Center

On the evening of Thursday, October 27, the reception area outside the Fairmont Hotel’s International Ballroom was packed. The big ballroom, after all, was about to play host to the 2016 Champion of Children Award Dinner benefiting Dallas CASA, which advocates for abused and neglected children, and nearly 550 guests were expected—more than last year’s total.

Angela and Jim Thompson*

Angela and Jim Thompson*

Andrea Martin and Cheryl Lee Shannon*

Andrea Martin and Cheryl Lee Shannon*

Mike and Jana Brosin*

Mike and Jana Brosin*

Greeting friends in the crowded foyer were the likes of Caroline Rose Hunt, Lynn and Roy Shelton, Debra Nelson, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Joyce and Larry Lacerte, Dallas CASA board member Christie Carter, Frank Risch, Judge Andrea Matin, Judge Cheryl Lee Shannon, Jana and Mike Brosin (their Crest Cadillac/Crest Infiniti was the dinner’s presenting sponsor), Angela and Jim Thompson, Betsy and Richard Eiseman and Jan Sanders.

Jan is the widow of Judge Barefoot Sanders, the well-known political figure and longtime U.S. district judge—and steadfast supporter of Dallas CASA, whose annual Judge Barefoot Sanders Champion of Children Award bears his name. “When they named an award after him, I thought I’d better put up or shut up,” Jan said with a smile, eying the scrumptious hors d’oeuvres. “So I’ve been a CASA court advocate for three years.”

Christine and Jonathan Bassham, Mark and Karen Carney, Joseph and Jeanne Manogue and Kristy Hoglund Robinson*

Christine and Jonathan Bassham, Mark and Karen Carney, Joseph and Jeanne Manogue and Kristy Hoglund Robinson*

Inside the ballroom, meantime, Mary Martha and Dr. John Pickens were peering out the tall glass windows, admiring the spectacular sunset. Soon enough, the hall behind them had filled, and event co-chairs Karen Carney, Kristy Hoglund Robinson, and Joe Manogue were onstage welcoming everyone. “Normally we would ask you to put away your phones, but tonight we ask you to take out your phones and text,” said Joe. “Let’s raise $100,000 tonight!”

With that, Kathleen LaValle, the Dallas CASA executive director and president, took the podium to pay tribute to the evening’s honoree and winner of the Judge Sanders award, NorthPark Center. As Kathleen explained, NorthPark for 21 years has hosted the annual Parade of Playhouses, which raises money for Dallas CASA and attracts volunteers to the nonprofit. In addition, she said, NorthPark secured five billboards across Dallas County touting Dallas CASA—and the group had only asked for one!

Kathleen LaValle and Nancy Nasher*

Kathleen LaValle and Nancy Nasher*

Accepting the award was NorthPark co-owner Nancy Nasher, who had invited to the dinner members of her NorthPark team, including G.M. Billy Hines, Special Event Managers Lona Crabb and the workmen who’d transported the playhouses into the center. Nancy said NorthPark has become “a place to learn about social causes” and, in 2015, celebrated its 50th anniversary by donating more than $1 million to 50 Dallas nonprofits, many of them benefiting children. (Dallas CASA, in fact, was the first of the groups to receive a donation.) Then she made a surprise announcement: “We will donate space once again on our prime billboard, at Walnut Hill and North Central Expressway, to Dallas CASA.”

After Nancy received a heartfelt standing ovation, Dallas CASA board chair John Gibson reiterated the group’s need for more advocates and more funds and said that, so far, more than $50,000 had been raised just during the dinner. Then he introduced the evening’s guest speaker, Antwone Fisher. Antwone is a director, screenwriter, film producer, and author who grew up in an abusive foster home—and then was homeless—before joining the United States Navy and turning his life around. His life was the subject of a 2002 movie, called “Antwone  Fisher,” that starred Denzel Washington and was based on Antwone’s memoir, “Finding Fish.”

Antwone Fisher*

Antwone Fisher*

During his talk, Antwone recalled that his mother was 17 and in prison when he was born in 1959. He was abused during 18 years in foster care, he remembered, and dealt with a total of 13 social workers during that time. Despite the years of abuse—and his experiences encountering pimps and drug dealers along the way, as well—Antwone said, “I learned to appreciate my fear. I wasn’t afraid of being afraid. If you’re not afraid, [bad] things can happen.”

During his years as a homeless person on the streets of Cleveland, he went on, he stole—but only for food and necessities like shoes, galoshes, and a warm coat. It was during this period that he saw a sign saying, “Join the Navy,” which he decided to do. He willed himself to pass the necessary tests, even though he couldn’t read, and, over the next 11 years in the service, turned his life around.

“If I had had a CASA [a court-appointed special advocate] as a boy, I would have grown close to that person and they would have been able to help me, like they do all over the country,” Antwone said. “Having an advocate who can speak for you is so important. When I was a kid, I couldn’t articulate my thoughts. … Sometimes all it takes is one person caring about you.”

After the evening’s second standing ovation—this one for Antwone—event co-chairs Christine and Jonathan Bassham took the stage to wrap things up. A total of $53,440 had been raised during the event, they announced, which, thanks to a $50,000 match, meant that Dallas CASA was $103,000 richer just since the first course was served. That amount, the guests realized happily as they made for the exits, would pay for a lot of advocates for a lot of Antwones.  

* Photo credit: Kristina Bowman

MySweetWishList: Community Partners Of Dallas’ Annual Toy Drive

According to Community Partners of Dallas President/CEO Paige McDaniel,

Paige McDaniel (File photo)

Paige McDaniel (File photo)

“Community Partners of Dallas’ annual Toy Drive is now underway! I wish for the community to help us in providing 11,000 gift wishes for abused and neglected children in the care of Child Protective Services. CPD is accepting donations of toys through Friday, December 9.

“For thousands of abused and neglected children in Dallas County, the holidays are just another day; one more day that they are reminded that no one cares. By supporting Community Partners of Dallas’ Toy Drive, individuals, organizations and companies can grant specific gift requests to children most in need of holiday joy.

“Community Partners of Dallas’ Toy Drive is unique in that the wishes are brought to the agency by CPS caseworkers on behalf of the children in their care, and those same caseworkers will have the wonderful opportunity to deliver the gifts personally. For many of the children, these might be the only gifts they receive, and for some the first gift they have ever been given.

“A significant need this Christmas is gift cards, valued at $25 or more, for the teens we serve.  Every teen should have the experience of shopping and selecting something for themselves.  Gift cards from retailers such as Target, Walmart, Bath & Body Works, Forever21, GameStop, Academy, Old Navy or Best Buy are always appreciated. As well, popular wishes for kids of all ages include bikes, African American Dolls, learning toys for toddlers, bath and body gift sets, ANYTHING from Disney’s Frozen, light up toys, MP3 players, LEGO Sets, remote control cars, toddler push toys, small tablets, LeapFrog toys and basketballs/footballs/soccer balls.

Community Partners of Dallas Toy Drive*

Community Partners of Dallas Toy Drive*

“Toys and gift cards can be provided by companies, churches, scout troops, business offices, or individuals. Organizations and individuals can also organize a new toy drive for the undesignated toy collection used to serve additional children who come into CPS’ protective care after the wish list deadline and to fill wishes not selected by donors.

 “All gifts should be new and not wrapped. Toys must be delivered to the Community Partners of Dallas’ Toy Drive Warehouse at the Peacock Alley Warehouse located at 2050 Postal Way, Dallas 75212 no later than 1:00 p.m. on Friday, December 9.  For more information on participating in the Toy Drive or for warehouse hours, contact Corinne Karp, 214.624.7588 or [email protected] or visit” 

-By Paige McDaniel, Community Partners of Dallas president/CEO

* Graphic provided by Community Partners of Dallas

JUST IN: Gymnast Extraordinaire Simone Biles To Be Keynote Speaker For 6th Annual A Chance To Soar

She may itsy bitsy, but gymnast Simone Biles has become a giant among the spectrum of legendary athletes thanks to her many accomplishments including the recent Rio Olympics sweep. There are those who swear that she’s “The most talented gymnast of all-time.”

Simone Biles*

Simone Biles*

But she also has an incredible back story of how as a youngster, her parents were MIA due to their addictions. Simone and her siblings were “in and out of foster care,” until she and “her sister Adria were adopted by their grandparents at a young age.” It was a major turning point for the girls. They discovered gymnastics and as they say, “the rest is history.”

That’s just a Reader’s Digest version of Simone’s story. The real one will take place on Tuesday, April 25.  Sixth Annual A Chance to Soar Co-Chairs Julie Bagley and Rachel Stephens have arranged to have Simone as the keynote speaker for the Jonathan’s Place fundraiser.  

According to Jonathan’s Place CEO Allicia Graham Frye, “Jonathan’s Place is over the moon to have Simone Biles share her story of courage to overcome a tumultuous childhood. We are grateful for her sincerity and condiment her story will be an inspiration to all supporters — old and new — of Jonathan’s Place.”

The question on the table is where the event will take place. Stay tuned. In the meantime, sponsorships are available and table sales begin at $2,500. But don’t wait for the location to be announced. This one is going to be a sell-out.

* Photo provided by Jonathan's Place

MySweetCharity Opportunity: Dallas CASA Champion Of Children Award Dinner

According to Dallas CASA Champion of Children Award Dinner Co-Chairs Karen Carney and Kristy Hoglund Robinson,

Karen Carney and Kristy Hoglund Robinson*

Karen Carney and Kristy Hoglund Robinson*

“Just before Christmas last year, Child Protective Services received a report about four young teenagers living with their mother, who was dealing drugs out of the house.

“What CPS found when they arrived was worse. There was no food in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer. The utilities to the home had been cut off. One of the teenagers had been using drugs and was suicidal. Two were still trying to go to school. Another had sought refuge with a friend’s family.

“We had just completed training to become Dallas CASA volunteers, and this was the case we were assigned. The months we’ve spent advocating for these children have shown us in person what a critical difference having a volunteer advocate can make for children removed from unsafe homes.

“This fall, we are two of the event co-chairs for Dallas CASA’s Champion of Children Award dinner Thursday, October 27, at The Fairmont Dallas. The dinner honors North Texans who are making a difference in the lives of children like the four teenagers we work with.

Mike and Micki Rawlings (File photo)

Mike and Micki Rawlings (File photo)

“The dinner will feature Honorary Co-Chairs Mike and Micki Rawlings and will honor NorthPark Center with the prestigious Judge Barefoot Sanders Champion of Children Award for its decades of service to Dallas’ children. The award is given annually to individuals or organizations who significantly improve the lives of children in our community, particularly those whose young lives have been marked by abuse, neglect or other adversity.

“The highlight of the night will be our guest speaker, Antwone Fisher, film producer, director, screenwriter and author. Fisher was working as a security guard at Sony Pictures in Los Angeles when he took a free screenwriting course. The story he ended up writing was his own. Born in an Ohio prison to a teenage mother, Antwone grew up in an abusive foster home, escaping at age 14 only to become homeless on the streets of Cleveland. Ultimately, his life was saved when he joined the United States Navy, proudly serving for 11 years. Even in his darkest times, Antwone clung to a vision that he was worth something. He clung to that vision ‘not because I needed to be famous but because I needed a world that made me feel uninvited to be wrong. I imagined myself free, I imagine myself loved, I imagined myself as somebody.’

“The book, ‘Finding Fish,’ was made into a movie, ‘Antwone Fisher,’ starring Denzel Washington.

Champion Of Children Award Dinner*

Champion Of Children Award Dinner*

“Please join us and our dinner Co-Chairs Christine and Jonathan Bassham, Mark Carney and Jeanne and Joseph Manogue at Dallas CASA’s Champion of Children dinner on October 27 at The Fairmont Dallas. Together, we can make a difference for children like our four CASA youth. All four children are now in loving, safe homes, and we have high hopes for their futures. Like Antwone, we stubbornly cling to a vision for these kids that they can grow up safe, protected and loved.

For more information, visit Champion Of Children Award Dinner.

Presenting sponsor is Crest Cadillac/Crest Infiniti, and platinum sponsors are Angela and Jim Thompson.

* Graphic and photo provided by Dallas CASA

Attorneys Serving The Community Luncheon Provided Food For Thought Thanks To Speakers Steve Pemberton And Cynt Marshall

There were a lot of lawyers MIA on Friday, June 10. Nearly a thousand to be exact. The cause for non-billing hours was the Attorneys Serving the Community annual luncheon at the Hilton Anatole benefiting Dallas CASA. It was a remarkable gathering thanks especially to keynote speaker Steve Pemberton, who not only understood the need for Dallas CASA but rose above his childhood of neglect to become vice president of Walgreens and an author. Evidently Half-Price Books brought 100 of Steve’s books to sell. Evidently they wished they had brought more. The line to get Steve’s autograph lasted more than an hour after the luncheon.

Another moving talk was provided by Honorary Chair/Dallas CASA Board Member Cynt Marshall. Here is a report from the field, and remember that Dallas CASA is on a campaign for volunteers:

Walgreens VP Steve Pemberton told attendees at Attorneys Serving the Community (ASC) luncheon benefiting Dallas CASA on Friday, June 10, that despite his childhood of abuse, neglect and deprivation, he always knew he had the power in him to rise above. He just needed one person to believe in him.

“If the headlines bother you, give from wherever you are with whatever you have,” Steve said. “I’m one small example of what’s possible when you give somebody a chance in the world.”

Held at the Hilton Anatole Dallas with 900 seats, the luncheon was the culminating event of a year of fundraising by ASC for Dallas CASA. The group had raised more than $300,000 for Dallas CASA, which recruits, trains and supervises community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children.

Steve PEmberton*

Steve Pemberton*

Steve’s official title is Vice-President, Diversity and Inclusion and Global Chief Diversity Officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, the first global pharmacy-led, health and well-being enterprise in the world, employing 370,000 people in 25 countries. Now a father of three, Steve admitted that finding a place for an African-American boy with no home, blue eyes, a blonde Afro and a Polish last name in working class Boston was a challenge. He named his autobiography “A Chance in the World” after a social service workers’ note in his file that “this child doesn’t have a chance in the world.” Ultimately, Steve created his own chances, finding success despite his circumstances.

“I inherited a tragedy I didn’t ask for or create, but nobody could stop me from changing it,” Steve said. “I was always looking out for that someone who would not see me as dumb, ugly or broken beyond repair. I was told ‘No’ a lot, but ultimately I was told ‘Yes’ more.”

For many abused and neglected children, a CASA volunteer is the one caring, constant adult who can make a critical difference in their lives and says “Yes.”

Gloria Campos, Kathleen LaValle and Cortland Kelly Grynwald*

Gloria Campos, Kathleen LaValle and Cortland Kelly Grynwald*

ASC annually chooses a beneficiary for a year of fundraising support. Events during the year include a silent auction and a 5K race, with the luncheon serving as the final event. ASC Chairs for 2015-16 were Cortland Kelly Grynwald and Kara Altenbaumer-Price. Mistress of ceremonies was Gloria Campos, and the ASC Friend of the Community Award was given to The Margulies Group. Honorary chair was AT&T Senior VP and a Dallas CASA Board Member Cynt Marshall, who shared with the crowd her own experience with children living in foster care.

Cynt told the crowd about a nine-month-old baby abandoned with his nine-year-old brother for two months. With only a toaster oven to keep them warm, the older boy foraged for food and kept his baby brother alive for two months. She also told about a 12-year-old girl forced to eat peanut butter and jelly alone in the pantry while the brothers in her birth family enjoyed turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving day. And she told about a baby girl, born premature, with medical needs and weighing less than two pounds, abandoned by her mother in the hospital.

Kara Altenbaumer-Price and Cynt Marshall*

Kara Altenbaumer-Price and Cynt Marshall*

“These are now my own children. We were blessed to adopt them with the help of lawyers, judges and… yes, CASA volunteers,” Cynt told the cheering crowd as she introduced her youngest daughter, who was left at San Francisco General Hospital and is a junior in college today. “These honeys were kept as safe as possible because of people like you.”

ACS events raised more than $300,000 in critically-needed funds to recruit and train volunteer advocates who gather information to help judges decide where abused and neglected children can live safely and permanently. On an average day in Dallas, more than 2,000 abused and neglected children live in foster care because they cannot safely live at home. Only about three out of five of those children have a Dallas CASA volunteer who can speak for them, but funds from ASC will allow Dallas CASA to recruit, train and supervise more volunteers to serve more children.

“Children in foster care are thrust into a bewildering world of strangers. CASA volunteers help them navigate this very grown-up process,” Cynt said. “Good things can always come out of bad things. Being a CASA is simply a matter of opening your heart.”

Individuals, retailers and manufacturers provided in-kind donations included Cornerstone BTI, D CEO Magazine, Half Price Books, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Judy Norsdeth Photograph, The Margulies Group, Mary Kay, McShan Florist Inc., Michaels Stores Inc., Platinum, TXU Energy and Texas Lawyer.

The following sponsors are underwriters:

  • Presenting ($25,000) — The Members of Attorneys Serving the Community
  • Crystal ($10,000) — Anonymous, Baron and Budd and Texas Lawyer
  • Platinum ($5,000) — D CEO Magazine, Locke Lord LLP, The Marketing Connection, McKool Smith, ORIX Foundation, Sidley Austin LLP and TIER REIT
  • Gold ($2,500) — Amy Stewart PC, AT&T, Baker Botts LLP, Cinemark Theatres, Farrow-Gillepsie and Heath LLP, Gray Reed and McGraw PC, Husch Blackwell, Jackson Walker LLP, JMO Firm PLLC, Khirallah PLLC, Lynn Pinker Cox and Hurst LLP, The McClure Law Group, Norton Rose Fullbright, Perkins Coie, Scheef and Stone LLP, Thompson and Knight Foundation and Winstead PC
  • Silver ($2,000) — Andrews and Bath, PC/Angela Maverick, The BVA Group LLC, Carrington, Coleman, Sloman and Blumenthal, LLP, Counsel on Call, Dallas CASA Board Members, Dallas Women Lawyers Association, Haynes and Boone LLP, Holland and Knight LLP, HSSK, Littler Mendelson PC, Powell Coleman and Arndol LLP, Schwob Building Company LTD and Vinson and Elkins LLP
  • Bronze ($1,750) — Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP, Bell Nunnally and Martin LLP, Bracewell LLP, Capital Financial Partners/Patte Lee, Cooper and Scully PC, Deloitte, DTI, Energy Future Holdings, Gibson Dunn, Hartline Dacus Barger Dreyer LLP, Jackson Lewis PC, K and L Gates, Kilgore and Kilgore PLLC, LeBoeuf Law, PLLC/Spencer Scott PLLC, Legalpeople LLC – A LegalPartners Company, Lennox International, Marsh and McLennan Agency LLC/MHB, Munsch Hardt Kopf and Harr PC, Powell Coleman and Arnold LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Quilling Selander Lownds Winslett and Moser PC, Republic Title, Strasburger and Price LLP, UNT Dallas College of Law and Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelamn and Dicker LLP/Allied World
* Photos provided by Dallas CASA

Dr. Lara Johnson Took Jonathan’s Place’s “A Chance To Soar” Luncheon To New Heights Of Awareness

On Tuesday, April 26, two leading organizations that are solely focused on protecting children had fundraising lunches in different parts of the city. While Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center gathered folks at the Sheraton Dallas, Jonathan’s Place’s “A Place to Soar” celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Dallas Country Club.  Priscilla Garcia filed this report from the DCC:

For 25 years Jonathan’s Place has been “protecting and caring for the previous children of North Texas, who have suffered from abuse, abandonment and neglect.” Just this past year they added to their services the Girls Transitional Living Program for young women ages 18-23 who have aged out of the foster system. Through the program these young women learn to be responsible and how to care for themselves.

On Tuesday, April 26, Jonathan’s Place celebrated its 25th anniversary at its annual “A Chance To Soar” luncheon at the Dallas Country Club. Luncheon Co-Chairs Allison Carlisle and Rachel Stephens arranged to have Caren and Peter Kline serve as honorary co-chairs and for NBC’s Meredith Land to have a sit-down conversation with Dr. Lara Johnson. Through her heartfelt story, Lara revealed that she had a very rough childhood. Her mother was a heroin addict. Her father was an alcoholic. Lara focused on school and was a very good student. Luckily, her Woodrow Wilson High School teacher, Pat Faherty, encouraged her to fill out college application forms even though it was passed the deadline. Pat saw something in Lara. Through Pat’s help, Lara was able to go to college.

Meredith Land, Allicia Graham Frye and Lara Johnson*

Meredith Land, Allicia Graham Frye and Lara Johnson*

As Pat sat in the audience, Lara told how their efforts paid off. Lara became a doctor. The reason? After going to various doctor appointments with her parents, she felt if she became a doctor, she might be able to help them in some way. Later in life her dad was diagnosed with HIV and passed away. Her mother recently died and wanted forgiveness before she passed. Lara said she had already forgiven her.

It was a very touching story, one that she wasn’t really planning on sharing because she is so private. But she changed her mind when an article was written about her in D Magazine after a chance conversation with a friend. Today she volunteers her medical services for the kids at JP and loves the organization. She is married with two children and likes for them to give back as well. Great Q&A!

Another highlight of the luncheon was the recognition of JP Board Chair Jennifer Norris and Meredith and Jason Cockburn, who have fostered over 50 kids through JP, and the presentation of the awards to the following:

Tonya Bailey, RAchel Stephens, Chad Dorman, Allicia Graham Frye, Beverly Childs, Al Sicard, Allison Carlisle, Mark Dehning and Mark Wilson*

Tonya Bailey, Rachel Stephens, Chad Dorman, Allicia Graham Frye, Beverly Childs, Al Sicard, Allison Carlisle, Mark Dehning and Mark Wilson*

  • Award of Compassion — Christina and Michael Benge
  • Award of Service — Nationwide Insurance
  • Award of Excellence — Dallas Association of Health Underwriters

CEO Allicia Graham Frye spoke about the children at the cottages and gave a very genuine speech about her experiences there and how the donors are helping daily at the facility. She was very appreciative of all the support the donors give. She had a picture on the screen showing the where the teenage girls spend their free time. This space had recently been renovated by donors and she wanted to share a piece of the facility with the crowd.  Currently, there are 77 children at the campus.

To celebrate this landmark year for Jonathan’s Place, the following sponsors were on board:

  • Presenting Hero Sponsor ($25,000) — ORIX Foundation
  • Platinum Champion Sponsor ($15,000) — Al G. Hill Jr.
  • Gold Protector Sponsors ($10,000) — Mohr Partners and Scopus Asset Management
  • Silver Guardian Sponsors ($5,000) — Macy’s, Allison and John Carlisle, Marianne and Roger Staubach, Rachel and Brad Stephens, Stacey and Reid Walker and Kay Sim
  • Bronze Defender SponsorsAkin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP, Beth Maultsby and Goranson Bain LLC, The Stacy and Tyler Burke Fund, Freeman Group LLC, Kline Family Foundation, The Rosewood Corporation, Wick Phillips Gould & Martin LLP, Mr. and Mrs. Scott Bagley, Barbie and Bill Borlaug, Kim Cocotos, Marcellene Malouf and the Honorable Royal Furgeson, Dr. Greta Kerwin-Kopp, Wes Lambard, Amy and Tom Mahoney, Jennifer and Bradley Norris, Mr. and Mrs. Todd Phillips, Julie and Eliot Raffkind, Katherine and Eric Reeves, Randa Roach, Nan S. White and April and John Willingham.
* Photos provided by Jonathan's Place

Dallas CASA’s Cherish The Children Was Highlighted By Children’s Chairs, Author Laura McBride And Call-To-Arms For Volunteers

Christie Carter was event juggling on Tuesday, April 5. At 11 a.m. She was part of the 2016 Celebrating Women Luncheon announcement at Neiman Marcus Downtown. But before the right official reveal was made, Christie was headed over to the Omni for the Dallas CASA Cherish the Children luncheon.

Dallas CASA chair

Dallas CASA chair

Dallas CASA chair

Dallas CASA chair

Whew! That gal must have broken some record. She got there in time to check out the Deborah Gaspar Jewelry and the adorable kids’ chairs in the silent auction along with Lydia Novakov, Sarah Losinger, Connie O’Neill, Joyce Lacerte and Lyda Hill, before the doors opened to the Trinity Ballroom just before 11:30.

Lydia Novokov, Sarah Losinger and Connie ONeill

Lydia Novokov, Sarah Losinger and Connie ONeill

Charlene Howell and Caroline Rose Hunt

Charlene Howell and Caroline Rose Hunt

Honorary Chair Caroline Rose Hunt was already at her front row table chatting with Charlene Howell, Barbara Womble and Lynne Sheldon, who was still amazed that on this day husband Roy Sheldon was playing tennis after suffering a life-threatening illness just a couple of years before.

Across the way was a table of SMU Kappa Alpha Theta alumna (Jenni Scoggins, Barbara Cervin, Maury Cunningham, Sara Lytle, Francie Johnsen, Lynn Van Amburgh, Amy Dugan, Taylor Teague, Cori Bray and Anne Besser), who have been so supportive of Dallas CASA over the year. When asked about the construction status of the sorority’s new digs, all were delighted to claim that it would be the best one on the campus.

From the left: (Back row) Jenni Scoggins, Barbara Cervin, Maury Cunningham, Sara Lytle, Francie Johnsen and Lynn Van Amburgh; (Front row) Amy Dugan, Taylor Teague, Cori Bray and Anne Besser

From the left: (Back row) Jenni Scoggins, Barbara Cervin, Maury Cunningham, Sara Lytle, Francie Johnsen and Lynn Van Amburgh; (Front row) Amy Dugan, Taylor Teague, Cori Bray and Anne Besser

Luncheon Chair Erin Pope welcomed the group pointing out the dignitaries in the crowd and introduced Dallas CASA Children’s Council President Jenny Reynolds, who told of two of her CASA encounters. One had been Desi, who had be rescued from a neglectful and abusive situation, only to find herself trapped in the foster care maze. Yes, she loved her mother, but it was not a healthy relationship. Thanks to Jenny’s efforts and those social workers, Desi’s mother allowed her daughter to be adopted by her foster family. Jenny still keeps up with Desi’s progress which is flourishing.

Erin Pope and Jenny Reynolds

Erin Pope and Jenny Reynolds

With tears welling up in her eyes, she described “J,” her current foster child, who reflected years of neglect. Now, 13-years old, she ended up in foster care because her mother is in prison for harming a child — “J.” Her grandmother died months ago and her grandfather dropped “J” off on the doorstep of CPS because she was too difficult. Bouncing from foster home to foster home in the past six months, she had more than reflects wrong choices, she was charging into a life of self-destructive decisions — selling and using drugs, sex tapes, etc. A turning point recently took place when “J” was moved to a residential treatment center in Houston. Jenny drove to Houston the previous Friday to deliver a suitcase of “J’s” belongings. There at the front door was “J” waiting for Jenny. “She looked at me and said, ‘Jenny, you actually came. Jenny, I miss you.”

Kathleen LaValle

Kathleen LaValle

Dallas CASA Executive Director/President Kathleen LaValle recognized Honoree Caroline with former Dallas CASA Executive Director/President Beverly Levy at her side and then told of the organization’s goal to make Dallas the first city in the nation to have a CASA for each child in protective care. Of course, there is a need for funding to provide support for the advocates, but the need for volunteers is just as great. Without these adults volunteering their time, minds and hearts, there would be hundreds of vulnerable youngsters.

Erin then introduced guest speaker/author Laura McBride. Living in Las Vegas, she told about a time when her daughter was young and played soccer on a field across the highway from strip clubs and bordellos. Remember Laura and her family live in Las Vegas. In one of her classes, her 13-year-old daughter was asked to write her motto for living. She told her parents that her motto was a neon sign she had seen so often that had inspired her to live life fully and boldly. When Laura asked what her motto was, she replied, “Live Nude.”

Laura McBride

Laura McBride

Laura recalled that she had wanted to live in a college town or a place that was safe. Instead she lived in a city filled with people so very different from herself. It was a boomtown of all types of people and has established an automatic acceptance of newbies. The city’s economy is also one based on service, where people are nice and watch what others might need.

All of this helped prepared her daughter in 2012 to head to the East Coast for college and to open to accepting differences. This development changed Laura’s view of how things might go. She said that instead of turning inward which is typical of humans, she realized that it was wrong. “Perhaps we are progressing by not joining groups that are necessarily like us.”

As a former advocate, she championed the idea that people need “a little more love, a little more care, a little less hate, a little less fear.”

Before adjourning Dallas CASA Board of Directors Chair John Gibson reinforced the message that had been provided earlier — the need for volunteers and, of course, funds.

Suggestion: You do not need a law degree to be a Dallas CASA. You just have to have compassion, determination and time. If you can spare those three things, you just might find a “J” on a front door waiting for you.

Fashion Guru Tim Gunn Packed ‘Em In At Forty Five Ten’s T Room For Community Partners Of Dallas’ Chick Lit Patron Party

Tim Gunn

Tim Gunn

Not since Rob Lowe and Kevin Costner hit the North Texas area has a man been swarmed like New York Times best-selling author and overall fashion arbiter Tim Gunn was at the 10th Annual Chick Lit Luncheon Patron Party.

Laverne Nieberding and Greg Nieberding

Laverne Nieberding and Greg Nieberding

Yipes! Taking place at Chick Lit Honorary Chair Brian Bolke’s Forty Five Ten, the place should have been big enough for the guests, the fashions and Tim. But with Tim meeting-and-greeting guests like Luncheon Chair Kristi Hoyl, Melissa Sherrill, D’Andra Simmons, Anne Stodghill and Greg Nieberding with his mom Laverne Nieberding in the T Room, the place was as tight as a stamp on an envelope.

What made it more challenging was Tim somehow managed to locate himself against one of the bars. Goodness, bubbly and Tim together resulted in celebration and selfie-action as everyone wanted a flute of champagne and a photo with Tim.

One lovely evidently was new to celebrity get-togethers and decided that she was Tim’s one-and-only, resulting in more than her fair share of special time with him. But Tim proved as proper and charming as his attire, chatting it up with the gal until someone suggested that others might like some quality time with Tim, too.

Lara and Robert Tafel

Lara and Robert Tafel

Organizers were amazed at how generous Tim was. His contract limited his time at the patron party to 45 minutes, but he stayed way beyond the time limit.

Paige McDaniel and Juilette Coulter

Paige McDaniel and Juilette Coulter

Another couple of Chick Lit celebs were Lara and Bob Tafel, who have been on board in supporting the Community Partners of Dallas fundraiser since its inception. But their involvement is more than being the presenting sponsor of the annual get-together. In the midst of all the partying, Bob voiced genuine concern that recent legislative developments were increasing the need for CPD’s efforts.

And speaking of the 10th anniversary, CPD President/CEO Paige McDaniel proudly wore a new piece of jewelry, a necklace spelling out sparkly Chick Lit in its signature font. She told how she and CPD Director of Development Joanna Clarke had had the necklaces especially made for those like Lara, Juliette Coulter and Kristi Bare who have attended all 10 years of the CPD fundraiser.

And while the guests kept coming and coming, it was still an early night because the luncheon was the next day at the Hilton Anatole.

Dallas CASA Board To Be Headed By John Gibson And Joined By Mike Brosin And Cynthia Comparin

Word comes that Dallas CASA has new board leadership and members. Heading up the board will be Goldman Sachs Managing Director John Gibson. In addition to his new role of leadership, the Harvard graduate is also a Dallas CASA advocate and “currently working three open cases for kids who’ve been removed from their homes.”

John Gibson*

John Gibson*

Mike Brosin (File photo)

Mike Brosin (File photo)

Cynthia Comparin*

Cynthia Comparin*

Joining the board are Crest Cadillac/Crest Infiniti Managing Partner Mike Brosin and Animato CEO Cynthia Comparin.

Luckily for more than 2,000 abused and neglected children living in foster care in Dallas County, Dallas CASA volunteers are on the frontline “to advocate for the best interests of children under protective care of courts, so they will have safe, permanent homes where they can thrive.”

* Photo provided by Dallas CASA

MySweetWishList: Friends Of Wednesday’s Child

According to Friends of Wednesday’s Child Fund Development Manager Nicholas Hardy,

“This holiday season, Friends of Wednesday’s Child wishes for the North Texas community to rally around children in foster care, and help transform the lives of our community’s most vulnerable population through education. Education changes lives and improves our community, but unfortunately, for children in foster care, only 41% will graduate high school and only 3% will graduate college in North Texas.



“At Friends of Wednesday’s Child, we believe this is no longer acceptable. It is our responsibility to provide the necessary resources and support, and advocate on behalf of their educational needs.

“We know the difference of a consistent and caring adult, and have seen first-hand, the impact of providing foster youth with educational resources such as tutoring, extracurricular/ enrichment activities, summer camp, college scholarships and one on one support with a Friends of Wednesday’s Child Education Specialist.

“For example, Jason, a student who loves dodge ball, and dreams of becoming an architect, was born to a mother addicted to crack cocaine. After moving several times, Jason finally found himself in a home where he and his siblings were abused. Later removed and now in a loving and nurturing foster home, Jason has enrolled in our Success in School education program.

“When Jason first began working with Friends of Wednesday’s, he was in remedial classes and was suffering behaviorally because of his inability to pay attention and cooperate with others. However, because of the individualized support he has received from his Friends of Wednesday’s Child Education Specialist, one-on-one tutoring, and the piano lessons he is taking, Jason is now making A’s and B’s and has become an exemplary student. Jason has Big Dreams of attending UCLA and becoming an architect when he grows up.

“Friends of Wednesday’s Child is extremely proud to support Jason, and play a major role in helping him achieve his goals. Yet the sad reality is that like Jason, there are countless students who are unable to receive the support they need.

“Friends of Wednesday’s Child has a wish, and it is to give students who desperately need our help, a chance to achieve success both in school and in life.

“Please invest in the future of children in foster care in North Texas today by visiting our website,, and help make their dream of graduating high school come true.”

-By Nicholas Hardy, Friends of Wednesday’s Child development fund manager

* Photo provided by Friends of Wednesday’s Child

MySweetWishList: Road Trip 4 Paws

According to Road Trip 4 Paws Founder Kelly Bond,

Kelly Bond and friend*

Kelly Bond and friend*

“Road Trip 4 Paws is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to transporting dogs and cats to forever homes in other states. We are a 100% volunteer-based organization with a dedicated team of veteran animal rescuers solely focused on finding shelter space in other states for DFW-based animals who would otherwise wait months to be adopted or be euthanized due to shelter overcrowding. Our overall objective is to place adoptable animals in shelters where they won’t be euthanized due to spacing or similar issues.

“The cost of transporting animals to states such as Colorado is extensive, including pre-transport pet vaccinations, van rental, fuel, pet food and supplies.

“Road Trip 4 Paws roundtrip expenses per trip:



Vaccinations per animal $   25.00
Health certificate per animal $   20.00
Van rental for round trip $ 500.00
Round trip fuel $ 350.00
Pet food per week $ 115.00
Various supplies for transport $   80.00


“Road Trip 4 Paws is a new organization and we hope to grow our efforts to place as many DFW-area homeless cats and dogs in shelters across the country who have room to house these animals, thereby giving them a better chance of finding a forever home.

“Our organization is dedicated to this effort to reduce the number of homeless pets in the DFW Metroplex, many of whom are euthanized due to spacing issues or airborne illness.

“Road Trip 4 Paws is in need of financial support to cover the cost of transport of DFW-based animals to out-of-state shelters where room is available for adoptable dogs and cats.

“Road Trip 4 Paws is always in need of volunteer support, whether it’s transporting animals to shelters in other states, pre-transport preparation, fostering or administrative tasks.

“Our wish this season is to receive funding to cover the cost of transporting as many DFW-based animals as possible to shelters in other states with space, thereby increasing these animals’ chances of finding a forever home.”

-By Kelly Bond, Road Trip 4 Paws founder

* Photo provided by Road Trip 4 Paws

MySweetCharity Opportunity: Change Is Good

According to Change Is Good Co-Chairs Heather Bonfield and Christa Sanford,

The Bonfields - Lola, Kevin, Sydney and Heather*

The Bonfields – Lola, Kevin, Sydney and Heather*

The Sanfords - Jackson, Ketric, Landry, Christa and Cason*

The Sanfords – Jackson, Ketric, Landry, Christa and Cason*

“Change jars have been delivered to over 329 children around Dallas to start collecting pennies, nickels, quarters and bills for the 9th annual Change is Good benefiting Community Partners of Dallas (CPD).

“Change is Good is a great way to get your whole family involved in giving back by encouraging your kids to collect change in order to change the lives of abused and neglected children in Dallas county. Last year, families collected more than 92,807 coins for a total of $16,866 and we know we can collect even more this year!

“CPD has made collecting change easier than ever. Set up your Piggy Bank website and start raising change online; it’s an easy and simple way to get family across the country involved in your change raising efforts. Just download these simple instructions and start raising change today.

“The collection will culminate with a fun-filled, family-friendly event on Sunday, September 20, from 3 – 6 p.m. at Brook Hollow Golf Club.  Children and teens in attendance can turn in their collected change in exchange for chances to win exciting prizes.

Hat decorating (File photo)

Hat decorating (File photo)

“We have wonderful activities planned for all ages, including bounce houses, face painting, Flip books, balloon artist, prince/princess station, paper airplane zone, giant jenga, DJ Bill Cody, a game truck and more. All kids will receive a commemorative t-shirt featuring a winning design selected prior to the event.

“Make plans to join us now, as we anticipate another sold-out year. Sponsorships are on sale now beginning at $550; tickets are $75 per adult; $30 per child and will be available on Thursday, August 27.  For more information, visit”

* Photos provided by Community Partners of Dallas

Dallas CASA’s Parade Of Playhouses Celebrated A Successful 20th Anniversary At NorthPark’s Pirch

Hannah and Greg May and Kathleen LaValle

Hannah and Greg May and Kathleen LaValle

Dallas CASA Executive Director Kathleen LaValle and her team had been worried. Because NorthPark was preparing for its August kick-off of its 50th anniversary, the NP management team had asked CASA if they would move their 20th Annual Parade of Playhouses to July instead of the traditional August.

The CASA crew shored up with the builders and made it happen. The question was whether there would be traffic and interest in selling raffle tickets. From the smile on Kathleen’s face at the Wednesday, July 22, party at Pirch, there was no question about the outcome.

The playhouses were OMG better than ever. The July foot traffic was amazing and resulted in more house shopping than ever and raffle chances had the Northwood Women’s Club selling them like Garth tickets.

Luis Bartolomei and Reese Threadgill

Luis Bartolomei and Reese Threadgill

Making pizza

Making pizza

Just trying to get to the party was a major accomplishment with the NP parking lot jammed as if it were the week before Christmas. But the 300+ builders and CASA friends like Dallas CASA Board Chair Greg May with wife Hannah May, Jana and Mike Brosin and Reese Threadgill with Luis Bartolomei persisted and made it to the luxury home retailer where pizzas were being made and food stations were set up. It was a wonder that no one tried out one of the BainUltra tubs.

The occasion was also to mark the closing phase of the group’s capital campaign. According to Capital Campaign Chair Jim Lozier, the target had been $37M with the intent to “take care of 100% of kids in foster care over five to 10 years.” At this time they’re only able to handle 30-40% of the kids. By having such a forward-thinking campaign, “we’ll be right there” if the number of kids needing services goes up in the next five to six years, Jim added.

Jim Lozier, Christie Carter and Jana and Mike Brosin

Jim Lozier, Christie Carter and Jana and Mike Brosin

Another goal was to expand CASA’s presence, Jim said: “We’re known in town, but not really known in town.”

Once the campaign was announced, the money started rolling in. They got a couple of very big gifts early and, since then, they’ve ranged from $500 to $500,000. Jim added that the Rees-Jones Foundation gave very generously and still another anonymous donor provided great assistance.

Capital Campaign Vice-Chair Christie Carter reported that they were less than $1.5M from meeting their goal.

As for the raffle, Kathleen reported they were 20% ahead of schedule as of the night, and they were on schedule to break all previous records.

Foster Child Survivor Ashley Rhodes-Courter Knocked It Out Of The Ballroom For Dallas CASA’s Cherish the Children

There was no way another table could have been squeezed into the Dallas County Club ballroom. Such was the case of Dallas CASA’s Cherish the Children Luncheon Thursday, May 7. The Dallas Country Club lobby was crowded enough with 350 guests checking out the adorable, one-of-a-kind chairs in the silent auction.

Creative Room Arrangements' auction item

Creative Room Arrangements’ auction item

The designs had been created by Matthew Benys, Couture’s Nicholas Villalba, Creative Room Arrangements, Kay Dalton, Desilynn Faith, Fossil’s Casey Green, Chelsea Green, Liz Conrad Graphic Design, Blake McElroy, Muralicious, Nancy Newbern of Rare Assets Inc., Phelan’s Amy Bailey, Pigment School of the Arts’ Tori Pendergrass and Susie Brennan Interiors. Right next to a door leading to the ballroom was another auction item, a painting created by impressionist-expressionist painter Leoma Lovegrove.

But just as the temperature level was rising in the lobby, the ballroom doors opened to a very cool ballroom with tables so close together that only size 4 waiters could squeeze through.

Off to a table near the stage, a red-haired gal sat looking over some notes. She was not a local. She was Ashley Rhodes-Courter, but more about her later.

Madeline Freberg

Madeline Freberg

Kathleen LaValle

Kathleen LaValle

After Luncheon Chair Madeline Freberg welcomed guests, a video was played and Dallas CASA Executive Director/President Kathleen LaValle reviewed the capital campaign and recognized the CASA Angel Awardee(s) — Kappa Alpha Theta Dallas Alumnae Chapter that included guests Francie Johnsen, Lynn Van Amburgh, Toni Alles, Barbara Cervin and Maury Cunningham.

Francie Johnsen, Lynn Van Amburgh, Toni Alles, Barbara Cervin and Maury Cunningham

Francie Johnsen, Lynn Van Amburgh, Toni Alles, Barbara Cervin and Maury Cunningham

Resounding Harmony then performed and it was revealed that they would be doing a benefit concert — Through the Eyes of A Child — for Dallas CASA on Saturday, June 27, at Dallas City Performance Hall.

Resounding Harmony

Resounding Harmony

It was now time that Ashley took over the program. Admitting to still suffering from post-baby weight and a cold, Ashley let a video tell of her 10 years in foster care that seemed doomed after being rescued from a neglectful mother and countless foster homes. One of them was a two-bedroom house trailer where 16 foster children were housed, abused and starved. Another placement ended up with her witnessing her “guardian” being killed following an argument with a neighbor.

Ashley Rhodes-Courter

Ashley Rhodes-Courter

But Ashley was stubborn and wasn’t going to be held captive by a dysfunctional foster program system in Florida. Still, she needed an ally. This person was CASA volunteer Mary Miller, who heard of the young girl’s pleas and doggedly investigated her allegations and championed Ashley’s cause. It was because of this CASA volunteer that Ashley more than escaped the nightmares of bureaucracy to be adopted, go to college, get marry, have her own children, foster children and become a New York Times best-selling author.

Ashley Rhodes-Courter

Ashley Rhodes-Courter

While Ashley’s tale has been eloquently told in “Three Little Words,” the passion and inspiration cannot be conveyed like Ashley in person. Sure, she may have suffered at the hands of an overburdened system — 14 different foster homes in nine years and some of them abusive! And she may have had a cold and was still suffering from baby hormones, but Ashley’s talk was truly deserving of the standing ovation she received at Cherish the Children.

If you missed the luncheon, buy the book and volunteer with Dallas CASA or make a donation. Future Ashleys would truly appreciate it.

Release Your Party Dresses From Their Closet Prisons To Help Dallas CASA’s Prom Dress Drive

Gown (File photo)

Gown (File photo)

Remember that gown you bought for that black tie event? Sure, you do. Everybody commented on how great you looked. Yes, everybody! Unfortunately, that means you just can’t wear it again. But then you can’t let such a great dress just age in your closet. Ah, come on. It made your night. Why punish it?

Here’s a thought: donate it. This month Comerica Bank “is accepting gently used formal dresses and accessories.” No, the bankers aren’t going to wear them to the Big Buck Ball.

Seriously, Dallas CASA is holding Prom Dress Drive to “benefit teen girls in foster care.” Imagine being a teenage girl going to her prom and having nothing… absolutely nothing to wear. Why not make her feel special because chances are “special” has not been a common occurrence in her life?

So, free your party frock and take it to the bank. And if you have some accessories like shoes, gloves, etc., include ’em.

But you’d better get hustling. The “shopping day” will take place in March.

Singer Jimmy Wayne Brought His Remarkable Story Of Childhood Homelessness To Soup’s On!

Soup’s On! Co-Chairs Anne Besser and Jackie Moore were feeling the groove. They had been upped from the Trinity Ballroom at the Omni Dallas to the Dallas Ballroom for their Tuesday, January 20th luncheon fundraising for The Stewpot Alliance.

Unfortunately, the lighting hadn’t been included. Behind the floor to ceiling curtain separating the dining room from the chefs’ prep area, it was as dark as a faux blonde’s five-week-old roots. Luckily, this team of chefs headed up by The Grape’s Brian Luscher were tried and true veterans who can rise to the occasion. Parigi’s Janice Provost’s bright pink chef’s jacket and her red hair made her a standout in comparison to buddy/Salum Chef Abraham Salum in his black jacket and black hair.

Luckily, the silent auction area in the lobby was gleaming thanks to the January sunshine showing through the Omni’s towering windows.

Soup bowl in silent auction

Soup bowl in silent auction

As guests checked out art and bowls from The Stewpot friends, Jan Osborn told how she had created a bowl at Paint My Pottery that wasn’t ready for Louvre exhibition. Embarrassed about her handiwork, she signed it with her buddy Robin Bagwell’s name.

Inside the ballroom some hiccups were taking place. It seems that keynote speaker/singer Jimmy Wayne was having issues with the acoustics and decided not to sit with the crowd in the ballroom. Can’t blame the guy. After all, a professional musician wants to be key perfect. So, he probably wanted to have his game mind in the right spot before going on stage to tell of his homeless childhood.

Jennifer and Joe Clifford

Jennifer and Joe Clifford

While Jimmy chilled, guests like Honorary Chair Susie Simon, Debbie Johnson, Carol Goglia, Jennifer Clifford, David Nichols, Brittany Mathews, Jan Hegi, Christy Coltrin and Brad Oldham (once again he had sculpted and produced the tasting spoons for the chefs) entered the ballroom. BTW, if you haven’t checked out Brad’s amazing “The Birth of a City” at Encore Park, drop everything and drive on down. It’s an amazing undertaking that deems checking out.

Emcee Steve Blow introduced Rev. Dr. Joe Clifford to provide the invocation and Anne and Jackie, who officially welcomed the group.

From the left (standing): Omar Flores, Bruno Davillon, Janice Provost, Abraham Salum, Chad Houser and Donald Chalk; (seated) Matt McCallister, Sarah Snow, Oliver Sitrin, Brian Luscher, Danyele McPherson and Chad Kelley.

From the left (standing): Omar Flores, Bruno Davillon, Janice Provost, Abraham Salum, Chad Houser and Donald Chalk; (seated) Matt McCallister, Sarah Snow, Oliver Sitrin, Brian Luscher, Danyele McPherson and Chad Kelley.

Outside the ballroom the chefs (Brian, Janice, Abraham, Donald Chalka of Omni Hotel Dallas, Bruno Davaillon of Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Omar Flores of Casa Rubia, Chad Houser of Café Momentum, Chad Kelley of Café Pacific, Matt McCallister of FT33, Danyele McPerson of Remedy, Oliver Sitrin of Blind Butcher and Sarah Snow of The Grape) gathered for the annual class photos. After the prim and proper group photo was taken, it was time for the “Lounging Luscher” shot. It had hardly been taken when it was time for their official introduction to the guests. Immediately after the intros, most of the chefs headed back to their home kitchens, while some visited tables to make sure the soup was just right.

From the left (standing): Omar Flores, Bruno Davillon, Janice Provost, Abraham Salum, Chad Houser and Donald Chalk; (seated) Matt McCallister, Sarah Snow, Oliver Sitrin, Danyele McPherson and Chad Kelley; (lying) Brian Luscher.

From the left (standing): Omar Flores, Bruno Davillon, Janice Provost, Abraham Salum, Chad Houser and Donald Chalk; (seated) Matt McCallister, Sarah Snow, Oliver Sitrin, Danyele McPherson and Chad Kelley; (lying) Brian Luscher.

After the clatter of spoons dipping into bowls, Jimmy was on stage with his guitar in hand singing “Sarah Smile.” He told of his singing that song at Madison Square Garden and being overwhelmed by the fact he was there, that he had awards, songs on the radio, clothes, a house, that he had arrived. “Man, what a life!”

When he returned and was “in my warm and cozy house thinking about no one drinking my expensive coffee and not a worry in the world,” he noted his thermostat and realized that an arctic blast had hit parts of the country. He got walloped by an overwhelming sense of guilt.

The thermostat reminded him of a promise that he had made as a kid — “one day when I make it, I’m not going to forget where I came from.”

He decided to raise awareness about the homeless children by walking across America. His plan was to do it in three months. His manager wasn’t too keen on the idea and tried to talk him out of it. Didn’t work. Jimmy had made his mind up.

His journey started on January 1, 2010, in Nashville where it was 7°. Three days later he could still see his house and realized that his project would not be the snap he thought it would. Along the way, people would give him coffee, a meal or a place to stay.

Seven months later he made it to the end of the walk.

Actually, he said the walk started when he was 12 years old. His mother was in prison for a second time. Once out she married a guy who Jimmy thought would be a great step dad. Wrong. The man took the youngster on a shooting spree and eventually aimed the gun at the boy but missed. Eventually the mother, stepfather and boy headed to North Carolina and then west and back to Florida. It was in Pensacola that the adults abandoned Jimmy at the age of 13. He was totally homeless.

For the next three years he was bounced around from foster home to the streets to foster home. Searching for work in North Carolina, he saw an elderly man at work in a wood shop. The teenager asked him for work. The man said the boy had to ask the boss. The “boss” turned out to the man’s 75-year-old, white-haired wife, Bea Costner, who looked Jimmy up and down. She told him to come back that afternoon and cut their grass for $20. It became a routine. He would cut the grass and she would talk about the weather and the grass. After a few times of cutting grass, she asked him where he lived. He could only think that the jig was up. That’s what he thought, but she had a totally different idea. She wanted to know if he wanted to live in their home.

The idea was double-edged. Yes, it was a place to stay for “a couple of days,” but every man in his life had been abusive and the old man — Russell — let Jimmy know that this was his territory.

He stepped into the home with his bag of clothes, it smelled so good — like pie. As Jimmy made his way through the house, he felt Russell staring at him. The next few days the two adjusted to their relationship. Then Russell had a talk with Jimmy. There were two things he had to do:

  1. You’ve got to cut off all your hair.
  2. You’ve got to go to church.

They went to the barbershop and he came out “bald headed.” Russell then took him to the store to buy some clothes for school. Jimmy was taken back. He had always gotten his clothes from donation boxes, trying things on until they fit. Nope. He got brand new clothes with Russell picking up the tab.

Thanks to Bea and Russell and understanding teachers, he went to school and eventually paid for college himself. What the Costners did was give him a chance.

Three months after he moved in, Russell was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. It was now Jimmy and the widow, who continued to give him a chance to achieve.

When Jimmy started his singing, she would show up and sit on the front row… reading her Bible.

Finally, after one concert he decided it was time to tell her how much she meant to him. He told her that he loved her. She replied, “I love you, Jimmy.” He went on telling how much she and Russell had done for him. After he walked her to the door and looked back, he saw her standing in the doorway where she had once welcomed him into a new life. As he left, she said goodbye and waved. He said he’d see her in a couple of days. The now 81-year-old said, “Goodbye, Jimmy.” The next morning Bea’s daughter called Jimmy to say that Bea had had a stroke and died.

Jimmy then turned the talk to the audience, telling them that their support of The Stewpot was offering other “Jimmys” a chance to achieve.