1,300 People Had A “Hinge” Experience By “Connecting” With New BFF Jamie Lee Curtis At The Celebrating Women Luncheon

Editor’s warning: This post is a very long one, but it’s worth the read. So, settle back to find out why the 2017 Celebrating Women Luncheon was one of the most memorable get togethers of the year.

It depended on your age when it came to Jamie Lee Curtis. Those with decades on their meters remembered her as the darling daughter of Hollywood’s golden age couple of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Then there was the generation that immediately thought of her being terrorized in “Halloween” and “Terror Train.”  Others recalled her as the “bod” in “Trading Places” and “Perfect.” And, yes, there’s a current generation who have read her 14 books to their children.

The question at the Baylor Health Care System Foundation‘s Celebrating Women Luncheon was, “Who really is Jamie Lee Curtis?” That’s because Jamie (“Just call me Jamie, not Jamie Lee”) was going to be the featured speaker at the Hilton Anatole on Thursday, October 26.

Before heading down to the VIP meet-and-greet in the Anatole’s Wedgwood Room that Thursday morning, Jamie showed the first signs of how the day would go. She told an event staffer that she was wearing no makeup and had done her own hair. But if they wanted someone to do her makeup, it was up to them. No need; Jamie was just fine in her own skin. Earlier someone had asked if she wanted to review the questions that would be posed to her in the chat with Baylor Health Care System Foundation President Robin Robinson. Nope. She would just take them as they came.

Vicky Lattner, Nancy Carter, Emilynn Wilson and Di Johnston

Before she entered the room, the crowd including Kristen Hinton, Norm Bagwell, Barbara Stuart, Carol Seay, Jimmie Westcott, Lisa Cooley, Tanya Foster, Aileen Pratt, Kate Swail, Pam Perella, Leslie Diers, Debbie Robinson, Polly Tadlock, Fredye Factor, Sarah Losinger, Debbie Oates, Christie Carter, Julie Ford, Rich Enthoven, Trisha Wilson, Tiffany Divis, Jennie and Stuart Reeves, Caren Kline and Dallas Morning Newsies Deborah Fleck, Selwyn Crawford and Mike Wilson was happily chatting and drinking coffee. Only a handful of people were getting in line for the grip-and-grin. That would quickly change.

Barbara Stuart, Carol Seay and Jimmie Westcott

Like a quarterback preparing for the big game, Jamie checked out the setup and approached the event photographer and suggested a place where she would stand with guests. As another photographer took a photo from the side, Jamie called the second photographer over and gave instructions to shoot directly in front of her. It wasn’t an order. She was advising the team on a game plan that would seamlessly score success. 

Even the guests became part of the team effort. Jamie would talk with each one and make sure that all were picture-perfect. When Gretchen Minyard arrived for her photo, Jamie adjusted the flower on Gretchen’s jacket. One young woman quickly put the finishing touches on her own makeup as she went through the line. She was thrilled for the photo opp. From the big smile in being photographed with Jamie, no one could tell that she had just had her first round of chemo the day before. Linda Custard, who had successfully gone through a year of treatments, had a special glow about her as she and Jamie embraced.

Linda Custard and Jamie Lee Curtis

Lindalyn Adams and Jamie Lee Curtis

After having her photo taken with Lindalyn Adams, Jamie called time-out and went to the side of the staging area to talk with Lindalyn, who had initiated Celebrating Women 18 years ago.

Now, the guests were starting to take notice and lined up for their picture with Jamie. A handful of guests stood back, saying they weren’t all that interested in a photo with Jamie. That would change. Soon enough the line was winding past the stanchions, and in the line now were those who’d said earlier they weren’t all that interested in a photo with Jamie.

Observers started taking note of how in each shot, Jamie would hit her mark with her legs crossed at the ankle, confidently hold her head high, smile with lips together and have an expression on her face as if she was truly proud to be in the picture. Her arms would adjust a bit with each photo, but they never struck the “sorority girl” pose.

Peggy Riggs, Jamie Lee Curtis and Leonard Riggs

Aileen Pratt and Jamie Lee Curtis

Selwyn Crawford, Deborah Fleck, Jamie Lee Curtis and Mike Wilson

When the final photo was taken, one of the photographers approached her and thanked her for her earlier direction, adding that each photo had turned out great. Jamie smiled with a twinkle in her eye and said, “I knew where the lights were.”

Dennis Bassler and Connie Yates

Nancy Dedman and Jill Smith

As the doors opened to the Chantilly Ballroom, the 1,300 guests like Tom Thumb President Dennis Bassler with Tom Thumb First Lady Connie Yates, Sara Martineau, Vicki Chapman, Joan Eleazer with daughter Layne Pitzer, Debbie Raynor, Nancy Dedman, Jill Smith, Gene Jones, Anita Arnold, Al Hill Jr., Linda Perryman Evans, Jan Langbein, Leslie Gosnell and sisters Nancy Marcus and Nelda Cain were taking their places. Before things got underway, Abigail Powell and Julie Powell stood behind Jamie, who had taken her place at the table next to Honorary Co-Chair Leonard Riggs. The Powells had their cellphones ready to snap a photo with her. When Jamie realized the situation, she stood up and took hold of the phone for a selfie with the girls.

Jamie Lee Curtis, Abigail Powell and Julie Powell

Soon, the program was underway with London Hibbs entering the center aisle singing “Heroes” and joined by dancers en route to the stage.

London Hibbs and dancers

They were followed by Event Chair Tucker Enthoven, who welcomed the guests and told how the monies raised at the luncheon stayed in North Texas. To emphasize the point, she told of 43-year-old attorney/wife/mother Carolyn Brown, who just the year before had been diagnosed with stage III tripe-negative breast cancer.

Carolyn Brown and her team of health care providers

Following a video about Carolyn’s journey, an army of 20 men and women lined up along the back of the stage. Through the group entered Carolyn, who explained that these people had been the ones who had taken her through nine months of surgeries, chemo and radiation, resulting in her being cancer-free. 

Ola Fojtasek and Tucker Enthoven

Following lunch, Tucker returned to the podium with her Underwriting Chair Ola Fojtasek, who acknowledged Lindalyn, the Baylor Health Care System Foundation staff, the committee, presenting sponsor Tom Thumb and the mega donors. Ola then got the activity meter raised, explaining that at each table there was one program that was marked for the holder to receive an $80 gift certificate for Kendra Scott. 

Jim Hinton

Tucker thanked Honorary Co-Chairs Peggy and Leonard Riggs, announced a matching challenge of $25,000 and introduced Baylor Scott And White Health CEO Jim Hinton. Jim told how his life had been influenced by the women in his life, including his daughter, 12-year-old Nora Hinton, who the morning after the recent presidential election announced that she could still be the first female president. He emphasized the importance of the Celebrating Women Luncheon by announcing that, over the past 18 years, it had raised more than $30M, and more than 100,000 women had been screened last year at the Darlene Cass Imaging Center.

Following Jim, Baylor Health Care System Foundation President Robin Robinson introduced Jamie for a chat on stage. It would be a chat to be remembered.

Before getting started, though, Jamie addressed one part of the audience. “I was raised well. Not really, but I was raised semi-well. I actually made them move the chair so my back wasn’t to you. But I apologize that my back is to you, and I will try to pin it like a Rain Bird.”

Jamie Lee Curtis and Robin Robinson

Who is her hero? Robin asked. “I am almost 60, and I have spent a lot of time in ballrooms sitting around tables of 10 with well-heeled, well-dressed people like yourselves advocating for causes in ways to come together to raise money for important causes,” Jamie replied. “And I have seen myriad ways that these are done. I have never in my life seen a more moving example of what this is, the reason we are here, than that team of people coming up on the stage. I’ve done a lot of these and I think that’s why that challenge grant … and I hope we make it … I’d like to see a show of hands of 25 people in this room who will give a thousand dollars with me.* I want it right now. 25 people to give $25,000. [Hands went up throughout the room.] I want to know that $50,000 extra was raised in one minute for the work of those people who stood here for her and work for people you will never know. There is no more important thing for us to do today than to support them. I’m just privileged to be here.” 

Hands raise for the challenge

Did you have a cancer scare? Robin then asked Jamie. “I did, and in coming here I recalled it,” she answered. “My memory of it was the wait in that room for the diagnosis. Either an all-clear, which was my case, or the diagnosis of breast cancer and then the eventual treatment plan and care team stepping in. And what I remember about it, and the reason why I try to stay active, is that moment of feeling alone, even though my sweet husband Christopher [Guest] was sitting with me. It is a profound moment of truth. I was prepared for it. And as I got the ‘All clear’ from it, I was grateful to my doctor who found it. It was not noticed on the mammogram. It was not noticed radiologically. It was done from palpitation, by actually laying on his hands. I’m incredibly luck, but I’ll never forget that moment.”

In receiving the tough news from your doctor, Robin asked next, do you want her to ask how your life is going, or do you want straight talk? “Me? I’m coming up, if I’m lucky enough, on February 3rd of next year, I’ll be coming up on 19 years sober from drugs and alcohol,” Jamie answered. “In my opinion [addiction] is hereditary—my dad, my mom, my brother. And [for me] it was an opiate addiction. It was a small plastic surgery moment that led to an opiate addiction. It is no accident today that we have an epidemic in this country. I’m in recovery, and I want it as straight as you can give it to me. I’m as straight a person as it is. I want no subterfuge. I want it unvarnished. I want you to tell me the truth. I try to live an incredibly truthful life.”

How do you select the causes that you support? Robin asked. “I think like all the rest of us, I get touched by something,” Jamie replied. “As it is with breast cancer, it is a concentric circle in our lives. There is no place that I would go in the world and not come in contact immediately with someone either recovering from breast cancer, undergoing treatment or they have a sister or mother with breast cancer. I was in Los Angeles at a surprise wedding. I was seated at a long table, as we all were.

“I was chatting with three people across the table, and the woman seated directly across from me was from Italy. Lovely. I found her charming. And then another woman introduced herself and said that she and her husband were from Dallas. I said, ‘Oh, I’m going to Dallas in four days.’ She asked why and I said, ‘I’m going to speak at the breast cancer luncheon connected to Baylor.’ And she said, ‘Oh, those are my people! You’ll meet my oncologist.” She’s a 15-year survivor. And then the woman directly across from me, the one from Italy, said to the woman, ‘I just had a double mastectomy.’ Here we were a triangle. Three women connecting about breast cancer at a surprise wedding. To me the reason we’re here is to connect. We are not here to do anything but connect.”

Jamie Lee Curtis

Then Robin asked, “What got you into acting?” “It was an accident,” Jamie said. “There is a book that I love, ‘Special Topics in Calamity Physics,’ by Marisha Pessl. In it there is this great quote. She says you know, most people think life is all about like where you go to school, what degree you get, what college you get into, who you marry, what your first job is, what your starting salary is, blah, blah. She said, and I roughly quote, ‘It’s not. Life hinges on a couple of seconds you never see coming, and what you decide in those seconds determines everything from then on. And you’re not going to know what to do until you’re there.’ That’s my life.

“I was a D+ student, who got into the only college where my mother was the most famous alumnus. I majored in track. I was a non-student. I could barely spell ‘student.’ I came home for Christmas and ran into a guy who was a tennis teacher at my friend’s court and he said, ‘Hey, Jamie, I’m now managing actors, and they’re looking for someone to play Nancy Drew. Why don’t you go up for it?’ I was like ‘Okay.’ I didn’t get it, but then I ended up literally signing a seven-year contract with Universal Pictures (because they used to have contracts then). My point is that I went over to my friend’s house and a tennis teacher said, ‘Hey they’re looking for actors,’ and the next I knew I quit school and I connected in the exact same way the rest of my life.

“I never thought I would write a book in my life. As I mentioned, my SAT scores—I proudly say this for all you underachievers out there, you could be up here with your—excuse my French, your shitty SAT scores! My four-year-old daughter walked into my room one day and said, ‘When I was little, I used a diaper. But now I use the potty.’ And she walked out of the room. I just thought that was hilarious. I wrote down on a piece of paper, ‘When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth.’ I wrote the list of things that she couldn’t do and could do and at the end I wrote three things,

  • When I was little, I didn’t know what family was.
  • When I was little, I didn’t know what dreams were.
  • When I was little, I didn’t know who I was, but now I do.

 

“When I was finished writing that, I was sobbing and I realized I could write a book. Though I never dreamed I’d write a book, I sold it that day to a publisher in New York, and it was the first of 14 books I’ve written for children. I say it because the last thing in the world I thought I would do is write a book, and yet a book popped out.

“I’m going to tell you one more thing about life hinging on seconds you never see coming. It was 1984. I was single, sitting my apartment with my friend Debra Hill, who is no longer here, and I was getting ready to do the movie ‘Perfect.’ I opened Rolling Stone magazine. There was a picture of three guys with their arms around each other like guys do with shirt sleeves. There was a guy on the right who had a face like this [she made a funny face]. And I said to Debra, ‘I’m going to marry that guy.’ She said he was Chris Guest. I called his agent the next day, who told me he knew I was calling about Chris Guest. Debra had already called. He never called me.”

Jamie went on to tell how she continued with her life, and was even dating a fellow. After taking him to the airport one day, she drove to West Hollywood for dinner with Melanie Griffin and her husband Steven Bauer. A couple of tables away, Christopher was sitting there. Recalled Jamie: “He looked at me and went like this” [she shrugged her shoulders and made a face]. She responded in a similar fashion. As he got up to leave, he repeated the expression, to which she once again responded in the same way. The next day he called her, and they were married four months later.

Did you have mentors who helped you focus on what is important? Robin asked. “No. I’m not going to lie to you,” Jamie replied. “My mother was a surviving woman. She had a rough life. But she was a very grounded human being, and I credit her with a lot of the way I walk through the world. To be perfectly honest, mostly men hired me. It was because the business that I was in was predominantly male. Over the years I’ve partnered with women. My editor is a woman.”

Then came the moment that would become “the talk” for days to come.

Robin asked how she used her platform to address the issue of people using power over others. Looking at the floor clock, which showed that the time for their conversation was running out, Jamie said, “And that’s the real time we have left?”

Replied Robin: “I’ll tell you when we’re finished.”

Jamie Lee Curtis

Jamie said nothing. To the delight of the 1,000+ women in the room, she just held her index finger up and looked out at the audience as if to say, “Did he really just say that?”

And she let that expression and silence sit there for what probably seemed like an eternity for Robin. The oxygen in the room had been replaced with laughter.

With perfect timing, she said, “We need to talk. You’ll tell me when I’m done? I was merely trying to play by the time rule. I saw that the clock was running out. I was just asking … you’re blushing.”

The laughter only grew, and it was suspected that Robin was wishing that he could have taken back his “hinge” moment.

But like a great conductor, Jamie brought the room back to the serious subject that Robin had introduced. “What is happening today has been happening since the beginning of time,” she said. “And it always takes show business to be a catalyst for change. In recovery, I always knew that someone super-famous was going to have to die from an opiate overdose, before we changed the way we thought about opiates. Prince, a brilliant artist, was a fentanyl addict and he died from that. And now we change the rules. Now the president is convening a whole epidemic group to combat this.

“Sexual harassment and abuse have been in play since men in power have been in place. Through every generation, every business, every field, every color—there is no boundary. It’s just the nature of the beast, and it is a beast. And we are taking a look at it through the lens … pardon the pun … of Hollywood.  And it is going to create transformative change. It is going to take a little time. It is going to be a very challenging time for all us to look deep in ourselves and really figure out how we feel about it.”

She predicted that, as a result, more women would be put in positions of leadership.

Robin then said, “With your permission, I have one more.” Laughter.

Jamie answered, “That was flirting.” More laughter. “Yes, dear.”

His final question was, “What was the best moment of your life?”

She replied that it was being an adoptive mother of two children, Annie and Thomas. The moment was when, at 12:58 in the morning, Annie’s birth mother had called to say that she had given birth. Said Jamie: That was the “most transformative moment in my life. It began what has continued to be the greatest thing I will ever do in my life besides being sober. It is to share a life. It is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. It has made me look in the mirror more often about myself. It has brought us a lot of grief in our family, and a lot of healing. A child wants connection. They don’t want stuff. They want people to lean in and look at them and hear them and cherish them. The modern world makes that very difficult. We all have to work very hard to counteract that. ” 

Thanks to Jamie, 1,300 people experienced hinge moments allowing them to connect with a very special cause and person.

So, who was Jamie Lee Curtis? On Thursday, October 26, she was the BFF for more than 1,300 people—and she’s welcome back anytime she wants.

Check MySweetCharity Photo Gallery for more pictures from the luncheon.

* Follow up on the match challenge: Jamie’s invitation for people to join her in meeting the match not only met the goal, it surpassed it resulting in $60,000 from the challenge. And, no, the Celebrating Women organizers had no idea she was going to ask people to join her in donating $1,000.

Dallas Women’s Foundation Luncheon Features A STEM Pioneer—And A Surprise

Leave it to the Dallas Women’s Foundation to host a great annual luncheon—even when things don’t go exactly according to plan. That was the case on Friday, October 20, when the nonprofit presented its 32nd Annual Luncheon, titled “She Who Dares,” at the Hilton Anatole. The keynote speaker was Dr. Hope Jahren, a famous geobiologist whose research focuses on plants and who uses her platform to address the issue of gender bias in the STEM field.

As guests including Margaret Keliher, Mary Martha Pickens, Lyda Hill, and Thear Suzuki packed the Anatole ballroom, luncheon Co-Chairs A. Shonn Brown and Lisa Singleton welcomed them, declaring that “the ballroom is completely sold out!” They also announced that Lyda, who “loves supporting women in science,” had made a generous gift enabling Hope’s keynote talk to be live-streamed to 10,000 girls and young women at 20 different schools across Texas.

Following a video about three women in fields where females are under-represented—they were Jennifer Stimpson, an educator and scientist; Dr. Lucy Gildea, a chief science officer; and Dr. Amy Ho, an emergency physician—NexBank CEO John Holt revealed that the bank would match, dollar for dollar, all donations made during the luncheon, up to $100,000. The number to text was shown on the big screens, and by 11:51 the foundation had already raked in nearly $50,000.

Following an excellent lunch—butternut squash soup, roasted chicken breast, and two desserts—Foundation President and CEO Roslyn Dawson Thompson described the little packets of STEM Trading Cards (each one featured a woman blazing trails in STEM) that were being handed out, and noted that the tote board was rapidly approaching $72,000. Ros then introduced Hope, whom Ros said had written a memoir (“Lab Girl”) that “made me cry and made me laugh.”

With that, it was time for Hope’s much-anticipated keynote. Mixing humor about her Minnesota roots (“If you come to a place where they sell maple syrup and night crawlers—out of the same cooler—you’ve gone to Canada. Turn around and go back”) with a touching vulnerability (describing the lessons she learned from her late father), the unassuming scientist did not disappoint. She also talked about her study of, and love for, plants, which she said do all the things other living things do—except they can’t move.

Hope then described building a laboratory, with materials from Home Depot and Radio Shack, where she studies plants in plexiglass boxes, and how she’s used a $1,000 video camera to document how plants grow. In fact, she went on, she took a photograph of certain plants every 10 minutes for four days straight, aiming to document exactly how “alive” they really are. And, lucky us, we were about to see the result of her photographic efforts up on the giant screen.

Except, we really weren’t. It seems that, for whatever reason, Hope’s laptop screen had frozen, preventing the further projection of any images at all. “Let’s try the next slide,” she called out, to no avail. A technician rushed onstage and fiddled with a few things, but he had no luck, either. “I’m going to go forward and read from the book,” Hope said coolly, “and I’m sure that the powers-that-be will look at this” in the meantime.

Alas, that wasn’t to be, either. Proving the value of a good A/V person, if nothing else.

Texas Trailblazer Keynote Speaker Gretchen Carlson Connects The Dots Between Domestic Violence And Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Since being a little girl in Minnesota with a love of playing the violin, Gretchen Carlson has made the rounds. From being embarrassed … no, make that humiliated … when a sales clerk announced, “We need the biggest little girl bra for the chubby girl,” to taking on one of the country’s mega-media powerhouses, she’s not only rounded the track, she’s landed in the winner’s circle.

That was the feel for the Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon crowd on Friday, October 6, at the Anatole.

But first, the backstory. Gretchen, who had landed in Dallas back in the late 1990s as a reporter and anchor at KXAS, was the keynote speaker for The Family Place‘s annual fundraising luncheon that celebrated Elizabeth Grandell and Lamisa Mustafa as the 2017 Verizon Scholarship Recipients, TexProtects as Advocacy Awardee, and Lynn McBee as Trailblazer of the Year, who received a standing ovation.

Initially the day was sort low-key with the VIP meet-and-greet in the Peacock Terrace. Unlike last year’s line around the room for the grip-and-grin with Ronan Farrow, this year started off a bit slow. One guest, who arrived 10 minutes into the by-invitation event, had a touch of a shock in his/her voice, “Where are all the people?” This answer was, they were chatting it up in the opposite side of the room.

Cindy Stager, Lynn McBee, Gretchen Carlson and KJ Sanger

But Co-Chairs Kristen “KJ” Sanger and Cindy Stager and Lynn McBee as well as Nancy Gopez were on hand as well as Jan Miller in a new haircut and a touch of tear in her eye. It seems that the legendary Miller-Rich household beagle Schumacher had suffered a stroke a couple of weeks before and crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Jan Miller and Gretchen Carlson

In the meantime, the Chantilly Ballroom was being set up with an open feeling. As one person pointed out, there were generous aisles between the tables. Still, the count of 680 was down from the jam-packed TFP luncheon of 2016 with Ronan. On the screen were names of sponsors including Trammel (sic) S. Crow. That second “l” in Trammell is a tricky one.

At 11:46 a.m., a big voice announced that the program was going to start. He was a man of his word. The lights dimmed and a video was shown followed by Co-Chairs KJ and Cindy welcoming the group and Rev. Susan Robb providing the invocation.

Before Gretchen talked to the crowd including Connie O’Neill, Claire Emanuelson, Joanna Clarke, Paige Flink, Jill Tananbaum, Travis Hollman, Carol Seay, The Family Place CEO Paige Flink told of “Naomi,” who just the day before had met with her for a one-on-one. It seems that Naomi’s abusive situation had driven her to the breaking point. Her suicide note was written; she was going to take her five kids to the fire station and then she was going to a bridge from which to jump. After talking with Paige and understanding that the newly opened Ann Moody Place would provide shelter for her family, Naomi and Paige finished their chat, tearing up the suicide note.   

Paige added that had it not been for Ann Moody Place, Naomi might have become part of the statistics like the 194,000 violent acts and 158 murdered last year. That latter number was an increase over the year before. On a light noted she announced that the facility had received its first dog, Buddy, with his family. She finished her report on a positive note, saying that thanks to The Family Place, more than one-half million people had been saved thanks to the community’s support.

In addition to Paige’s celebrating her 26th anniversary with The Family Place, she had another 26-year Family Place vet, Betty Regard, join her on stage. Betty issued a $25,000 match challenge at 11:58 a.m. By 12:20 p.m., the challenge had already hauled in $15,948.

At 12:38 p.m., Gretchen arrived at the podium and showed her Stanford education smarts by telling the group of her days at KXAS back in 1998 when she did a 30-part series on domestic violence. While she admitted that a lot has changed, it hasn’t been enough.

Seamlessly, she transitioned into the eye-opening connection between domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace that she knew all too well from her 20s, when a man accosted her, to her headline-making split with the Fox News network. Both domestic violence and sexual harassment continue due to fear, embarrassment, and a lack of support, she said.

Highlights of her talk included:

  • Her mother suggested that she enter the Miss America pageant. Gretchen told her mother there was no way she would win because she was short, played a violin and “Minnesota is not a pageant state.” She entered anyway and won, despite pageant judge William Goldman’s describing her as Miss Piggy and admitting that he hated the violin.
  • After winning Miss America, she was interviewed by a reporter [Editor’s note: New York reporter Penny Crone], who quizzed her with such questions as which presidents were on the $5 and $20 bills. Ten years later, Gretchen spotted the reporter and asked if she recalled her when she was Miss America. Then Gretchen gave it to her, saying, “When I was Miss American, you tried to take me down. I just want you to know I’m a correspondent for CBS and you’re not.”
  • She was stalked for four years.
  • Her first encounter with sexual harassment was when she was in her 20s, when a TV cameraman asked her if she liked it when he put her mic on her breast.
  • 70% of women never report sexual harassment.
  • Misconceptions about sexual harassment include: women can just leave; women bring it on themselves; women make it up; women who do report it are after money or fame.
  • She has become an advocate about sexual harassment because of her children — “It’s all about the next generation.”
  • All proceeds from her book — “Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back,” which was coming out the following week, will go her “Gift of Courage” effort.
  • She pointed out three things that were needed to end such treatment:
    • Bystander support
    • Education
    • Government legislation

In closing, Gretchen made a surprise announcement: she was giving $10,000 to The Family Place.

But Gretchen isn’t gone. Come November, she’ll return to the area as part of the across-the-nation launch of workshops to empower women.

BTW, Gretchen didn’t talk about her headline-making situation with the late Roger Ailes. But just a few days later, women in the entertainment industry started following Gretchen’s lead, according to an article by Ronan about Harvey Weinstein‘s sexual harassment. They, like Gretchen, were not going to be silenced.

Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon Celebrated The Close Of Family Gateway’s 30th Anniversary Year With Laura Bush Recalling A Little Boy Left Behind

Family Gateway’s CEO Ellen Magnis had a real challenge on her hands. Last year’s Gateway To Opportunity kicking off the 30th anniversary of the organization had really been a hit with Jenna Bush Hager on stage in a chat with WFAA’s Ron Corning in the Trinity Ballroom. The blonde former first twin had also scored points at the meet-and-greet in the Fair Park Room, where she even offered to do selfies with VIPs.

Betty Schultz, Laura Bush and Paula Miltenberger

But this year’s luncheon was to be the grand finale for  the 30th anniversary year of the organization for homeless families established by the late, former Mayor Annette Strauss. Ellen with Co-Chairs Paula Miltenberger and Betty Schultz came up with quite a recipe for success. The speaker would be former first lady Laura Bush and the honorary co-chairs would be Annette’s daughters, Nancy Halbreich and Janie McGarr. Was it a success? Evidently so, judging by the turnout that doubled the crowd from the last year and necessitating the move from the 15,418-square-foot Trinity Ballroom to the 31,733-square-foot Dallas Ballroom.

Janie McGarr, Nancy Halbreich, Penny Tower Cook, Laura Bush, Jeanne Tower Cox, Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt and Christine Schuepbach

All was set for the Thursday, September 7th luncheon with a couple of unforeseen oop’s. But what’s an event without a little challenge. For the meet-and-greet, the floorplan diagram had been created like an architectural work of art. No detail had been left out. Only problem arose when the organizers arrived to find that the Omni crew had done their own interpretation that was nowhere near the diagram. After requests to follow the original POA, Omni managers sheepishly arrived to say they didn’t have enough poles and curtains to satisfy the requirements. Seems there were two other events going on and they just ran out. Quickly, the Gateway team and the Bush folks redesigned the plan to achieve their goal with the limited resources.

Rachael Dedman and Vicki Chapman

Lee Ann White, Michael Faircloth and Gene Jones

Despite starting a few minutes later that planned, the meet-and-greet went so smoothly that it finished on time with all being photographed with Laura including Jeanne Cox, Rachael Dedman, Michael Faircloth, Gina Betts, Alison Malone, Tracy Lange, the Tower sisters (Jeanne Tower Cox and Penny Tower Cook), Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt, Christine Schuepbach, Lynn McBee, Becky Bowen and Underwriting Co-Chairs Lisa Cooley and daughter Ciara Cooley. The only one who wasn’t photographed with the former first lady was Ellen. Seems that she was in the lobby helping the check-in staff that had been flooded by the number of guests like Gail and Gerald Turner, Vicki Chapman, Gunnar Rawlings, Lee Ann White and Gene Jones checking in. But that situation was resolved, too.

Gerald and Gail Turner, Alison Malone, Ciara Cooley, Lisa Cooley and Becky Bowen

Promptly at noon, following KDFW’s Clarice Tinsley‘s welcome and Highland Park United Methodist Church Rev. Paul Rasmussem’s invocation, Ellen briefly told of Gateway’s partnering with Matthews Southwest in the creation of a complex in Hutchins with 336 units for families seeking affordable housing. When a client first works with Gateway, their case manager’s first goal is get them in housing and then to work with them on education completion, job training, financial literacy, parenting education and self-care. But she added that part of their mission was to learn and apply new strategies.

Following a video, Paula told how she had gotten involved with Gateway. It was three years ago and her plan had been to keep her boys occupied. Instead she learned the need for solutions. The boys, on the other hand, suggested that they just have the homeless move in with them.

Robert Munoz and Deanna Reyna Munoz

Deanna Reyna Munoz then provided a testimonial, telling how her mother was 16 when Deanna was born. Her father was incarcerated. That’s when they found Family Gateway and for the first time she had her own room, bed and closet. The Gateway staff then helped her mother change into a responsible person resulting in her having her own home. Deanna became the first in her family to attend and graduate from college. She got a job at the Dallas Cowboys and “bought her own home with a pool and married her boyfriend (Robert Munoz) of 10 years. My success stems from the tools provided by Family Gateway.”

That powerful presentation was followed by auctioneer Wendy Lambert’s shout out for funds with a goal to match $225,000. This awkward segment tends to cast an aura of guilt in the room among those who don’t rise to occasion. In this case, the results hauled in $154,000. Or so folks thought as they finished up their meal. But post-event checks and online donations, the challenge was met!

It was now time for the main act with Presenting Sponsor MetroPCS District Manager Brad Pott’s introducing Laura.

  • She started off by thanking all for supporting Family Gateway and provided an update on the Bushes. When Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coat, Barbara and George H.W. Bush were safe and sound in Maine, where Barb is no longer walking the shores with her dogs. Instead she’s rolling around in a golf cart with the pooches following.
  • George W. Bush’s painting has resulted in 98 wounded warriors being subjects, a book “Portraits in Courage” and displayed at the Bush Center.
  • Laura and George W.’s names as grandparents — “It’s like choosing a name for a cat.” George suggested that his grandchild just call him, “Sir.”
  • Laura Bush bobble head doll — A friend gave it to her and reported that “It was on the clearance shelf.”
  • Tabloids — “My daughters were getting engaged to persons I had never heard of.”
  • 9/11 — She was sitting in Ted Kennedy’s office.

Then she tied her talk back to the subject of the day — early childhood care can change the cycle of poverty. Among the 400 families served by Family Gateway last year, there were 900 children.

Laura recalled that long before her husband was governor of Texas or president, she had worked at an inner-city school in Houston and discovered a remarkable level of poverty. Such conditions result in one in three young people dropping out of high school each year, with single-parent families becoming the norm and one or both parents in jail.

When she had completed her work at the school, she decided to take some of her students to AstroWorld. In picking them up, she arrived at one house where the student came to the door in his underwear. His mother never came to the door to provide permission for him to join the group. Before Laura left, she gave the tyke a long hug.

As Laura concluded her talk at 1:04 p.m., she admitted that she often wondered what happened to the youngster. Was he still alive? Did he have a family? What had happened to him over the past decades? She said the challenge is not to forget that little boy or any of the children in need of compassion and assistance.  

2017 Côtes Du Coeur Gala Popped The Cork To Net A Hearty $4M For The American Heart Association Dallas-Fort Worth

While the art lovers were over at the Dallas Museum of Art for the 2017 Art Ball’s “All That Glitters” on Saturday, April 22, the wine lovers were bubbling with bid cards, grazing the the chef stations and raising wine glasses at the 2017  Côtes du Coeur to provide funding for the American Heart Association Dallas-Fort Worth at the Omni Dallas Hotel. Here is a report from the field:

2017 Cotes du Coeur*

The American Heart Association’s 2017 Côtes du Coeur Gala, held at the Omni Dallas Hotel on Saturday, April 22, hosted close to 1,200 business and wine industry leaders, community philanthropists, wine collectors and physicians. Led by renowned Chef Richard Chamberlain, a team of 18 acclaimed chefs visited with guests and served up selections from a boldly unique tasting menu accompanied by wine pairings created from the cellars of 30 elite wineries.

Richard Chamberlain and Steve Grimshaw*

The event featured 620 silent auction wine lots and 12 live auction items which offered opportunities to stay at exclusive luxury homes, tour vineyards, experience private chef tasting menus and much more.

Doug Hawthorne and Kelly and David Pfeil*

Barbara Smith*

Chaired by Kelly and David Pfeil with Barbara Smith as the Executive Leadership Team Chair, this year’s event grossed $4.6 million and netted $4 million to fund life -saving research and educational programs, making it a record breaking sum for the Dallas event and across the country for the American Heart Association.

The highest Live Auction package was an exclusive trip to Paris to privately tour the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles, which sold twice for $110,000.

Denise Hunter and Erin Hunter*

Heart disease survivor Erin Hunter shared her story on-stage with her mom, Denise. The survivor testimonial, Open Your Heart, was lead with a gift of $150,000, and matched in the room by an inspired couple, who prefer to remain anonymous.

“I don’t remember a time where I didn’t have to think about my heart. Between my surgeries and check-ups, I lived as normal a life as I possibly could,” said Erin, who is now a nurse at the Heart Center at Children’s Health where she underwent numerous heart surgeries as a child. “Many people have said that things happen for a reason, and I believe that is true. Because of my experiences, I am able to give back to parents and patients going through similar tough times that my family went through.”

“It is because of fundraising events like Côtes du Coeur, and the support of the generous individuals and businesses that attended Saturday night, that the funding for cardiovascular research and health education programs remains strong and continues to save lives,” American Heart Association Executive Director Melissa Cameron said.

Merry Edwards*

Mike and Diane Gruber and Kim and Greg Hext*

Some of the attendees in the room were Tete du Cuvee honoree Merry Edwards of Merry Edwards Winery, Barbara and Mike Smith, Kim and Greg Hext, Melissa and Steve Grimshaw, Anne Davidson, Diane and Mike Gruber, Diane and Hal Brierley, Laura and Eric Hutto, Tim Wallace, Carol and Matt Holmes, Katherine Wynne, Doug Hawthorne, Amy and Michael Meadows, Ron Haddock, Mary Parker, Pam and Mark Okada, Keli and Mike Jenkins, Jana and Mike Brosin, Eric and Amy Schoch and chefs John Tesar, Jim “Sevy” Severson, Dean Fearing, Kevin Garvin, Matt McCallister, Alex Astranti and Chad Houser.

Mary Parker and Tim Wallace*

Anne Davidson and Mark Porter*

The 2018 Dallas Côtes du Coeur will be held on Saturday, April 21, at the Omni Dallas. Terri and Tim Gallagher will serve as the chairs

For a full list of chefs, wineries, sponsors and committee members, visit dallaswineauction.com.

* Photo provided by American Heart Association Dallas-Fort Worth

Go Red For Women Luncheon Speaker Alison Levine Inspired Guests To Conquer All Challenges Including Heart Disease By Being Relentless

As loads of folks especially ladies attended the health screenings, cooking demonstration and CPR demonstration starting at 10 a.m. at Omni Dallas for Go Red for Women on Friday, February 4, the car cha-cha at the front door grew to bumper-to-bumper around 11:30 for those attending just the luncheon.

Amy Simmons Crafton, Melissa Cameron and Anne Stodghill

In the meantime, the invitation-only VIP reception scheduled for 10:30 was aglow in red thanks to guests in their American Heart Association best like Amy Simmons Crafton and Anne Stodghill, who was in a full-length red coat complete with glitter.

Miller Gill, Rebecca Gill, Mary Parker, Suzanne Humphreys and Joe Parker

Nancy Gopez and Alison Levine

Alas, speaker-of-honor Alison Levine was late in arriving, but once there she was non-stop howdy-doing. Waiting their turn with Alison, Sandi Haddock Community Impact Awardee Mary Parker and her family (son Miller Gill, daughter Rebecca Gill, mother Suzanne Humphreys and husband Joe Parker) posed for a quick cellphoto taken by Open Your Heart Chair and Survivor Nancy Gopez.

By noon the reception area in front of the Dallas Ballroom looked like a poppy field thanks to guests like Sandi Haddock, Kay Hammond, Kit Sawers, Roz Colombo, Gina Betts, Debbie Oates, Christie Carter, Mary Martha Pickens, Lisa Cooley, Ciara Cooley, Tracy Lange, Becky Bowen, Vicki Howland, Ramona Jones and fellas like Ron Haddock and Stan Levenson.

Kit Sawers, Gina Betts and Roz Colombo

Mary Martha Pickens, Ciara Cooley and Lisa Cooley

Thank heaven the chimes rang, the ballroom doors opened and the crowd filled the place.

Stan Levenson

Pat Malambri

Luncheon Chair Michelle Vopni introduced Amy Simmons Crafton for the invocation and Macy’s Dallas Fort Worth District VP Pat Malambri, who told of the longtime association of the retailer with the battle against heart disease in women. He also added that he hoped that many of the guests’ red outfits had come from Macy’s.

Following a brief rest for lunch, American Heart Association Dallas/Fort Worth Executive Director Melissa Cameron presented the Sandi Haddock Community Impact Award to Mary Parker, who graciously accepted the award and scored points with Pat saying, “My dress came from Macy’s.”

Then Melissa presented Open Your Heart Chair/Survivor Nancy Gopez, who asked her pal Mary to return to the podium to share the occasion. It was Mary’s advocacy about heart disease that alerted Nancy to the sign of her heart attack last year.

Mary told the audience that Amy and her AmazingGrace.Life had provided a $25,000 match for any $1,000 contributors.

Beck Weathers

As the ladies left the stage, local mountain climber Dr. Beck Weathers, who barely survived the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster, introduced Alison, who gave a polished talk. Somehow, she intertwined her twice quest to conquer Mt. Everest with every day challenges by taking one step at a time and the importance of being relentless. The first attempt in 2002 had been daunting with weeks of climbing back and forth between camps on the mountain to acclimate her body for the climb to the 29,002-foot peak. Toward the final phase, one has to take five to ten breaths for each step. To make it through this part of the climb, she focused on a nearby rock. Once there, she would focus on another rock. The message was to take one step at a time in order to achieve the final goal.

In the end, she and her team had come within 200 feet of the summit only to have to turn back because they were running low on oxygen and supplies.

Alison Levine

As a result of the miss, she learned that failure wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, she and her team survived. If they had made it to summit, they might not have survived the journey down. Still, she had no plans of attempting another run for the summit.

It was her good friend/collegiate All-American soccer player Meg Berté Owen who urged her to try again. It was Meg’s resilience that turned Alison’s decision. It seems that despite her lungs being damaged due to having Hodgkin’s disease, Meg had become an avid cyclist and raised funds to fight cancer. Her death in 2009 as a result of the flu provided the impetus for Alison to take on Everest again. This time she engraved Meg’s name on her ice-ax and took on the challenge one more time. This time as she neared the summit, a storm approached. But Alison just knew she could make it to the top and return safely. Yes, she made it to the top of the world long enough to hold up a T-shirt reading “Team Meg.”

It was a talk that lasted just long enough and yet was both inspirational and refreshing.

Then it was a scamper to the cars, but it ran right on time with a finish time of 1:10.

The Family Place’s Legacy Campaign Is Within A Whisker Of Achieving Its $16.5M Goal And Needs Help To Close The Books

Paige Flink (File photo)

Was it really back on October 2015 that The Family Place’s Paige Flink announce The Family Place Legacy Campaign — Building For the Future — to build a 40,000-square foot Central Dallas Counseling Center? Her goal for the capital campaign was a whopping $13M. To get things rolling, The Moody Foundation kicked in $5M that resulted in the facility being named “Ann Moody Place.”

While the physical process of groundbreaking and building has been underway, so has the effort because the goal increased to $16.5M with good reason. According to Paige, the center is going to provide such services and offerings to “help us meet the burgeoning demand for our services. Every year there are approximately 15,000 incidents of family violence reported to the Dallas Police Department. The Family Place, which is the largest family violence shelter in our community and one of the largest service providers in Texas, shelters over 1,000 victims a year at our Safe Campus with 108 beds plus cribs. Our existing shelter is regularly full. The new facility will allow us to shelter an additional 45 women and children each night. It will also house our expanded Central Dallas counseling services for victims and their children, and a medical and dental clinic for clients.”

Ann Moody Place rendering*

To accommodate those needs, Paige and her crew recognized from experience some of the reasons people in need don’t seek help. For instance, “studies show that up to 65% of domestic violence victims are unable to escape their abusers because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets when they leave.”

Pets won’t be left behind

To ease those concerns, Ann Moody Place will have five dog kennels, five cat towers, a cuddle room where clients can visit their animals plus a dog run. Thanks to a partnership with the SPCA of Texas, a vet-tech will make sure all animals are vaccinated and care for.

But as the Monday, May 1st move-in date approaches, $220,000 is still needed to complete the fundraising. As a greater incentive to donate ASAP, Highland Capital Management has provided a $1M-challenge. For every dollar raised by Tuesday, April 4, Highland will provide 50 cents.

So, perhaps your budget can’t quite muster up a hundred thousand or two. Not to worry. There are other opportunities like

  • $500 for a 6” by 12” engraved brick
  • $1,000 for a donor to have his/her/their name(s) etched in a beautiful display in the breezeway connecting the two new buildings.
  • $7,500 for each of the two remaining outdoor seating areas in the healing garden

And wouldn’t you know that the dog kennels have all been underwritten, but the poor cats are playing second fiddle and are in need of $10,000-naming rights for each of the two remaining cat towers.

Of course, Paige has other underwriting opportunities. Why she just might arrange to have your name tattooed on her shoulder for the right price.  

* Graphic courtesy of The Family Place

JUST IN: Sons Of The Flag Endowment For Burn Care Supplies Is Established At Parkland Health And Hospital System

Over the years Parkland Health and Hospital has become renowned for being the only adult and pediatric center in North Texas verified by the American Burn Association. In addition to its reputation for its specialized treatments, it has provided it for those who are uninsured.

Yesterday afternoon, the Sons of the Flag established the Sons of the Flag Endowment for Burn Care Supplies with a $12,500 contribution that was matched by anonymous donation via Parkland Foundation.

Mary Meier-Evans, Herb Phelan, Ryan Parrott, Steven Wolf, Stephanie Campbell, Kathy Doherty and Beth Dexter*

The results? The $25,000 total will “support and enhance burn care at Parkland Health and Hospital System by providing wound kits and supplies for uninsured burn patients.”

According to Sons of the Flag President/CEO Ryan Parrott, “This is an exciting opportunity for Sons of the Flag to live out its mission and expand access to critical supplies and treatment for many in our community who cannot afford them. To partner with Parkland Foundation in supporting the Parkland Burn Center through this endowment is an important step in ensuring we are doing everything we can to improve burn care throughout North Texas.”

On hand for the announcement in addition to the media were Sons of the Flag Director of Development Mary Meier-Evans, Parkland Foundation Development Officer Beth Dexter and Parkland Burn Center’s Dr. Herb Phelan, Dr. Steven Wolf, Stephanie Campbell and Kathy Doherty.

The Sons of the Flags has also provided more than $10,000 in in-kind donations of Go Bags, clothing, toys, snacks and holiday decorations thanks to its supporters and volunteers.

Parkland Foundation President/CEO David Krause said, “We are grateful for the ongoing generosity of Sons of the Flag and their commitment to helping the patients in Parkland’s burn center. Their most recent gift to establish an endowment to support the burn center will help Parkland provide life-saving care to burn patients for generations to come.”

Sons of the Flag “is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting military, first responder, and civilian burn survivors by providing funding for innovative research, technology and education. We bring together passionate community leaders, pioneering physicians, experienced military service members, dedicated first responders and purposeful civilians to complete our mission.”

* Photo provided by Sons of the Flag

Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon Speaker Ronan Farrow Described Domestic Violence as A Form Of Terrorism Within The Home

Noontime on Tuesday, October 4, had something for everyone. But, alas, along with the plethora of choices, decisions had to be made. For more than a thousand, the answer was The Family Place’s 2016 Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon at the Hilton Anatole.

After all, Luncheon Co-Chairs Lisa and Marvin Singleton had arranged for an all-star lineup — honorees Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Dallas Cowboys First Daughter Charlotte Jones Anderson and Dallas Police Chief David Brown along with Honorary Co-Chairs Pat and Emmitt Smith and keynote speaker Ronan Farrow.

With that cast of headliners, it was understandable that some didn’t make it. They had very good excuses. Pat Smith was with her dad, who was undergoing surgery, and since it was his last day as Dallas police chief David Brown was back at headquarters spending his last few hours with his comrades.

But the MIAs were hardly noticed in the VIP meet-and-greet with loads of guests including Lynn and Allan McBee (he’s been rehearsing with the Dallas Opera), Ros Dawson, Underwriting Co-Chair Carol Seay and Phyllis Comu who reported that she relieved not to be waking up in the middle of night in preparation for last month’s Fur Ball.

At 11:10 the man-of-the-hour Ronan slipped and looked like any very cool 20-something. But among this stiletto and silk skirt crowd that type of fella couldn’t make it by totally unnoticed, so word quickly made the rounds the “he” was in the room.

Sure, he had famous genes, but on his own Ronan had accomplished so much in his 28 years. Having graduated from college at the age of 15 and was accepted by Yale Law School at when he was 16. He deferred attendance “to work as special adviser to former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.” Ronan did earn his law degree before he was 24. Named a Rhodes Scholar in 2012, he was leaving after the luncheon for Oxford London to defend his dissertation on violence. And that was just a smidgen of his credentials.

Regarded by many within the national media as the spokesperson for the millennial generation, he was asked his opinion if the flood of aging baby boomers might overwhelm the millennials. Without hesitation, Ronan didn’t hesitate and responded, “We don’t have the problems that say China has. There are a lot of parts in the world where there’s going to be this massive imbalance of generations and it’s going to cause all sorts of social tension. I think we’re going to be okay in the United States.”

Marvin and Lisa Singleton, Ronan Farrow, Charlotte Jones Anderson and Emmitt Smith

Marvin and Lisa Singleton, Ronan Farrow, Charlotte Jones Anderson and Emmitt Smith

Ronan Farrow, Lisa and Marvin Singleton, Charlotte Jones Anderson and Emmitt Smith

Ronan Farrow, Lisa and Marvin Singleton, Charlotte Jones Anderson and Emmitt Smith

Then taking his place in front of The Family Place backdrop, Ronan looked a bit bewildered by the grip-and-grin setup. One photographer had the VIP type shot in front of the backdrop and a second one would have step to the far left to be shot in front of a curtain. The explanation was that a lot of the media didn’t want shots in front the sponsor board. Oh.

At times the meet-and-greet seemed a bit unorganized. Unlike other photo opps where one staffer/volunteer stood at the front of the line advising guests to place their purse on the table and move quickly, this one was a little more casual. While the lineup of guests waiting their turn for a photo with Ronan stretched the length of the room, some were a little surprised to see others standing nearby and hopping into additional photos “with friends.” Wonder if Emily Post had a section on cutting in line?

Nevertheless, Ronan showed his cool factor and good naturedly went with the flow. However, he did perk up like a kid when he saw Charlotte approach. They hugged and he congratulated her on the award. Then they posed for photos with Emmitt Smith adding to the cool factor.

Erin Young Garrett, Cindy North and Angela Batra

Erin Young Garrett, Cindy North and Angela Batra

As the photo session wound down, guests headed to the Chantilly Ballroom. Snapshots around the room: Cindy North was taking a break from being with her dad at UT Southwestern following a double lung transplant. She was lunching with her plan Erin Young Garrett and Angela Batra … 2017 Cattle Baron’s Ball Co-Chairs Sunie Solomon and Anne Stodghill reported that they were focusing on the next ten days of supporting 2016 CBB Co-Chairs Cara French and Andrea Weber’s American Cancer Society fundraising on Saturday, October 15, at Gilley’s… and others including Annette Simmons, Anita Arnold, Sandy Chapman, Kimber Hartmann, Kelli and Jerry Ford, Joyce Fox, Sally Hoglund and Distinguished Co-Chair Julie Turner.

Kelli and Jerry Ford

Kelli and Jerry Ford

Annette Simmons and Anita Arnold

Annette Simmons and Anita Arnold

Sune Solomon and Anne Stodghill

Sunie Solomon and Anne Stodghill

Joyce Fox

Joyce Fox

The guests settled down because they had a full agenda starting off with Lisa and Marvin welcoming the guests, Rev. Abe Cooper Jr. of Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church providing the invocation and a video address by Mayor Mike Rawlings “officially welcoming” and thanking attendees for supporting The Family Place and recognizing the honorees and his hero The Family Place CEO Paige Flink.

Following the video, Paige provided a state of the union for the organization that has been on the forefront of providing assistance for victims of domestic abuse. Among the developments is the new 40,000-square-foot Ann Moody Place that is currently under construction. It has been specifically designed for victims of family violence. Among the many offerings that Paige listed, it was interesting to note that the facility’s ability to accept family pets received applause from the audience. It seems, according to Paige that there are families that will not seek help if it means leaving their pet behind.

Paige Flink, James Dondero and Sally Hoglund

Paige Flink, James Dondero and Sally Hoglund

She then reported that they were in the final $2.8M stretch of their capital campaign’s goal of $16.5M. This news was a perfect lead in for the introduction of Highland Capital Management Co-Founder/President Jim Dondero, who announced “the firm has awarded a $1-million challenge grant to help The Family Place raise the final $2.8 million for its Legacy Campaign in the next six months.”

In other words as Paige explained, Highland Capital Management was offering $1M, if The Family Place could raise $2M. Immediately, Paige told all to pull out their phones and instructed on how to submit their donation. The place looked like a Pokemon Go convention.

After lunch, Paige was back at the podium with ugly statistics about domestic abuse including 158 women killed in the state of Texas. That was an increase of almost 20% over 2015. On the screen were the names of 16 women, who were murdered in Dallas and Collin counties. None of these women had services at The Family Place.

Recent developments by The Family Place have been the opening of a counseling facility in McKinney and on Sunday, October 30, the state’s first shelter for men will be opened. In the past, The Family Place has had to put these male victims of domestic abuse in hotels which was not therapeutic nor cost effective.

In recognition of those making a difference, the awards were presented with Major Alfred Diorio of the Domestic Violence Unit standing in for Chief Brown.

Marvin Singleton, Alfred Diorio and Lisa Singleton

Marvin Singleton, Alfred Diorio and Lisa Singleton

In accepting her award as Texas Trailblazer of the Year, Charlotte eloquently told how the Cowboys and the NFL were taking the situation of domestic abuse to heart. As part of their effort, she has had Paige involved in working with the Dallas Cowboys to “face this issue together.”

It was then time for Ronan to speak to the group and that he did. He started of saying, “I am very, very nerdy.” Highlights of his talk were:

Ronan Farrow

Ronan Farrow

  • His visiting The Family Place that morning and talking with a hotline operator by the name of Maria. She told him that it is sometimes so hard to get callers to openly speak about their abusive situation. “They say they’re only being yelled at, when in fact what’s happening is brutal abuse.”
  • He came to the lunch in two respects: “As a reporter who has tried in earnest to cover this issue and also, of course, I come to you as a sibling and as a son, whose life has been profoundly shaped by family abuse. In both respects I’ve seen two things. One, how far we have come and how the conversation around this issue is changing. And, two, how much farther we still have to go.”
  • Charlotte Jones Anderson: “It is fitting that The Family Place is honoring Charlotte Jones Anderson here today. She has been at the center of the firestorm over the league [NFL]. But she has also been in the transformation of how they approach this issue. I was talking with her about it yesterday and saying that I was going to mention some of my reporting on this. And she told me that, ‘You know the media often exclusively focuses on the negative and not progress being made. I work at basic cable. This is not news to me. She’s right. There is progress.”
  • His own family experiences: “It was also two years ago in that same time frame (during the Ray Rice episode) that my sister Dylan Farrow wrote about her own experiences with domestic abuse alleging that our father Woody Allen had groomed her as a young girl with inappropriate touching and had eventually sexually assaulted her when she was seven years old. It’s a story not unlike experienced by women at the shelter I was at today. Whether you are famous or live a completely private life, whether you are rich or poor, I learned firsthand that this can happen in any family.”
  • The media’s treatment of Dylan’s story: “At the time, many newspapers refused to run my sister’s story. She tried to speak out, but the issue was just too hot and editors told me privately the alleged perpetrator was just too powerful for them to touch it. Nicholas Kristof, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and a longtime advocate for victim’s rights, put it on his blog. Soon afterwards The Times gave her alleged attacker twice the space and a prime position in the print version of their paper. It laid bare just how differently we treat vulnerable accusers, particularly women, as opposed powerful men who stand accused. After she went public, too, my sister faced a campaign of shaming, of character assassination orchestrated by our father’s powerful PR firm. Those around her, my mother, me were tarred as well though we weren’t involved…just easy targets. This is one reason why so many families stay silent for so long. And why so many abuse survivors find themselves left all alone. At the time… I hate to admit it, but I even hesitated and kept as quiet as long outside of a single brief statement of support for my sister. And my sister had to look on as the press quickly swept her story under the rug. She was retraumatized by every lifetime achievement award, every golden profile. But in Hollywood as well something began to change. Just a few days after my sister’s story ran, Gawker used that story as their lead in reviving another set of allegations against another beloved comedy icon, Bill Cosby. What followed were two years of painful cultural re-examination about how we talk about this issue, about how we confront abuse when the alleged perpetrator is powerful. So much so that when the Hollywood Reporter ran the latest of those glowing profiles this year, people were actually angry. The tone changed. Women especially, but increasingly as often men, too. And when the Hollywood Reporter approached me asking for a follow-up assessing the issue as a reporter and as a member of that family, I finally made the tough choice to embrace speaking out about this as well.
  • Current situation: “My sister and my mother still face public shaming. My own Twitter feed is still razed by daily death threats from angry fans. But there is also an outpouring of support by thousands of people saying, ‘I have been there, too. My family has been there, too.’”
  • The future: “There is more to be done, but how far we have come. Domestic abuse is not an NFL problem. It is not a Hollywood problem. It is an American problem. It is a global problem. And it is an urgent one. As all of us in this country lived out the shock and the horror of The Pulse nightclub shootings this past summer, we learned that the murderer had beaten his wife, as had the gunman behind the fatal hostage crisis in Sydney two years ago. In fact 16% of perpetrators in mass shootings between 2009 and 2015 had previously been charged with some kind of domestic violence.
  • Terrorism: “These acts are a form of terrorism. They are the embodiment of the worst and most destructive human impotence to control others through fear and violence. And with other forms of terrorism, allowing this one to fester hurts and threatens all of us. It threatens our cultural integrity, our ability to insure all of our freedom. That’s why I felt I had that obligation to speak here today in support of my own family and to try to keep the conversation going whatever small way I can through my reporting.” But speaking is not enough. We all know that.”
  • The Family Place website: “It is so inclusive. Inclusive of the many LGBTQ youth who face abuse. Of the men who face abuse.”
  • His family: “Rewind for a moment to my childhood. I’m about 12 years old, sitting down for dinner at the family dinner table. To my left are Quincy and Isaiah, African American, both born to drug-addicted mothers in American inner cities. Across from me are Tam and Minh, both blind and adopted from Viet Nam and a teenager in mine, who has been with this family most of her life. She was adopted as a young girl. We are all having a heated debate as is usual the case at the Farrow family dinner table.  And Quincy goes, ‘Well, as a black woman…’ And Minh stops her and says, ‘Whoa, whoa, wait. Quincy is black?’ … Every night was like that. We were a mini-United Nations or, at least, a United Color. Fourteen siblings adopted from around the world and reflecting the world’s worst problems. Siblings with cerebral palsy, with polio, blind, paraplegic, learning disabled. The people I loved most in the world were the people the world left behind. Many had faced years of abuse before I ever met them or they became a part of my family. The kind of abuse that leaves scars physical and emotional that you can never outrun sometimes.”

In closing he told how Maria admitted that hardest things she has to tell a caller, “Sorry, but we’re full.” With that Ronan made one last plea for guests to support The Family Place in providing shelter. “When my mother started adopting kids in the 70s, people called her crazy. When she faced her most vicious attacks after my sister’s allegations more recently, they called our family a commune, a shelter, not a home. But my family was both a home and a shelter. And I am so deeply proud of that. I have been so grateful to have seen the value of giving someone shelter when they need it most. I cannot think of anything more powerful and precious to give someone.

Equest Women’s Auxiliary Luncheon Celebrated Equest’s 35th Anniversary With Guests Ponying Up For A Match Offer

Amigo, Rico and Teddy found Brook Hollow Golf Club to their liking on Tuesday, October 4. After all, the weather was perfect, the grass was green and they were the center of attention as guests arrived for the 2016 Equest Women’s Auxiliary Luncheon’s “Riding High.” For their being part of the greeting lineup, Equest‘s Amigo, Rico and Teddy had come all the way from Equest’s Wylie facility and they definitely didn’t use Uber. The three equines opted for trailer accommodations with their handlers (Alyssa Cigainero, Shelby Nicoletti, Lizzie Ball and Tia Turkeulainen) and riders (James Taylor in English attire and Ryan Wolf in chaps) in tow.

Teddy and Alyssa Cigainero

Teddy and Alyssa Cigainero

Rico and Tiia Turkulainen

Rico and Tiia Turkulainen

Ryan Wolf, Amigo and Shelby Nicoletti

Ryan Wolf, Amigo and Shelby Nicoletti

Program Director Joan Cutler, who started out as an Equest volunteer back in the ’90s, couldn’t have been happier with her crew of horses, volunteers and staffers on the country club’s grounds.

Inside the clubhouse, Equest Women’s Auxiliary President Di Johnston was also all smiles about the day. Thanks to fashion producer Jan Strimple and Highland Park Village’s Lela Rose, Alice and Olivia, St. John, Market, Etro, Akris, Carolina Herrera and William Noble Jewels, there would be more than 70 outfits on the runway.

But before the fashions would be presented to guests like last year’s Honorary Chair Carolyn Lupton, Jean Lattimore, Lisa Cooley, Elisa Summers, Heather Washburne, Nancy Carter, Jill Rowlett and Bela Piertrovic, the program got underway with Di revealing that one of the best days during her presidency was the one in which Kara Axley agreed to chair the luncheon.

Carolyn Lupton and Jean Lattimore

Carolyn Lupton and Jean Lattimore

Kara recognized the partnership that Equest has had over the years with Highland Park Village and its being this year’s presenting sponsor. She then introduced Park Cities Presbyterian Church Associate Pastor Dr. Pete Deison, who reminded guests that “the heart of Equest is compassion. It is a value that is slowly and sadly waning in our society because we have become a society that is more interested in what we see on our computers and on our phones that we do reaching out and touching other people. We are also interested in the things that go fast rather than the time it takes to saddle a horse and touch an individual that needs our help.”

Following the invocation, Kara introduced 2016 Honorary Co-Chair Bill Noble, who described the love that he and wife/2016 Honorary Co-Chair Lezlie Noble have for Equest as a star with the five points — the staff, the volunteers, the horses, the clientele (handicapped children and military veterans) and the donors. “Equest cannot do what they do without you guys.”

Equest CEO Lil Kellogg then described how children who spend most of their days in wheelchairs are taller than all others when they ride their therapy horses.

Following Lili, a video was shown with Equest Founder Susan Schwartz and others recalling Equest’s 35 years of providing equine power for those with physical and emotional challenges.

Louise Griffeth, Kara Axley, Lindalyn Adams and Di Johnston

Louise Griffeth, Kara Axley, Lindalyn Adams and Di Johnston

As the lights went up, Equest Women’s Auxiliary Founder Louise Griffeth was at the podium introducing the 2016 Equest Award for Community Service honoree Lindalyn Adams. Louise described Lyndalyn as a “Superwoman” who has been the driving force for countless nonprofits and community organization, as well as being a great grandmother of four.

Following Lindalyn’s being presented with an award from Tiffany, Louise said that she had more news. An anonymous donor had agreed to match any monies raised at the day’s luncheon in honor of the 35th anniversary of Equest.

Annie Griffeth

Annie Griffeth

She then added that the poster at the entrance of the clubhouse would report the tally of the day, and that the illustration had been created by her new daughter-in-law Annie Griffeth.

Kara provided one more bit of news. Fashion producer Jan Strimple and Akris would be hosting an event benefiting Equest in the Akris store on Thursday, October 6, featuring their new Aidentity handbag from 1 to 6 p.m.

She also announced that Beth Thoele would be chairing the 2017 luncheon.

With the removal of the podium, the fashions started parading down the runway.

The only oops of the day occurred when a couple of guests managed to sit down in front-row seats that had been assigned to others, driving the real seat-holders away to the north 40. Then the same twosome arrived at one of the big-buck tables, forcing one of the assigned guests to hit McDonalds for a bite—and the venue’s staff to squeeze in an extra chair and place-setting at the table for the other displaced guest. Confused by the situation, the table host thought the event organizers had reassigned her/his original guests with the permission and approval of the castaways. Oh, well, mix-ups do happen. But even a McDonald’s Southwest salad can’t hold a candle to Brook Hollow’s pecan crusted chicken.

JUST IN: A Million-Dollar Challenge Was Just Served Up At The Family Place’s Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon

One of the ultimate great dishes served up at a fundraising luncheon is a big buckaroo challenge. And that’s what just happened at The Family Place’s 21st Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon in the Hilton Anatole’s Chantilly Ballroom.

Highland Capital Management’s Co-Founder/President James Dondero just announced that “the firm has awarded a $1-million challenge grant to help The Family Place raise the final $2.8 million for its Legacy Campaign in the next six months.”

Paige Flink, James Dondero and Sally Hoglund

Paige Flink, James Dondero and Sally Hoglund

The grant will match 50% of any funds raised for the capital campaign’s goal of $16.5M that The Family Place’s Paige Flink and her team have been working on.

Ah, now you know why Paige and Luncheon Co-Chairs Lisa and Marvin Singleton had such happy faces at last night’s patron party.

More about that party and today’s luncheon in the days ahead. But did want you to know of about the delicious challenge that was just served up.

Inaugural Kidstruction Had Architectural, Construction And Engineerin Firms Providing $57,000 For Children’s

Architectural, construction and engineering types have made North Texas amazing. Need proof? Look around. Their talents and materials have had the brainiacs like Mark Lamster impressed and brain scratching.

But these folks have also put their dough where the future lies. And that future is the well-being of North Texas children. Of course, you need proof. So, Children’s Medical Center Foundation‘s Kidstruction is the perfect example.

It seems that architectural, engineering and construction industry leaders challenged their peers to “donate a portion of their paychecks to Children’s during the month of March, depending on their companies’ pay schedules.”

Thanks to more than a dozen companies, 129 staffers participated to the tune of $57,000 that “will support essential Family Support services such as social work, pastoral care and Child Life, which includes clown, art, art, music and pet therapies.”

Donor(D160621R): KIDstruction event with check presentations from participating architecture firms that raised funds for CHST.*

Kidstruction event with check presentations*

Why, some of these companies like McCarthy Building Co. and Schwob Building Co. even rose to the occasion by matching “their employees’ gifts, while others contributed direct donations and sponsorships.”

According to Children’s Medical Center Foundation President Kern Wildenthal, “Our inaugural Kidstruction Week campaign’s success was fueled by the support of a highly engaged steering committee representing some of the most respected construction, design and architectural firms in North Texas. The active participation and support of the companies’ executives and employees – in Kidstruction Week and through many other events – continues to help us expand our philanthropic footprint in the region.”

Originally, the effort was just a few key folks like Texo CEO Meloni McDaniel, who took the lead and got others on board like committee members Adam Panter, Mark Stewart, Whitney Bietendorf, Jason Hale, Wendy Hatchell, Joe Jouvenal, Shelby Adams, Kimberly Burke, Brent Archer, Nick Hasty, Whitney Teague, Hattie Peterson and Michael Beal.

They in turn got the following companies to participate: Skanska USA, McCarthy Building Co., Schwob Building Co., HDR, WHR Architects, Spring Valley Construction Co., TDIndustries, Datum Engineers, Walter P Moore, Chamberlin Roofing and Waterproofing, Alpha-Barnes Real Estate Services, PRDG and HKS.

For some who participated, the effort was more than a corporate project, it was a personal involvement like Spring Valley Construction Co. Marketing Manager Whitney Teague, whose daughter was treated for leukemia at Children’s and released in January.

According to Whitney, “I never thought my own daughter would be a patient at Children’s, but after what we have been through, I understand, like I never could have before, the value of this hospital and its place in the community.”

Plans call for meetings to begin in August to organize Kidstruction 2017 with a goal to double the number of participating companies and individuals. Interested? Children’s Medical Center Foundation’s Audra Cozart can help you get involved.

* Photo provided by Children's Medical Center Foundation

S.M. Wright Foundation Launches Beds For Kids Campaign This Saturday For Children To Get A Good Night’s Sleep

Each year around the holidays, the S.M. Wright Foundation makes headlines with its Christmas in the Park at Fair Park when it provides thousands of children with all types of wonderful gifts. Without the Foundation and its supporters, these children would have a pretty bleak Christmas.

But there are more than toys that are provided. For instance, Natalie and Mike McGuire’s daughter, Highland Park High School student Maddy McGuire, created the “Coats for Kids” program to provide warm coats for children in need. Just this past year 3,000 new coats were distributed at Christmas in the Park. To help her achieve this number, Maddy created the S.M. Wright Club at HPHS. Thanks to the volunteers, they were able to provide the coats plus a check for $19,240 to the Foundation.

Beds for Kids*

Beds for Kids*

What many folks don’t realize is that the Foundation’s efforts extend beyond the holiday gift-giving season. The Foundation discovered that children were in need of beds “to get a good night’s sleep,” so the Bed for Kids program was undertaken to provide twin- and full-size mattresses, box springs and frames for qualifying families.

This Saturday between 9 a.m. and noon, pre-approved families will pick up their beds. However, the need has far exceeded the demand.

S.M. Wright II (File photo)

S.M. Wright II (File photo)

According to S.M. Wright Foundation President/Co-Founder/CEO Rev. S.M. Wright II, “Beds for Kids began in 2010 and since then, we have distributed more than 6,360 bed sets to underprivileged kids in our community. Unfortunately, the demand far exceeds the Foundation’s ability to supply beds and there is still a long waiting list of more than 4,200 kids.”

To ramp up the effort, the Foundation is using Saturday to also launch the 1st Annual S.M. Wright Beds for Kids Campaign.

As S.M. Wright II revealed, “The good news is an anonymous donor has given a $40,000 matching pledge, so each $1.00 donated by the public will equal $2.00 in support of that goal. The campaign runs through September 30, 2016, so we encourage the public to visit our website  and donate today to help the children in our community.”

A $165 donation will provide a new twin bed set and a full-size bed can be provided for $200.

Beds for Kids*

Beds for Kids*

The vetting process of who gets a bed is strictly monitored — “To qualify, a family must complete an application, show proof of income and residency, provide a valid birth certificate for each child, and meet Texas Commodity Assistance Program income requirements. After the application has been processed, a foundation staff member or community service partner representative visits the family’s residence to verify the need for a bed. Upon approval, the family can pick up the bed from the foundation’s warehouse. Approximately one month after the bed is received, the foundation staff member visits again to make sure the bed is being put to good use and to inform the family about other foundation resources.”

So far the following organizations have supported the Beds for Kids program: A-Z Therapy, Child Protective Services – Dallas, Tarrant and Collin County, Children’s Medical Center, Dallas Healthy Start, Dallas Housing Authority, Dallas ISD, Desoto ISD, El Centro College/Adult Resource Center, Genesis Women Shelter, Head Start of Greater Dallas, Healing Heart Center, Home Sweet Home/The Salvation Army, Kipp Truth Elementary, Lancaster ISD, Lumin Bachman Lake Community School, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Clinic, Methodist Children’s Home Outreach, Metro Care, Parkland Outpatient Clinic, Psychological Social Services and Homeless Education  Program, Rosemont Mission Trail, St. Vincent De Paul Collin County, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Texas Department of Health, UT Southwestern Medical Center and Well Care.

* Graphic and photo provided by S.M. Wright Foundation

JUST IN: Nancy And Richard Rogers’ Million-Dollar Challenge For Genesis Women’s Shelter And Support Was Matched Today

While most folks would be crying their eyes out if they were a million dollars poorer today, ’tis not the case for Nancy and Richard Rogers. Sure, they’re out $1M, but they aren’t boo-hooing one bit.

The reason is that they challenged folks to raise money for Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support. The challenge was a million-buckaroo match for the Genesis Luncheon that Nancy was co-chairing with her legal eagle buddy Gina Betts today at the Hilton Anatole.

Nancy and Richard Rogers

Nancy and Richard Rogers

Ron Corning and Tyler Perry

Ron Corning and Tyler Perry

Last night at the underwriter party, Nancy was fretting a bit on whether the match was gonna happen.

Word just arrived that thanks to 1,500+ luncheon guests, sponsors, underwriters and friends, the challenge was indeed met. The Rogers are thrilled that they’ll be writing a million-dollar check to support Genesis’ battle against domestic violence.

BTW, Tyler Perry’s talk and conversation with WFAA’s Ron Corning on stage at the luncheon knocked it out of the park. But more about that later.

JUST IN: Nancy And Richard Rogers Just Upped The Ante For The Genesis Annual Luncheon Bigtime

Nancy Rogers and Jan Langbein (File photo)

Nancy Rogers and Jan Langbein (File photo)

At last week’s St. Valentine’s Day Fashion Show and Luncheon, blonde philanthropist Nancy Rogers was seen in a one-on-one conversation with Genesis Women’s Shelter’s platinum Jan Langbein. Were they talking about what they did over the St. Valentine’s weekend? Were they comparing notes about politics? Were they discussing the Academy Awards?

No way. It was much bigger than any of that stuff and was just revealed.

Tyler Perry*

Tyler Perry*

Nancy, who is co-chairing the annual Genesis Annual Luncheon on Friday, May 6, with her legal-eagle buddy Gina Betts, has presented Jan with a major buck-a-roo of an offer. It seems Lady Rogers and her sweetheart husband Richard Rogers will match any and all donations and underwriting up to… now, hold on to your breath… $1M. As if the Rogers do any that isn’t bigger than big!

This luncheon is gonna be a knock-out-of-the-park with Tyler Perry as the speaker and Ron Corning serving as emcee.

It’s gonna be at the Hilton Anatole’s Chantilly Ballroom, but at the rate it’s going they may have guests doubling up at the tables, so get your reservations in now. And remember, big donations and underwriting do have perks.

* Photo provided by Genesis 
Women's Shelter

North Texas Giving Day’s Date Changes Just Slightly

January is a great month to announce changes. One of the big ones requires getting dates on the calendar. Communities Foundation of Texas is one of those with a change of date that might send event organizers back to the drawing board.

The 2016 North Texas Giving Day is definitely taking place, but unlike years past when it’s been held on the third week of September, it will be held this year on Thursday, September 22 (aka the first day of autumn).

So, add that to your schedule because CFT CEO Brent Christopher and his team are gearing up to have another record-breaker for the North Texas nonprofits. And while you’re at it, register now. Orientations will take place the first part of June and that’s just around the corner.

Breakfast For The Bridge North Texas Had All “The Signs” To Be The Safety Net For The Homeless And Delivered

Judy Gass and Jennifer Karol

Judy Gass and Jennifer Karol

Even before the official 7:30 a.m. check-in for The Breakfast For The Bridge on Friday, November 20, people like Kimberly and Shannon Wynne, Judy Gass and Jennifer Karol were in the Trinity Ballroom at the Omni. In the reception area outside the ballroom were two large walls with cardboard sheets and colorful markers. Some people got it. Others just walked by. They’d soon get it.

Walls outside the Trinity Ballroom

Walls outside the
Trinity Ballroom

By 7:45, the ballroom was filling. Maybe it was because it was less than a week from Thanksgiving. Maybe it was because it was breakfast. May it was because it was a Friday. May it was because it was the fundraiser for The Bridge. Maybe it was because it was all of that. But there was a genuine sense of conviviality as guests greeted each other like a family reunion. There seemed to be no stranger in the room of 600.

A voice asked everyone to take their seats. There were scheduled to keep and a lot of suits that had place to be afterwards. The Bridge Development Director Teresa Hiser was hopeful that more money would be raised at the breakfast itself.

Tom Dunning, Lynn McBee and Bill Barnett

Tom Dunning, Lynn McBee and Bill Barnett

A few minutes later the voice repeated the requested, as more people arrived. The back of the room heeded the voice’s request. Those near the stage weren’t so responsive. They continued catching up. Gunnar Rawlings represented Dallas’ First Family. Seems First Lady Micki Rawlings was nursing an eye infection. Tom Dunning described Lynn McBee as “the next Ruth Altshuler” to Bill Barnett. As for Lynn, she had a full schedule. Later in the day she would be chairing The Salvation Army’s 2015 Annual Doing The most Good Luncheon.

Just after 8, The Bridge’s Co-Chairs Elect Lynn and Bill got the program underway explaining the The Bridge Chairman of the Board John Castle was unable to make it, so they were subbing in. He recognized last year’s Bridge Builder awardee Jennifer Karol, who has taken on development efforts.

Megan McManemin

Megan McManemin

Rev. Joe Clifford gave the invocation and Event Co-Chair Megan McManemin told how Shannon had gotten them involved five years ago. Seems on a visit to the McManemin’s home, Shannon had noticed a photo of Casey McManemin’s grandfather Mack McManemin in front of his barbershop that had just been a couple of blocks away from where The Bridge is located today. Six months later “Mack’s Barbershop” opened at The Bridge to provide free haircuts for the guests thanks to the McManemins.

But their involvement didn’t stop there. Megan described Shannon’s and Jennifer’s working with the McManemins as the “Bridge Two-Step.” Megan ended up working in the library and eventually moved on to the music therapy program. Today she and Casey were co-chairing The Breakfast.

Kamica King

Kamica King

Speaking about the importance of music therapy, she told how one day at the music therapy session a couple of clients were a little louder and a bit rowdy. But music therapist Kamica King’s use of music pretty soon changed the situation 180 degrees with one of the fellows ask, “Who are you?”

With that Kamica and her guitar came on stage and played while the guests had breakfast. After the last song, Kamica introduced the question, “What is home to you?” The answer came via video from various people saying, “Peace,” “Rest,” “Safe,” “Family”, “Security,” etc.

The Bridge President Jay Dunn introduced public officials, Bridge partners and the 2015 Bridge Builder Larry Sykes with a video featuring Rev. Bruce Buchanan, Mayor Mike Rawlings, Rosemary Robbins and Mary Russ.

Larry Sykes and Teresa Hiser

Larry Sykes and Teresa Hiser

In the video, Larry explained that he changed careers from real estate to The Bridge. In this transition, he discovered the difference between him and The Bridge’s guests is the safety net.

Following the video, Larry accepted the award reporting that since 2008 there have been 1,000 volunteers with The Stewpot providing three meals a day every day. When Larry asked that everyone in the ballroom, who had volunteered at The Bridge stand up, about one-fourth of the 600 guests stood.

Returning to his thoughts about the importance of the safety net for the guests, Larry said that The Bridge is just that for the guests, with 2,100 people having found hosing through The Bridge, homeless jail stays have dropped and serious crime has been reduced by 49% since The Bridge’s opening.

At 8:49 Larry concluded his acceptance speech and introduced a video of Help USA Chair Maria Cuomo-Cole who helped produce an upcoming documentary about Willie.

Following Maria’s introduction, Willie appeared at the podium with mammoth slides appearing on the screen behind him. He read notes from those who had been touched by his 20-year art project in which he bought the signs that the homeless would hold on streets. In the background slides of the signs would appear. Eventually the project undertaken in grad school became a mission resulting in his first homeless sign art show in 2009. He told of the installations of other exhibitions of the signs and the quilts by the homeless that he and his sister had worked on. It was at his 2012 TEDxSMU talk that the project opened up a personal issue for Willie about his relationship with his father. For the first time he “wondered if there was a part of me that was homeless.”

Willie Baronet

Willie Baronet

He then asked the audience to consider three questions:

“What is home?” For many it was a roof over the head, but for others it was a feeling.

“Is there any part of you that is homeless?” He told how he had been told by people that they homeless spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, etc. For Willie it was about safety and a longing for a relationship with his father. During his cross-country trip to collect signs that was filmed for the documentary that will be shown in January 2016, he met countless homeless people and others who help the homeless, driven 7,200 miles, bought 292 signs and produced an exhibition of the signs at NYU that took three days to install.

He told how when he started buying the signs, he had done it with a feeling of discomfort seeing people asking for help. But over the years, that discomfort had been transformed into an understanding and sharing of what is homelessness. He admitted that despite his efforts and encounters the problem demanded a more complex answer than he could muster. But in undertaking his project, he had created ripples that would lead others talk, to create policies and to do the next thing.

Willie Baronet

Willie Baronet

His final question to the audience was, “What will you do next?”

He concluded his talk with a story about “Trey,” who approached him at Tom Thumb one day. He asked Willie if he drove a white Mountaineer. It seems that years ago he had been “a homeless dude at LBJ and Abrams,” who had lived in the woods off of Chimney Hill. But thanks to an encounter with Willie, Josh had gotten a job, an apartment, gone through rehab and was off drugs. Willie said, “Things were really hard but he was doing well. He remembered my face and my car, someone who had helped him.” Trey then explained to Willie, “I want you to understand this. Every time somebody helps, you remember.”

The breakfast could have ended with that, but Co-Chair Casey McManenim came on stage and was one of the best closer in these parts. He told the group to do the right thing, to do the smart thing and to do something. That, according to Casey, is exactly what is happening at The Bridge. The facility is providing a safety net for those who want to transition from the streets to permanent supportive homes.

But today was more than writing a check. Casey admitted that guilt was not a very good fundraising tool, but sometimes shame works. He asked everyone who had visited The Bridge to stand up. “So, those of you who are experiencing shame at this moment know who you are.” Laughter arose from all the guests. He pointed out that the envelope at each seat revealed a match was available for funds raised that would allow expansion including critical medical services and follow up.

He added that the state of Texas was now using The Bridge model for the homeless problem and was providing a two-year match for funds raised. In addition, an anonymous donor was will to match dollar-for-dollar the second year funds raised up to $50,000.