Houston Texans Rookie Quarterback Deshaun Watson Brings His Life-Changing Story To Dallas Habitat For Humanity’s Dream Builder’s Dinner

While there appears to be no doubt who will be the starting quarterbacks for the Dallas Cowboys this year, down in Houston it’s a different story. The decision is making headlines whether it will be first-round pick rookie Deshaun Watson or veteran Tom Savage. Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien suggested that Savage has the edge after working with the team for the past three years. But perhaps O’Brien was too busy last year to notice what happened up I-45 when the Cinderella story took place in North Texas.

And while a showdown between Deshaun and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott would be a ticket well worth the purchase, only time will tell if that ever happens.

Deshaun Watson*

Dale Hansen (File photo)

However, Deshaun will be in North Texas and he’ll be facing someone who intimidates even the hardiest athlete — WFAA’s Dale Hansen. The newbie NFL-er and the seasoned pro interviewer will get together at Belo Mansion on Thursday, October 19, for Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity’s first annual Dream Builder’s Dinner. But chances are they may talk about more than passes, touchdowns and predictions.

It’s because of something that happened just before Thanksgiving in 2006, when Deshaun was just 11 years old. For the first ten years of his life, he and his mother and siblings had lived in public housing. But his mother Deann Watson was bound and determined to get her family into their own home with a backyard. While holding two jobs, she put in hundreds of hours of volunteer work, made an application and received a brand new Habitat for Humanity house.

As Deshaun and his family approached the door of their new home, there was former NFL star running back Warrick Dunn with keys to hand over to the Watsons. Immediately, Deshaun headed straight to his new bedroom. That first night all was in place including furniture and food provided by Warrick.

According to Deshaun, “The home gave him a chance to get out of difficult surroundings and start moving toward the goal of being in the NFL.”

For Warrick, it was a pay-it-forward moment. He “knew from experience how important it was to give a helping hand, but not a handout, to single mothers and their children.” His own mother, who had been a police officer, had been murdered when she escorted a businesswoman to a bank to make a nighttime deposit. At the age of 18, Warrick became the head of the family. He would also be a leading force in NFL players supporting charities. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, he “challenged all NFL players, except those who play for the New Orleans Saints, to donate at least $5,000 to the effort.” It resulted in more than $5M in contributions.

Over the years, Deshaun embraced the pay it forward. During his years at Clemson, he and his teammates were part of the Habitat for Humanity program.

Just this past October he was presented with the Lowe’s AFCA Good Works Team Award for his Habitat for Humanity efforts in college.

Now, as a professional football player, Deshaun’s using his “celebrity” to help families achieve their homes by supporting Habitat for Humanity.   

And that’s why Deshaun is making time during the football season to be at Belo Mansion to support Habitat for Humanity. It should be quite a night and quite a chat.

Diane and Mike Gruber (File photo)

Jennifer and Tom Karol (File photo)

Lynn and Allan McBee (File photo)

In addition to DeShaun and Dale, the evening will honor Phil Wise and the Carpenters for Christ of Highland Park United Methodist Church. Co-Chairing the event will be Diane and Mike Gruber, Jennifer and Tom Karol and Lynn and Allan McBee.

* Photo provided by Dallas Habitat for Humanity

 

First Ladies Of Children Charities Fundraiser Were Feted And Photographed At The Annual Former Crystal Charity Ball Chairs’ Dinner

Clay and Lisa Cooley

It was the gathering of vets on Wednesday, May 24, not the military type, but rather the fundraising variety. As the golf carts sped guests from the street past the tennis court, the bridge, the fountains and the manicured grounds of Lisa and Clay Cooley‘s estate, the occasion was the annual former Crystal Charity Ball chairmen’s dinner. Each of these gals had headed the CCB in providing more than $137M for Dallas County children’s charities since its founding in 1952.

The evening Chair Jennifer Dix had earlier in the day had all the furnishing in the sunken living room overlooking the lush lawn, pool and creek removed. Flawlessly, roundtables were put in place complete with place cards and centerpieces by Garden Gate.

As guests arrived via the mini-limos, they were directed for a couple’s photo shoot and then past the open kitchen and the formal dining room to the great room, where a mammoth table was set up with a feast of food. And that was just for the cocktail party.

Cynthia Mitchell, Bob and Jill Smith and Gloria Martindale

Becky Bright and Rob Adair

Margo and Bill Goodwill

Barbara Stuart, Tincy Miller and Bette Mullins

Tucean Webb

Caren Kline

In between takes, the talk was about  Cynthia Mitchell’s pooch having to possibly have eye surgery following a mishap at the groomers… Nickey Oates arriving sans 2009 Chair/wife Debbie Oates, who was grandma sitting… 1976 Chair Lindalyn Adams was a no-show due to a fall.

While this crowd of former chairs, their spouses/dates, the 2017 CCB executive committee and representatives of the evening’s sponsors from Bank of America, US Trust Private Wealth Management and Merrill Lynch, could have easily spent the night ooh-ing and ah-ing the Cooley estate or just catching up, they finally took their places with pianist Tommy deSalvo playing the Star Wars theme.  

Pam and Vin Perella

After 2017 CCB Chair Pam Perella welcomed the crowd, she invited the guests to settle back and enjoy the evening. But just as servers starting placing plates on the tables, Pam flashed her Mary Tyler Moore smile and asked the former CCB chairs — Christie Carter (2016), Michal Powell (2015), Caren Kline (2013),  Aileen Pratt (2012), Connie O’Neill (2011), Cynthia Mitchell (2010), Gloria Martindale (2008), Debbie Snell (2006), Jill Smith (2005), Margo Goodwin (2004), Karen Shuford (2000), Becky Bright (1999), Tincy Miller (1997), Barbara Stuart (1994), Tucean Webb (1992), Linda McFarland (1979) and Sally Bos 1960) — to gather in front of the mansion’s fountain in the driveway for the annual group photo. (Bit of CCB historic trivia: When Sally Bos chaired the 1960 gala, she was still in college.)

 

Linda McFarland, Debbie Snell, Tincy Miller, Margo Goodwin, Jill Smith, Sally Bos, Caren Kline, Christie Carter, Gloria Martindale, Cynthia Mitchell, Michal Powell, Aileen Pratt, Tucean Webb, Connie O’Neill, Karen Shuford, Becky Bright and Barbara Stuart

In front of the fountain, the photo was taken and the ladies returned to their chairs for a Cassandra dinner of baby green salad with madeira port poached pear, goat cheese, celery and honey pearls; pan-seared beef tenderloin, twice backed potato, crispy onions and saved Brussels sprouts; and warm gala apple crisp and cinnamon ice cream.  

More photos of the evening can be found at MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

JUST IN: American Airlines Exec Bev Goulet’s Recent Retirement Resulted In A $50K Grant For Dallas Women’s Foundation

When an American Airlines officer retires, the company honors them “with the opportunity to direct grants to organizations that mean the most to the retiree.” Recently AA Executive VP/Chief Integration Officer Bev Goulet retired and designated Dallas Women’s Foundation should be the recipient of her grant.

According to Bev, “This gift is a reflection of the great heart of American Airlines, and I am very proud that the company made this grant in my honor to an organization and undertaking that mean so much to me personally. Dallas Women’s Foundation works on behalf of all women and girls, and in particular those who face the greatest social and economic challenges. Their work matters, and I am grateful to American for supporting it with this terrific gift.”

Bev Goulet and Roslyn Dawson*

Whoa! DWF President/CEO Ros Dawson must have thought it was snowing, since it seemed like Christmas when she received the $50,000 grant.

As a DWF board and executive committee member, Bev knew exactly how she wanted the funds used — to support DWF’s “Young Women’s Initiative-Dallas, a new cross-sector effort to empower and affirm young women of color ages 16-24 from Dallas’ southern and western sectors.”

Ros commented, “This generous gift from American Airlines is especially meaningful as it honors Bev, a true champion for women and girls, and provides early support for a critical new initiative that will launch later this fall. Bev Goulet is such an extraordinary example of a strong woman who is dedicated to making the world better for all. We are so fortunate that she is now lending her formidable leadership skills and knowledge to our work and mission.”

BTW, DWF’s Unlocking Leadership Campaign is still underway for its $50M goal. Contact Shawn Wills for more info.

* Photo provided by Dallas Women's Foundation

Plans Announced For Luncheon Celebrating Susan G. Komen’s 35th Anniversary With Giuliana Rancic As Keynote Speaker

Breast cancer all too often was a death sentence or at least an excruciating journey, both physically and emotionally. In the early 1950’s The New York Times “refused to publish an ad for a breast cancer support group, stating that it would not print the words ‘breast’ or ‘cancer.’”

Despite the mammogram being developed in 1969, it still hid behind a cloak of limited knowledge and a patient’s embarrassment. The routine was for a patient to be anesthetized for a biopsy. If the results were positive, a radical mastectomy was immediately performed while the patient was still under anesthesia.

The situation changed slightly in the early 1970’s when such well-knowns as Shirley Temple Black, Betty Ford and Happy Rockefeller revealed that they had indeed undergone breast cancer surgery.

Even so, treatments, developments, funding and awareness were limited. Breast cancer continued its charge. But in 1977 the disease picked the wrong person — a 33-year-old woman from Peoria, Illinois. After a three-year battle, the young woman died. But before Susan Goodman Komen succumbed to the disease, her feisty 30-year-old kid sister made a promise — she would “do everything possible to end the shame, pain, fear and hopelessness caused by this disease.”

That sister was Nancy Goodman Brinker, who would establish a world-changing program to bring breast cancer out of the closet with the goal of putting an end to it. In 1982, with the help of Nancy’s husband, the late Norman Brinker, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation was established.

Since its inception, Komen has “funded more than $920 million in research, more than $2 billion in medical care, community and provider education, and psychosocial support, serving millions in over 60 countries worldwide.”

In addition, millions of people and countless fundraising efforts including Baylor Health Care System Foundation’s Celebrating Women Luncheon program  and the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides of North Texas have risen to fuel the battle to rid the world of the disease.

Gigi Hill Lancaster*

Ruth Altshuler (File photo)

Linda Custard (File photo)

Gene Jones (File photo)

To commemorate the 35th anniversary of the founding of Susan G. Komen, Gigi Hill Lancaster, who lost her mother to breast cancer, is chairing the Susan G. Komen Anniversary Luncheon at Belo Mansion on Wednesday, September 27. Serving as honorary co-chairs are Ruth Altshuler, Linda Custard and Gene Jones.

Giuliana Rancic*

Unlike those days when they used to hold the annual Komen luncheon, where boxes of Kleenex abounded, this one will be an anniversary celebration “honoring those who – for decades – have helped Dallas-based Komen fund breast cancer research and programs that have saved millions on lives.” Emmy-winning TV personality/ entrepreneur/ breast cancer survivor Giuliana Rancic, who was just seven years old when “the promise” was made, will be the featured speaker.  

Since the luncheon is being held at Belo Mansion, seating will be limited, so book your place pronto.

Thank-you notes should be sent to Co-Presenters Bank of America, Highland Park Village/Al G. Hill Jr. and family, Lyda Hill and Alinda H. Wikert. 

* Photo provided by Susan G. Komen

 

Mary Kay Foundation’s Suits For Shelters Kick-Off Party At Tootsies Proves That It Pays Off To Show Up

With the sizzling heat growing, there is a hesitation to venture out of one’s air-conditioned comfort zone, even it if means just moving from the office to the car to the destination.

But for some domestic abuse nonprofits, it paid off big time in the pink.

But first let’s back up. Tootsies hosted The Mary Kay Foundation’s annual Suits for Shelters kick-off party on Thursday, July 13. Despite June being tepid, July was making up for lost time in the temperature department. Still, the place filled with supporters of the program including some of the domestic abuse nonprofits that would benefit from the clothes collection.

Ryan and Maleiah Rogers

Despite the decision not to have a fashion show, the raffle commenced. It was an unusual raffle. One of the prizes would have the winner go home with just great feelings. Their win would be deciding which domestic abuse nonprofit would receive $5,000 thanks to Maleiah and Ryan Rogers (aka Mary Kay’s grandson).

But when Piers Hurley’s name was called, he couldn’t pick just one recipient.

Leave it to Maleiah and Ryan to come up with the solution. They decided that each of the seven nonprofits in attendance would be awarded $5,000 each. So, those walking away in a daze with $5,000 were Attitudes and Attire, Brighter Tomorrows, Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support, Hope’s Door New Beginning Center, Mosaic Family Services, The Salvation Army and The Family Place.

See, it does pay to show up!

Speaking of which, it also pays to contribute to the clothes collection. In return for the donation, the donor will receive a $25 gift certificate from Tootsies. But better hurry, because the Suits for Shelter program ends on Friday, August 4.

MySweetCharity Opportunity: Each Moment Matters

David and Laurie Peacock*

According to 2017 Each Moment Matters Luncheon Co-Chairs Laurie and David Peacock,

When Laurie and I were asked to chair the 2017 Each Moment Matters Luncheon we had no idea how impacted we would be by the work that Faith Presbyterian Hospice does in the Dallas community. We have heard so many stories from people who wish they had done things differently when their parent or spouse passed away on hospice.  Faith Presbyterian Hospice is the hospice that changes the end-of-life experience for both patients and families. We are honored to be a part of this signature event which supports customized services and excellent hospice care, both at home and at the recently opened inpatient hospice center, the T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center.

Marlee Matlin*

We invite you to join us at the Hilton Anatole on Friday, September 29, with Academy Award winning actress and activist, Marlee Matlin as our guest speaker. With an extensive list of Hollywood career achievements including the movie “Children of a Lesser God,” for which she received the Academy Award for Best Actress, Marlee is an advocate for children and those struggling against domestic abuse and addiction, as well as other humanitarian causes. Having lost her hearing at 18 months of age, Marlee never let her challenges dictate her future or deter her dreams.

In its eighth year, the Each Moment Matters Luncheon will once again honor 25 community leaders through the Each Moment Matters Award. The event raises awareness of hospice care and how to navigate tough end-of-life decisions. Funds raised at the luncheon ensure that Faith Presbyterian Hospice can continue to provide services to those needing care regardless of their ability to pay.

Each Moment Matters*

Thanks to the following underwriters, the cost of this year’s event is fully covered allowing sponsorships and donations to go 100% to the Faith Presbyterian Hospice Caring Fund and the patients it serves: Cathy and William Davis, The Don W. Hodges Family, The Billie and Gillis Thomas Foundation, Business Jet Center, Messick Peacock and Associates, Knightvest Management LLC, Marcia and Noe Hinojosa and Margie and Ray Francis.

Table sponsorships start at $1,750 and individual tickets are available for $200.  To purchase a sponsorship or to find out more, please visit www.eachmomentmatters.org.

The 2017 Each Moment Matters Honorees: Arcilia C. Acosta, Stefanie and Steven Ailey, Yasmin Zarolia Bhatia, Thomas CampbellLisa Harper Clark MD, Joy Cruse, Mrs. David Curtis, Alison Doherty, Jane Benedict  Echols, Lisa Englander, Terry N. Ford, Tricia M. George, John Killian, Sandy Massie, Trish Matthews, D.Min., Carlin McDonald Morris, Scott Murray, “Smokey” John Reaves, George R. Schrader, Susan E. Stephens, Andy Kaye Walsh, Stephanie Ward, Pierre Michaela “Mickie” Watson and Janita Hemphill Wells.

* Graphic and photo provided by the Dallas Arboretum

 

JUST IN: Dean Foods Foundation Is Serving Up Some Delicious Treats For North Texas Food Bank And The Wilkinson Center Wednesday

With the annual DFW Restaurant Week benefiting the North Texas Food Bank and the Lena Pope Home just a few weeks away, the NTFB is getting an early treat.  Dean Foods Foundation is presenting a check for $125,000 Wednesday morning to NTFB.

North Texas Food Bank*

The hand-off will take place at The Wilkinson Center, which is part of the Christmas in July celebration. In addition to the check, Oak Farms will “be donating 325 half-gallons of their DairyPure® brand milk and will be distributing it to the clients served at The Wilkinson Center during a morning volunteer shift.”

Don’t you just know that NTFB newbie CEO Trisha Cunningham, whose first day was Monday, is gonna think this happens every day. One only wishes!

* Graphic courtesy of  North Texas Food Bank

JUST IN: Accident Victim Daisy Mae Was Just Found In A Ravine With A Broken Femur And Rescued By Mutts And Mayhem

While some folks were attending church and others were sleeping in, the amazing volunteers with Mutts and Mayhem were out in the summer heat helping a total stranger. They were stomping through the terrain just off of the Bush Tollway.

Back story: Last Tuesday, Erica Cruz hitched a ride to work with a couple of friends. Her 11-month-old white Labrador named Daisy Mae insisted on tagging along. Suddenly, the car they were riding in was hit from behind by an 18-wheeler. In addition to a sprained ankle and whiplash, Erica’s back was fractured in two places. Luckily, the other passengers got off with minimal injuries. But Daisy Mae couldn’t be found. She wasn’t in the wreckage nor anywhere around. Erica was helpless. She was bed bound and asked for help via social media. The response was spectacular with a lot of friends and strangers pitching in.

A family dog, Daisy Mae had been missing for almost a week after her and her owners were in a car crash in Plano…Daisy has been found but likely has a fractured pelvis and femur. Her left leg is swollen twice the size that it should be and she could no longer walk from her injuries. This is her rescue video courtesy Mutts & Mayhem Animal Rescue.HOW TO HELP: http://on.wfaa.com/2uyiq2P

Posted by WFAA-TV on Sunday, July 16, 2017

 

For days, the search in the sweltering heat and off-and-on rain continued. Late this morning Daisy Mae was found in a ravine by the rescue group Mutts and Mayhem.

Needless to say, Erica was in tears when she got the news.

Daisy Mae*

In addition to being hot, Daisy couldn’t walk. Carefully, the team took her to the animal ER where they discovered her back femur was broken in several place and would require surgery in the days ahead. But that kind of surgery can be costly, so Mutts and Mayhem has reported that you can go to their donation page and specify under “donation purpose” that the money goes to Daisy’s care.  

BTW, Mutts and Mayhem is a nonprofit animal welfare group that was founded in 2013 by two active-duty paramedics. It relies solely donations. If you could spare the change, they sure could use it.

But let’s cut to the chase. If you were on the way to something or other with your BFF and were in a true-blue accident, wouldn’t you appreciate a come-from-nowhere source of strangers scouring for help? Yep! That’s what everyone thought.

* Photo and video provided by Mutts and Mayhem

MySweetCharity Opportunity Series Returns Monday With A Little Help From “Friends”

MySweetCharity

Monday the annual MySweetCharity Opportunity series gets started. For newcomers, this series is the perfect “opportunity” for non-profits to tell about upcoming fundraising activities.

Some “friends of the North Texas non-profits” decided they could support MySweetCharity’s efforts to draw attention to the series by sponsoring the seven-week run. Who are these “friends”? You’ll never know. They wanted to do it sorta anonymously. You’ll see what we mean Monday.

BTW, the “friends” also signed on board with the understanding that all they wanted to do was drive more people to reading the posts. They have absolutely no involvement in the selection of the posts nor what is written.

Like North Texas volunteers and non-profits, they are pitching in for the good of our community.

What’s that? You’re interested in submitting an “opportunity”? Great! But, of course, there are some suggestions in getting them published. Here are the ground rules:

  • The plan calls for byline articles by chair/co-chairs of upcoming fundraising activities.
  • The subject? Tell why the upcoming event should be at the top of everyone’s calendar and how to get involved.
  • Here are some suggestions on what to include:
    • The name of the organization and link to it
    • Name of author (Non-paid volunteers are preferred over staffers, don’t you know!)
    • The event
    • The date and location
    • Chairs, honorary chairs, etc.
    • Highlight(s) of the event
    • Sponsors
    • Length: Make it as long or as short as you want. Hint: MSC readers usually prefer posts with word counts ranging from 250 to 500 words.)
    • If you want to send photos/graphics/logos, you’ll need to submit them in a JPEG format.

Send them to [email protected] with “MSC Opportunity – <Name of Organization>” in the subject line (Example: “MSC Opportunity – Buggy Whip Revitalization Gala”) that way it won’t get trapped in the infamous MSC filter trap. It’s the black hole of the MSC world.

Yesterday’s Heroes And Tomorrow’s Hopefuls Celebrated At The Frontiers Of Flight Museum’s “Exploration Space 2017 Gala”

Despite threatening weather, the sky was the limit for the Frontiers of Flight Museum‘s “Exploration Space 2017 Gala” on Thursday, May 18, at the museum. For the occasion, Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise were on hand to receive the George E. Haddaway Award, along with NASA vet Mary Ellen Weber and past Haddaway awardees Walt Cunningham and Dr. Ken Cooper. But the event wasn’t just limited to yesteryear heroes. Tomorrow’s hopefuls included adorable Sofia Lee. Here’s a report from the field:

Frontiers of Flight Gala*

The 2017 Gala was all about Exploration Space – from the remarkable Apollo 13 astronauts, Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, who were honored with the Museum’s George E. Haddaway Award, to nine-year-old Sofia Lee, representing the 18,000 students who participate in the Museum’s STEM education programs.

During the conversation with Jim Lovell and Fred Haise about the Apollo 13 mission that was classified as a “successful failure” when the astronauts were brought home safely against many odds, Fred Haise said, “I thought it would just be an abort. My emotion initially was just sick to my stomach with disappointment. We’d lost the landing.”

Mary Ellen Weber, Jim Lovell, Mary Ann Cree, Sofia Lee, Fred Haise and Walt Cunningham*

The Apollo 13 story and the continued interest in space exploration was evidenced by the many age groups in attendance. Mary Ellen Weber, a NASA veteran of the Space Shuttle missions Discovery and Atlantis and a strong supporter of the Museum’s STEM education program, was in attendance.

Even the children today consider the astronauts American heroes. Sofia Lee was so eager to meet her heroes that she raised money for her ticket to the Gala through a lemonade stand. Sofia, who aspires to be an astronaut for her generation, met her heroes and had the honor of presenting them with the Haddaway Award. Sofia says, “I want to be an astronaut one day. I want to see things from a new perspective, to see them differently than I do from Earth.”

Capt. Lovell, who piloted or commanded four NASA missions – Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8, and Apollo 13 – and Fred Haise, Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 13, became the 43rd and 44th recipients of the Museum’s George E. Haddaway Award, joining the ranks of John Glenn, Walt Cunningham and Chuck Yeager.

The award is presented by the Museum annually “to those who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in the real of flight as pilots, aircrew members, corporate or political leadership, engineering, education or literature.”

Funds raised from the event “support the Museum’s new Exploration Space Initiative, a multi-faceted expansion of the Museum’s acclaimed STEM educational programming.”

Event sponsors included:

  • Exploration Space ($50,000) — Mary Ann Cree (Presenting Sponsor)
  • Apollo 13 ($25,000) — Gena and Dan Hamilton
  • Gemini 12 ($10,000) — Boeing / Aviall, Gulfstream, Martha and David Norton/Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley and Norton LLP and The Alinda Hill Wikert Foundation
  • Gemini 7 ($5,000) — Air-O-Specialists of Texas, Inc./dgseals.com Inc., American Airlines and Millie and Kenneth H. Cooper, Corgan, DFW International Airport, D Magazine, Dallas Love Field, Dickie+Associates, Events by Bill, Suzy Fulton/Scott Davis, Herbert Minerals Ltd./PlaneSmart! Aviation, Nancy and Pete Huff/Dr. and Mrs. David Webb Jr.,Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones and Ron Jones, Chris Jones – Purewater Baths, Elsa Manzanares/Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, Noelle and Stewart Mercer, Tom Rhodes/The Rhodes Group, Signature Flight Support,  Southwest Airlines, University of Texas at Dallas Special Collections, UPS, Virgin America, Cindy and Tony Weber and James A. White
* Photos provided by Frontiers of Flight Museum

MySweetCharity Summer Pitch: 2017 Parade Of Playhouses

According to Dallas CASA Board Chair John Gibson,

John Gibson*

Looking for a cool way to run off some of your children’s energy while also helping a good cause? Grab your kids and head to Dallas CASA’s Parade of Playhouses July 7 through 23 at NorthPark Center.

With 14 perfectly pint-sized playhouses decorating the halls of NorthPark, Parade of Playhouses is the perfect way to let your kids’ imaginations go wild while also learning about children in our community who need help.

For 22 years, NorthPark Center has played host to the playhouses, which are donated by local builders, designers and corporations and available to win through raffle at the end of the 17-day event. What child doesn’t want to imagine his or her own miniature house? This year’s designs include a house in the image of an owl, an activity house with a climbing wall and even a house shaped like a cuckoo clock. House designers and builders pour skill, creativity and love into these unusual creations.

The event benefits Dallas CASA, a nonprofit that provides volunteer advocates for abused and neglected children navigating the child welfare system. Walking the corridors and viewing the playhouses is a great way to start a conversation with your own kids about those in our community who are less fortunate. Children in the child welfare system don’t dare dream of a playhouse with all the bells and whistles. They dream of safe and permanent homes where they are loved.

2017 Parade of Playhouses*

Dallas CASA’s Parade of Playhouses is open until Sunday, July 23, during NorthPark’s hours. Viewing the playhouses is free and raffle tickets to win a playhouses are available for $5 each or five for $20.

All proceeds from the raffle ticket sales help Dallas CASA provide more children with advocates to serve them. For Dallas CASA, Parade of Playhouses has also become a key recruiting and community awareness event. Tables throughout NorthPark are staffed with volunteer advocates and other supporters who can tell you about becoming a volunteer advocate for abused children.

In fact, Parade of Playhouses might be the beginning of something for you to do after summer, too. A training class for volunteer advocates begins Sept. 6, right after the kids go back to school. The first step to becoming a volunteer advocate is attending an information session.

Maybe it’s your turn to dream not about a tiny house but about helping make the world a better place one child at a time.

* Graphic and photo provided by Dallas CASA

The Wilkinson Center Is Dealing With The Loss Of Volunteer Vickie Thompson And The Need For The Can Do! Lunch To Change

Vickie Thompson (File photo)

The Wilkinson Center’s Anne Reeder admitted that the past week has been tough. Longtime Wilkinson volunteer and “Lakewood Mom” Vickie Thompson suddenly died of a heart attack following the Lakewood 4th of July parade. It was just a year or so ago that Vickie had been named Wilkinson’s volunteer of the year. Whether it was pitching in to help the community or rallying others to the need of an individual, she exemplified the very word “volunteer.”

For those who knew Vickie, it’s hard to imagine the Lakewood neighborhood and the Center being without the blonde powerhouse leading the charge.

Anne had hardly adjusted to that news when she learned that the Sixth Annual Can Do! Luncheon was going to have to change. No, not the event itself, but rather the traditional date and possibly the location. Since its inception, the fundraising luncheon spotlighting entrepreneurship had been held at the Dallas County Club on the second Tuesday of May.

But it seems the Club had recently notified event planners and members that a new policy limited events with more than 100 guests to Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays only.

Anne Reeder (File photo)

Emilynn Wilson (File photo)

What’s a girl to do?

Luckily, Anne had already arranged for fundraising force-of-nature Emilynn Wilson to chair the 2018 luncheon. It was Emilynn who hauled in a whopping $283,435 for the Callier Cares Luncheon this past April at the DCC.

Comparing notes the ladies bit the bullet and booked Monday, May 7, at the DCC.

So, white out May 8 and ink in the new date for the 2018 Can Do! Luncheon. This one is going to be tough without Vickie, but one can’t help but suspect that her spirit will fill the room.

22nd Annual Parade Of Playhouses Is Polished Up And Rocking At NorthPark Center For Dallas CASA

Craig Beneke

It was just a couple of weeks ago in June that af architecture and fabrication’s Craig Beneke got a shout out from one of his 21-year-old twin daughters. It wasn’t for a new car. It wasn’t for a loan. It was for a house. No, not a 2,000-square-foot bungalow in the M Street hood. It was for a playhouse. She wasn’t reverting back to her childhood. Rather, she was hoping that her dad could provide a playhouse for Dallas CASA’s 22nd Annual Parade of Playhouses at NorthPark.

It seems one of the originally signed-up builders had bailed, and there was a need to fill a spot for the annual Dallas CASA fundraiser that would run from Saturday, July 8 through Sunday, July 23.

Playhouse Rock cowbell on a construction work belt

Playhouse Rock sound tubes

Playhouse Rock floor

Not only did Papa Craig answer the call-to-deliver, but he literally hit the nail on the head.  His Playhouse Rock was a musical marvel that would please anyone from Jaap to Jay-Z with a mini-xylophone built into the floor complete with mallets for playing and an assortment of others goodies — rain stick, triangle, sound tubes, etc. There were personal touches, too. For instance, the front door’s cowbell is suspended by his construction work belt.

But being a perfectionist, Craig was eyeballing the hand prints left from the move-in on Thursday, July 6. He was going to do some touch-up, so his Playhouse Rock would be perfect.

Whimsical Cottage

A few playhouses away, Doug Beaty of Beach Sheet Metal was sharing Craig’s dilemma about prints. It seems that the Whimsical Cottage’s copper roof was a fingerprint magnet. Last year, he arrived daily to polish the roof, so it was spotless. He expected to do the same this year. When someone offered to post a sign dissuading people from touching, he scoffed at the idea. He relished the idea that little ones and their parents couldn’t resist touching the shiny roof.   

Cuckoohaus

Paw Rescue

The White Owl’s Den

But those are just two of the 11 playhouses on display. Some have rock walls; some are so cozy; some have interior lighting; some are open and breezy. But they all will be raffled off at 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 23, in NorthPark’s North Court to support Dallas CASA’s mission “to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children, helping these children gain safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.” If you’re unable to check out the houses, you can still buy your raffle ticket here. They’re going for $5 each or five for $20.

Also, the builders are all vying to claim the title of “Favorite Playhouse.” You can vote by texting dallascasa to 41444. BTW, each vote costs $5.

Check out the Parade of Playhouses at MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

Dallas Cowboys Dak Prescott And Joanna Hernandez Demonstrated The Importance Of After-School All-Stars For Middle Schoolers

Settle back: This post is a long one, but it’s worth it.

If Dante Alighieri was updating his “Purgatorio,” he surely would have added Middle School to his Divine Comedy. Even the most blemish-free runway model recoils when recalling those days between elementary and high school. Teachers serving time in classrooms during this tenure should receive combat pay. Kids on their way to adulthood via the way station of puberty are being hit by their physical changes as well as peer pressure. Parents who years ago changed their babies’ diapers and made their peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches are transformed into Golfimbul on steroids.

Needless to say, this period of life is trying to say the least. But more about this later.

Brad Sham and Charles Haley

Rising Stars Luncheon organizers were looking a tad bit nervous around noontime on Wednesday, May 17, in the entry of the Dallas Country Club as they gathered for the After-School All-Stars North Texas fundraiser. Keynote speaker/Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was 20 minutes late. Dallas Cowboys voice/the day’s emcee Brad Sham assured them not to worry. Dak was probably stuck in the traffic lineup of vehicles on Mockingbird waiting to turn into the club.

In another area of the DCC, Dallas Cowboys vet Charles Haley was having a great time with the Brad.

Cliff Fischer, Dak Prescott and Charles Haley

Ken Schnitzer and Dak Prescott

Lee Bailey, Gina Betts and Tracy Lange

Bailey Lange, Livia Lange and Dak Prescott

As the lineup of 100 guests including Luncheon Chair Gina Betts with husband Ken Betts and son Jack Betts, Lee Bailey, Lisa Cooley and daughter Ciara Cooley, Tori Roark, Tiffany Divis, Tanya Foster, Lange kids (Bailey, Livia and Luke), Gregory Dunbar, Nancy Gopez, Shannon and Ted Skokos, Roz Colombo and Cliff Fischer surged to more than 200 for the meet-and-greet in the Founders Room, Dak’s handlers seamlessly moved him from the porte-cochere entrance to the grip-and-grin via the kitchen.

Shannon Skokos, Dak Prescott and Ted Skokos

Nancy Gopez and Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott and Stuart Macatee

Tori Roark, Dak Prescott and Ciara Cooley

Tanya Foster, Dak Prescott and Tiffany Divis

Emerging from the hallway, Dak registered a momentary look of surprise at the number of smiling faces. Taking his place in front of the ASAS sponsor board, he met his adoring fans of all ages. It should be noted that as the line continued to grow, Dak only took a two-second break for a gulp of water.

With each new BFF, he flashed that trademark Dak smile.

Arriving with his mom, Jonika Nix, Cash Nix was a standout wearing a Cowboys #4 jersey.

Cash Nix, Dak Prescott and Jonika Nix

Just as Dak was about to make his getaway for the ballroom, Cliff Fischer and Charles Haley arrived for a photo. And, of course, Charles just couldn’t contain himself trying to give Dak a smooch. Doing a great dodge, Dak moved just out of lip shot.

It was interesting to note that one of the last to appear was Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban with son Jake Cuban. While Mark waved off a photo with Dak, he smiled on the side as the football player had a photo taken with Jake.

Fredye Factor, Dak Prescott and Haden Wolf

Inside the ballroom, it was a battle royale for guests taking selfies with Dak and Cubes. Poor guys hardly had a chance to eat. Speaking of which, it should be noted that the room had a larger showing than usual of young males. It seems that ASASNT Advisory Board Chair Ben Lange‘s blonde wife Tracy Lange had picked up on the abundance of little girls attending the “A Place to Soar” luncheon featuring Simone Biles. So, realizing that parents and grandparents like Fredye Factor might want to have a similar turnout of little boys for Dak, they prepared a menu just perfect for that age group: chicken fingers and French fries. And to be perfectly honest, there were many an adult who eyed the fingers and fries enviously.

Chicken fingers and fries

To keep the program rolling, Gina announced at the podium, “Please keep eating while we’re talking.” With that, silverware hit the plates. Gina explained that presenting sponsors Nancy and Richard Rogers were unable to attend because they were house moving.

She described the raffle prizes: First prize was a signed jersey by Dak, while the second prize was a trip to L.A. to player poker with Arnold Schwarzenegger and his friends. Upon hearing the latter, Dak piped up that he wanted a raffle ticket. 

Gina then got to the meat of the fundraiser: helping middle schoolers who get out of school in the afternoon and go to empty homes because their parent or parents are probably at work. Said Gina: “There is no one to greet them; no one to make them a sandwich; sometimes there’s no TV; and there’s certainly no one there to encourage them to do their school work.”

That’s where ASASNT comes in, Gina added. Between 3 and 6 p.m., “when those children would be on the streets hanging out with their friends or people they shouldn’t be hanging out with, instead they stay after school, where a volunteer comes and helps them with their homework, gives them education and then they get to do something fun.”

ASASNT Executive Director Marissa Castro Mikoy recalled how the year before, this luncheon event had taken place at Arlington Hall with about 100 guests. Today, the room was filled with more than 300 people. Speaking of numbers, she reported that, within Dallas County, more than “125,000 kids go home after school unsupervised. Only nine out of 42 DISD middle schools had any type of onsite after-school programs.” In addition, Marissa reported that “Dallas County has the fourth-highest juvenile crime rate in Texas.”

Joanna Hernandez

Following a video, ASASNT Program Manager Tori Schwarzlose introduced ASASNT 9th grade student Joanna Hernandez, who smartly did a shout-out to ASASNT JCPenney Signature Sponsor for her outfit. She then launched into a talk about her mom, who was from Waco, and her dad, who hailed from Mexico. They instilled in her the fact that they wanted better things for her. She admitted that “school wasn’t really hard for me and I like to read and really worked hard for my classes,” but what was challenging for her was “fitting in. In middle school, people are so quick to judge and I hated that. I felt like the loner in the corner, but when I started seventh grade, it sucked … really.” Joanna hit a chord that the majority in the room shared laughing with her.

But then her laughter and smile turned to the reality of the situation: “I wasn’t the only one dealing with the pressures. But it truly affected me, making me want to stay in my room and believes the lies. I used to come home every day after school, stay in my room, lock the door and wouldn’t let anyone talk to me or tell them how I feel. Mostly I was in a place where I wanted to hurt myself because of the words and actions of other people.” But eighth grade changed things, thanks to her learning about an after-school program. She asked her friends if they would come with her and they said, “Sure.” The first day they showed up for tryouts, “it was all the popular kids, and I felt so out of place. So I sat in the  back of the corner alone as always.” That changed when Tori came in, sat down and began talking with Joanna. 

That was the turning point. Joanna started making friends and having new experiences, like learning how to cook, DJ music production, and coding. Thanks to her teacher, to Tori and to others in the ASASNT program, Joanna admitted that she feels like they are family.

In conclusion, Joanna said that ASASNT can “help other students like me look at themselves differently and gain confidence. I am so grateful for this opportunity [from the] All Stars.”

Joanna knocked it out of the park. She had something that even the most polished professional speakers often lack: she spoke from the heart and from experience. The audience of all ages including Ben and Dak showed their appreciation.

Ben Lange

Dak Prescott

She was followed by JCPenney Executive VP and chief merchant/ASASNT Board Member John Tighe, who made a brief shout-out for financial support and introduced Brad Sham.

John had no soon taken his seat than Brad unleashed an announcement that he was deviating from the script. That statement from the podium naturally sends event planners into a brain frenzy. They realize that they have lost control and are now at the mercy of the man with the mic power.

Luckily, the man was Brad. He started off saying, “First of all, that was a very understated ask.” Then he asked Joanna to stand. Whoa! Things were really going off script. Sham was supposed to introduce Dak and settle down in a couple of chairs for a chat. Instead he was scrambling things up and had everyone’s attention.

“I want everyone to look at her. [Laughter, as Joanna shyly rose from her chair as bewildered as the guests]. I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry. She’s not a statistic; she’s not a number; she’s a real human person, whose life has been enriched and therefore is going to have the opportunity to enrich her community because of After-School All-Stars. Now, there’s no one over 18 in a sports coat or a tie, who ought to walk out of here today without giving some money to this organization. You care about these kids. Look around the room at these young people. These are people. These are the people who are going to be in charge in before long. We’d better help them. It’s our responsibility. It’s your responsibility.”

He then told Joanna that she could sit down, but he would ask her back on stage soon. He then asked the board members to raise their hands because he wanted to make sure to make eye contact with them about what he was going to say. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be here today. I’m here for two reasons, maybe three. The first one is that my very good friend and your fellow board member Barry Greenberg asked me to be here. Barry Greenberg has a birthday today and his butt is not here. He’s in Hawaii. I would like you to have him hear about that at the next board meeting. He didn’t mention that when he set me up to do this. The second thing is all he had to do was tell me a little bit about After-School All-Stars and I’m in. I talked to Marrissa and you hear the passion.”

Editor’s note: The following are excerpts from the conversation by Sham and Dak, but if you have the time, you might want to check the video below. Like the old saying goes, “A picture (or in this case a video) is worth a thousand words.)

Sham then explained how Dak’s presence had been the clincher for his being part of the program. With Dak sitting directly in front of the stage staring at Sham, Brad said, “He is who you want him to be. I think he’s going to be a pretty good quarterback. He’s already pretty good. He’s had a pretty good year and I think he’s going to have a tremendous career. Preferably what you want him to be is a really good quarterback for the Cowboys. But when you’re a quarterback for the Cowboys and pretty good, you then have to be more than that … and he is. Like two other guys before him under whose shadow he played because of their accomplishments … more than two but two in specific … you want those guys to be who you want them to be. Watch Dirk run up and down the floor and you say, ‘Please let him be that good as a human being’ and then you find out that he is. Dak Prescott is who you want him to be and he’s only getting started. He’s a remarkable young man.

“Here’s another example. Joanna, may I ask you to come back up here? [As the youngster made her way through the crowd, there was a rumbling of people wondering what Sham had planned.] While you were watching Joanna, I had my back to the podium, not intentionally … just how it worked out. I was watching Dak watch Joanna. And here’s why Dak Prescott is who you want him to be. He listens. When you talk to him, he listens. He cares about what you say. He was listening to Joanna. He was nodding at points of affirmation that resonated with him that you’re going to hear about in a minute.”

Then the veteran sportscaster turned to Joanna, saying, “The reason I asked you to come back up here is that though I’ve only known him a year, I think I know him well enough now to know that he wants is his picture with you. So, ladies and gentlemen, Dak Prescott.”

Needless to say, that impromptu intro nailed it, and Joanna and Dak were photographed.

The first question from Brad to Dak was, who were Dak’s role models? “My brothers and my mother were most important,” Dak replied. “To me the thing that resonates to me about such a school program is time. A lot of us don’t come home to parents. My mom was always at work. But I had two brothers who were five or six years older than me and that was who I had to look up to, to watch after me. But there was still time. You may think 10 or 15 are good ages, but we need something to do with our time. Something to better ourselves more than just the sports, the video games until mom gets home to cook for us because you get tired of Ramen noodles all the time. There are so many bad things and wrong decisions that you can make from 10 to 15. A program like this that is putting the kids in the position to get extra hours of studying and taking up new tasks, making new friends and coming out of their shells, doing something that makes you a better person and more interesting within yourself.”

While his brothers weren’t able to finish school, Dak learned from this and committed to getting an education. He admitted that he was one of the few fortunate enough to have people in front of him to tell him the right thing to do and to lead him in the right direction. He emphasized the need for ASAS because others aren’t as fortunate—or have brothers who might lead them in the wrong direction.

The subject then turned to Cowboys and football.

  • What does he do after his work day? “I’m a big video gamer. If I’m not doing something for the community, I play video games and hang out with a couple of buddies. I may try to find a pond to go fishing. I fish for anything. If there are fish in the sink, I’ll try to catch them. I’ve been trying golf lately, but I’m not into golf. I’ve taken it up, but it’s very frustrating.”
  • What was it about football that hooked you? He would go to his brothers’ little league games. “I guess I knew I was good at my first practice. I was in third grade, so I was eight years old and skipped the whole flag football.” It helped that he had played with his older brothers who had never taken it easy on him. “When I played people my age, it was a little bit different.”
  • When did the idea of being a quarterback come into play? In sixth grade, he was a linebacker. Then his brother taught him how to throw the ball.
  • Where did the leadership come from? “That came from my older brothers allowing me to always be around their friends, not really thinking about age at any point. They let me feel that I could play football and hang with them.”
  • How is his life different today compared to a year ago? “Completely.” While the way he thinks of himself and the way he goes about his work haven’t changed, “My platform has. A year ago no one would dared to have had me come up here and talk.” He said the greatest thing is that it has allowed him to tell his story and inspire others.
  • Was he disappointed to go in the fourth round of the NFL draft? “Yes. To sit there and wait two day, three days and wait … Yeah, it puts a chip on your shoulder, thinking there are 134 people that are better than me. I just have to go out and prove myself every day.”
  • Is he at the place where he can go into Jason Garrett‘s office and say what type of draft picks he wants? “No, I’m not there yet.”
  • During one of the games he was caught on camera finishing a cup of water and missed throwing it in the trash. He immediately got up and put it in. What were you thinking? “I wasn’t thinking. I was thinking, ‘How did I miss that shot?’ He was amazed that that video had garnered such attention, when it seemed like the natural thing to do.
  • Have you picked the brains of Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman? He’s spoken with both and shared text messages with Troy.
  • He’s creating a foundation called Fight, Finish and Faith. Where did that come from? When his mother passed away, the preacher told how she had said that Fight was for his elder brother Tad, who had fought for his family and the things he believed in; Finish was his brother Jace, who was there until the end; and Faith was Dak, because he believed in making a difference in the world.
  • “What was your favorite play this season?” a youngster wearing a Jason Witten jersey asked Dak. Dak said it was the one where Jason made the touchdown.
  • What was the lesson that Jason taught him at the first practice camp? Dak threw the ball to Witten, who didn’t extend to catch it and let the ball fall right in front of him. “He showed me what it takes to be in this league,” Dak said. Yes, Jason could have caught that ball, but to make it in this league Dak has to be precise and not expect the receiver to save him.
  • Why are you going to be better this year? “Hard work. Study as much as I can, get better with my teammates and just be ready to go. Get better as a team.”

As checkbooks were pulled out, Sham finished with, “Dak is what you want him to be.” And thanks to ASASNT, Joanna will be what you want her to be, too.

MySweetCharity Photo Gallery Alert: After-School All-Stars North Texas’ Rising Stars Luncheon

Jack Betts and Gina and Ken Betts

It was only After-School All-Stars North Texas’ second Rising Stars Luncheon. And like some newbies on the fundraising scene, it can be tough to draw a crowd or get the organization’s message across. But ASAS Advisory Board Chair Ben Lange drafted Gina Betts, whose reputation in local nonprofit circles is daunting. And she proved that her rep is well deserved on Wednesday, May 17.

Dak Prescott and Brad Sham

Joanna Hernandez

Ben Lange

Thanks to “connections,” Ben and Gina arranged to have Dallas Cowboys quarterback wunderkind Dak Prescott on stage for a chat with Dallas Cowboys voice Brad Sham before an SRO crowd including Mark Cuban and Charles Haley at the Dallas Country Club.

But it was ASAS teenager Joanna Hernandez who stole the show and Dak’s heart with her story.

While the post is being prepped, check out the photos  on MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

It’s Time To Free Your Gently Experienced Clothes From Closet Confines For The Mary Kay Foundation’s Suits For Shelters Program

It’s time for an honesty check. Isn’t there just one, maybe two or even a dozen outfits in your closet that you will never, ever wear again? Perhaps they’re a season or two behind the times. Or, perhaps your body has changed just enough that it just isn’t simpatico with those duds anymore. Yes, it’s a hard fact to face. But it’s time to let your former fabric friends escape the dark confines of your closet and find a bright new life with someone who would think they’ve hit a jackpot.

Suits For Shelters*

Perfect timing all the way around. Not only is there a great chance that there will be one rainy day during the upcoming “four-day holiday weekend,” but the Suits for Shelters is kicking off this weekend. So, why not spend that rainy day editing your wardrobe and taking your gently experienced professional attire and accessories to Tootsies for the Mary Kay Foundation’s “Don’t Look Away” program that benefits women in need.

Not only will you have more space in your closet for new goodies, you’ll earn yourself a $25 Tootsies gift card to shop. Plus you’ll make a difference for someone you may never know.

And if you’re away for the holiday, not to worry. The Suits for Shelters collection program runs through July until Friday, August 4.    

* Graphic courtesy of The Mary Kay Foundation

Double Centennial Celebration Of DCMSAF And Aldredge House Included Memories Of A Disrobing Sue Ellen And “The Country Club Girls”

Susan McSherry was on the verge of moving from a home that her family had carefully restored. She was amazed that despite the meticulous restoration, potential buyers were wondering where the playroom and/or media room was.

Joel and Susan Williams

Caroline Rose Hunt and Dedie Leahy

Max Wells

Anne Hobson

Nancy Carter

Stuart Bumpas

How ironic on a day when 340 guests like  Susan Williams and husband Highland Park Mayor Joel Williams, former Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm, Veletta Lill, Marj Waters, Robin Robinson, Caroline Rose Hunt, Max Wells, Anne Hobson, Nancy Carter, Debbie Francis, Sara Martineau, Carlton Adams, Margo Goodwin, Marilyn Augur, Aileen Pratt, Jill Smith, Ann Dyer, Barbara Sypult, Stuart Bumpas, Christie Carter, Angie Kadesky, Dedie Leahy and noted local historian Virginia McAlester were celebrating a double centennial of the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance Foundation (DCMSAF) and the historic Aldredge House at the Dallas Country Club.

Mary McDermott Cook, Debbie Francis and Barbara Sypult

To add to the occasion, Co-Chairs Sharon and Mike McCullough arranged to have 105-year-old Margaret McDermott and Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler on hand as honorary co-chairs.

Barenda Hino

Pierce Allman and Marj Waters

With history-loving Pierce Allman serving as emcee introduced 100th DCMSAF President Barenda Hino.

Highlights of the luncheon included Lunch Co-Chair Lindalyn Adams without notes telling the 100-year founding of DCMSAF with DCMSAF historian Elizabeth Gunby looking on. Lindalyn had both honorary co-chairs speak.

Having grown up on Swiss Avenue, Ruth told of her childhood growing up with her two big brothers, Jim Collins and Carr Collins. It was Carr, who raced up stairs telling mother Collins, “Mother, come get Ruthie. She’s showing off again.”

Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler

Margaret Milam McDermott

Next to speak was “the heroine of cultural arts” —Margaret Milam McDermott. Staying in her wheelchair, she thanked the crowd and had her daughter Mary McDermott Cook speak for her.  Mary turned the mic over to Joel, who said he had a special honor being seated between the two honorary co-chairs. He then said that if the group wanted to raise some money, he would be willing to auction off his seat. Joel then told how Margaret moved into the city of Highland Park in 1919 and has lived in the town longer “than anyone else that we know.” He went on to recall that each year Margaret has been invited to light the Highland Park Christmas tree on Armstrong, which is the oldest Christmas tradition in Dallas County. For the past five years, “Margaret has shown up and lighted that 152-year-old tree.”

After lunch Lindalyn and Pierce were joined on stage by American historian/author Dr. William Seale, who is a rock star in the world of historic renovation and preservation. When asked if the younger generation was appreciating and supporting past works, he said, “Most definitely. In fact, there are magazines devoted to it. The mistake that sometimes made is to try to convert a house into what you already understand is how the house should be rather than knowing it and basing your renovations on the building, letting the building be itself. That is one of the big things in architectural design and remodeling houses today is to understand the past of the house and honor that.”

Lindalyn Adams

Lindalyn recalled when a TV crew that had worked with “The Waltons” program negotiated to film a new show at Aldredge House. The only caveat was that they ‘wouldn’t say anything derogatory about our city.” They agreed saying it was a family show. The pilot aired with Sue Ellen Ewing forced to disrobe in Mrs. Aldredge’s parlor. The phone lines lit up. The show turned out to be “Dallas.” 

When Aldredge family member Betty Aldredge Slater was later in Europe, word got out that it was her family’s parlor that Sue Ellen shed her clothes, the BBC interviewed her. Betty’s doctor also noted that he “particularly liked your stables.”

William told how visitors to historic homes want “authenticity. They’re very honest. If you’re honest to them, they’re honest to you. You don’t have to recreate the battle on the front yard. You just have to be accurate. In this world the historic building or house is a very worthwhile thing. In a world that we live in that doesn’t have a lot of accuracy. Most of what we look at or see on television is inaccurate. If you know anything about it, you know it’s inaccurate. It( the historic building) is the real thing. That’s what people appreciated in these places.”

William Seale

When asked if The Aldredge House belonged on a national register of historical places in addition to its being recently receiving  a Texas Historical Marker, William said, “Absolutely. Absolutely.” 

Admitting that it would never be a mass tourist attraction due to logistics and the Alliance not want it to be, William went on to say that for people who seek it out, it will always provide for them what they’re after. 

Going a bit off subject, he told how President Woodrow Wilson “hadn’t liked women, but he was controlled by women. As the war approached, suffrage, you know had organized the ladies everywhere. They demanded that a women’s commission for the government on the war and finally Wilson grudgingly did it. They laughed about it and called them ‘country club girls’ in Washington and they were kind of poo-pooed and made fun of. It is true that the first thing they did was to sponsor a law that removed brothels and saloons from being near the Army camps. There is an old story in New Orleans about Lulu White, the famous madame in Storeyville, being in a bread line. When asked why she was there, she said, ‘The country club girls have put us out of business.'”

Alas, just as the celebration was scheduled to conclude with a champagne toast, it had to be done with ice tea. Seems behind the scenes the bottles of bubbly hadn’t been uncorked in time.

For more pictures from the event, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

MySweetCharity Photo Gallery Alert: A Double Centennial Celebration

More than 300 folks gathered at the Dallas Country Club to celebrate a double centennial and that doesn’t happen every day. But on Tuesday, May 16, the celebrants were the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance Foundation and the historic Aldredge House, both dated back to starts in 1917.

Margaret Milam McDermott

Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler

On hand were Honorary Co-Chairs 105-year-old Margaret Milam McDermott and young whippersnapper Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler, who grew up down the block from Aldredge House.

Lindalyn Adams

William Seale

But don’t go thinking this was a dusty old celebration. Thanks to history preservationist Lindalyn Adams and noted historian/author William Seale, the crowd learned historic tidbits, from the filming of the “Dallas” pilots to how “the country club girls” put Lulu White on the breadline.

While the post is being prepared including Sue Ellen and Lulu, photos are available at MySweetCharity Photo Gallery for your perusal.

Annual Genesis Luncheon Keynoter Arianna Huffington Made A Wake-Up Call For Digital Intervention

Some of the digitally connected folks looked a bit squeamish at the Genesis Luncheon on Monday, May 15, in the Anatole’s Chantilly Ballroom. It wasn’t that keynoter Arianna Huffington created a great divide like Bethenny Frankel. Rather, the former grand dame of internet news outlet The Huffington Post was telling the crowd to cut the cord, or at least the wireless connection with their cellphones, tablets and laptops. It was like the head of Alcoholic Anonymous extolling the virtues of sobriety to the National Association of American Wineries. But more about that later.

Before the luncheon got underway, the meet-and-greet with 100 very special guests like Luncheon Co-Chairs Nikki and Crayton Webb, Gail and Gerald Turner, Pat Schenkel, Greg Nieberding, Melissa Cameron and Gail Davis got underway in the Wedgwood Room at 10:45.

Gerald Turner, Arianna Huffington, Pat Schenkel and Gail Turner

Melissa Cameron

Gail Davis

Right on schedule the doors opened to the gorgeous ballroom filled with huge arrangements of pink, white and red roses, hydrangeas and cherry blossoms, white tablecloths and pink napkins and a stage with a side backdrop of pink and red surrounding the main screen, with Genesis encircled by a heart. On the stage were two chairs in the center with a podium to the side, setting the scene for what was to come.

As guests like Ashlee Kleinert, Ken Altshuler, Nancy Best, Ros Dawson Thompson and Paige McDaniel took their seats, a man arrived who was immediately surrounded by folks wanting to have their photo taken with him. The gentleman was the man of the hour — HeRO Awardee/former Dallas Police Chief David Brown. When asked if rumors about his new book “Called To Rise” were true, that pre-release sales were skyrocketing, he smiled and said, “I hope so.”  

Crayton and Nikki Webb

Immediately signaling that the luncheon program was underway was a recitation by three Lakeview Centennial High School Young students enrolled in Young DFW Writers that was followed by Crayton telling how one in four women would face physical violence at some point in their lives. He stated that until that situation of abuse ends, “We have Genesis.” To carry on the support of Genesis, he reeled off the various raffle items available and then introduced Rev. Dr. Sheron Patterson to provide the invocation.

Following lunch, Nikki and Crayton arrived on stage to introduce various dignitaries, thank the luncheon committee members and recount stories of women who’d told them just that morning of being in abusive relationships. Adding a touch of humor and “Aw,” Crayton told how Nikki had said 18 months ago that, in addition to their three sons, she’d like to have a fourth child. To this Crayton responded, “I hope you and your next husband will be very happy.” As laughter filled the room, Crayton added, “But I’m still here.” The fourth child ended up being a little girl they name Lucy, who also brought a renewed concern and determination to the couple in helping women in danger.

At 12:20 p.m. Genesis Women’s Shelter CEO Jan Langbein, whose dress matched the day’s pink, white and red floral setting, told the audience that the Junior League of Dallas had received the Jane Doe Award the week before at a private reception.

Jan Langbein, Arianna Huffington and David Brown

Then she introduced David Brown, emphasizing his support of Genesis’ mission in fighting abuse against women. As he approached the stage to officially receive the HeRO Award, the room erupted in cheers and a standing ovation. David once again proved his skill at addressing the crowd and told how as a youngster he had witnessed the devastation of drugs and violence within his community. This experience resulted in his committing himself to public service. As he explained, if you do something for other people and expect something in return, then that is a business deal. But if you do something for other people who cannot return the favor, it a true reward.    

At 12:27, Jan then introduced Arianna, telling of her many accomplishments including being the author of 15 books, the most recent being “The Sleep Revolution.”

Arianna Huffington

With a Greek accent that at times made her sound like Zsa-Zsa Gabor, Arianna recognized Jan (“What a force of nature!”), Nikki and Crayton and Genesis Senior Director of Development Bianca Jackson, before revealing that she indeed did have a Texas connection — her former husband, millionaire Michael Huffington, had been born in Dallas. She recalled how, years before, she had served on the board of Points of Light, and Genesis was one of the organizations spotlighted.

While some guests may have expected her to talk politics, they were sorely disappointed. Nary was a Republican, Democrat or Whig mentioned.

Okay, so she did recall Madeleine Albright’s saying, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support women. But I think there’s a special place in heaven for men who support women.” The first sentence caused some guests to think that it was going to be a political ride, but the follow-up sentence quickly put that idea to rest.

Instead of controversial issues dealing with politicians, she sounded like a tent preacher on the subject of improving one’s well being. Her epiphany took place in 2007 when she collapsed and passed out due to sleep deprivation.  When she regained consciousness, she found herself in a pool of blood, with a broken cheekbone and a cut over her eye. It was literally a wake-up call. She asked herself, “What is life about?” In the past it had meant 18-hour days striving for money and power. But now she was re-examining her definition of the “good life.” Her answer was to put the priority on taking care of one’s self. As an example, she recalled the age-old oxygen mask theory.

Feeling so strongly about her discovery, she left The Huffington Post this past August and launched Thrive Global to encourage people to “look up from our phones and take care of ourselves, our loved ones and our community. Otherwise we’re in serious trouble.”

Arianna Huffington

She wondered aloud how the assembled group would handle time away from their cellphones, laptops, etc. Ironically, just as Arianna was encouraging guests to take a “digital detox,” guests in the room were seen snapping shots of Arianna on their cellphones and checking their watches about appointments.

Touching on the importance of giving and connecting with the community, Arianna said that Genesis was doing just that for women and their families.

On the lighter side, Arianna recalled how God created the world in six days and “she” rested on the seventh. Her point was that rest is vital to well-being.

After her talk at the podium, she was joined on stage by WFAA’s medical reporter Sonia Azad at 12:46 p.m., where they chatted about how people could indeed take better care of themselves through meditation, yoga, fly fishing and brushing off the problems of the day in the shower. All of those activities required leaving distractions like cellphones elsewhere. “We need to disconnect from our phones.”

Arianna Huffington and Sonia Azad

To emphasize the point of ending the digital addiction, she asked how many in the audience slept with their cellphones on their nightstands. This statement resulted in a chatter at tables and hands raised throughout the room. One guest sheepishly ‘fessed up that he did, “But I use it as an alarm clock.” Without hearing the comment, Arianna had evidently heard that one before and was prepared: “You can buy an old-fashioned alarm clock.”

Arianna Huffington and Sonia Azad

Feeling so strongly about this situation, Arianna’s Thrive Global has created a “phone bed,” so the phone can recharge on top of a satin-clad mattress outside of the bedroom.

When asked by Sonia about her advice to her daughters, Arianna told how her daughters were well “aware of the dangers of becoming addicted to social media presence in our lives.” She went on to say that the main goal for countless engineers at the social media companies is to feed this addiction.

Admitting she has an Instagram account, she reported how just that morning she had received a note asking if she would like to know each time someone likes her post or follows her: “That sounds like hell.”

As the guests waited for their cars following the luncheon, one person was overheard laughing that AT&T was not a luncheon sponsor.

MySweetCharity To Launch Mini-Series — “Summer Pitch”

MySweetCharity

North Texas is now at “that point in the summer.” The kids have seen all the movies including the losers. The good old swimming hole is starting to look like it could boil lobster. Summer camp is either in the rear view mirror or still a couple of weeks away.

What’s left for the summer of 2017? Lots!

Thanks to North Texas nonprofits, there are still loads of gotta-dos available. Some are obvious and well known; others are off the traditional radar. But they’re all family oriented and the results of North Texan generosity.

In the days ahead, MySweetCharity is going to run a brief series — MSC Summer Pitch — for these organizations to describe their things-to-do for your consideration.

Why not give ‘em a try and don’t forget to take photos.  

Genesis Annual Luncheon VIP Sponsors Celebrated The Jane Doe And HeRO Awards At Amanda And Brint Ryan’s Home-Sweet-Home

Amanda and Brint Ryan

When Amanda and Brint Ryan waved goodbye to the last of the 75 guests at the Genesis Annual Luncheon VIP Sponsors Party on Thursday, May 11, hopefully they checked all the nooks and crannies of their palatial digs. The reason? The main house and grounds were so absolutely perfect, it was good money that someone would hide out just to spend the night.

Ryan main house

Ryan doghouse

Even the Ryan’s doghouse was a mini-version of the main house. The two Ryan pooches had to watch the festivities from their fenced-in mini-estate, while the party was going on.

But the night wasn’t just for critters and palace gazing. It was to thank the Genesis major donors and to present some awards in advance of the annual luncheon on May 15.

Gerald Turner

Chuck Thoele and David Miller

When a classical string group stopped playing and the pool’s fountains closed down, it signaled that the evening’s program was getting under way, with guests in attendance like Nancy Best, Gail and Gerald Turner, Carolyn and David Miller, Beth and Chuck Thoele, Bob Mong and Steve Langbein.

First to speak was Genesis Annual Luncheon Co-Chair Nikki Webb, who thanked the Ryans for their hospitality. “I find your house so incredibly warm, and I’m sure it’s a reflection of y’all,” she said. Then, Nikki revealed for the first time that a fella that she’d dated in college had proved to be a very wrong person for a relationship. She admitted that while she feared him, her friends claimed that he was really a great guy. Luckily, Nikki rose above and out of that situation and eventually married her husband/Genesis Annual Luncheon Co-Chair Crayton Webb.  

Crayton and Nikki Webb

Next Crayton took the mic and announced that this year’s HeRO Award, which honors men who take a public stand against domestic violence, would be going to former Dallas Police Chief David Brown. The ex-chief, Crayton said, “was involved in preventing domestic violence long before” the tragic police shootings on July 7, 2016. Brown would accept the award, it was explained, at the May 15 luncheon at the Hilton Anatole.

With that, Genesis Women’s Shelter CEO Jan Langbein took over, explaining that the 2017 Jane Doe Award—which honors groups or individuals who stand strongly in support of domestic-abuse victims—would be going to the Junior League of Dallas. Jan, who was initially exposed to Genesis as a JLD volunteer and later won its highest honor, the Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award, explained that Genesis currently enjoys the services “of the most JLD volunteers of any nonprofit in Dallas.”

Nancy Best and Jan Langbein

Bonner Allen

Accepting the Jane Doe award was Bonner Allen, the league’s 2016-2017 president. While 2017-2018 President Jennifer Tobin looked on, Bonner proudly said, “I can’t tell you how much this award means to us. I couldn’t think of a better partner [for the league] than Genesis.”  

Five Outstanding Women Are Honored At The Dallas Women’s Foundation’s Leadership Forum And Awards Dinner

The Dallas Women’s Foundation really knows how to throw a VIP reception. Consider the one held before the group’s May 9 Leadership Forum and Awards Dinner, which was intended to honor the recipients of the foundation’s 2017 Maura Women Helping Women and Young Leader Awards.

Inside the packed VIP reception room at the Omni Dallas Hotel were not just one or two, but all five of the women who were the very first recipients of the Women Helping Women awards back in 1978 and 1979. Mixing with the guests were Maura McNeil, for whom the Maura Awards are named; Vivian Castleberry; Ginny Whitehill; the Hon. Eddie Bernice Johnson; and the Hon. Adlene Harrison.

Maura McNiel*

Adlene Harrison and Susie Marshall*

Francis Griffin Brown and Ginny Whitehill*

Vivian Castleberry and Hind El Saadi El Jarrah*

Outside the VIP tete-a-tete, meantime, many of the evening’s 850 guests were preparing to sweep into the Dallas Ballroom for the program and a wonderful dinner (saffron poached pear salad, grilled petite filet and breast of chicken, assorted vegetables, and two types of tarts). The event’s co-chairs, Cheryl Alston and Laura V. Estrada, got things under way by thanking the presenting sponsor, AT&T, before giving way to Roslyn Dawson Thompson, the Dallas Women’s Foundation’s president and chief executive officer.

Laura V. Estrada, Brenda L. Jackson, Roslyn Dawson Thompson and Cheryl Alston*

Ros thanked everyone and pointed out that, since 1985, the foundation has invested more than $32 million in “advancing positive social and economic change for women and girls in our community.” Then Brenda Jackson, the foundation’s selection committee co-chair, presented the honorees for the 2017 Maura Awards, which recognize exceptional leaders who have pioneered the way in improving lives for women and children.

Elba Garcia, Lupe Valdez and Madeline McClure*

Amy Ooi, Tonya Parker and Wei Wei Jeang*

Ellenore Knight Baker and Cynthia Nwuabani*

This year’s Maura winners were: Dr. Hind Jarrah, Ph.D., executive director of the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation; Madeline McClure, founding CEO of TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children; the Hon. Tonya Parker, judge of the 116th Civil District Court in Dallas County ; and Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in Dallas County. The 2017 Young Leader Award also was presented by Ellenore Knight Baker and Zeenat Sidi to Cynthia Nwaubani, CPA. 

In a series of videos about the honorees, Jarrah urged women to “look at leadership as an ability to serve.” Parker said that while there are “lots of women lawyers,” they need to take more prominent roles in the legal system: “We’re not getting speaking roles at the courthouse. Come argue the brief—don’t just write them!” Added Valdez: “Do what you need to do to step up and grow a little bit.”

Following a plea for donations—”Text Maura to 41444 to donate. Don’t hesitate; do it now!”—AT&T’s Jennifer Biry introduced the evening’s keynote speaker: Carla Harris, who is vice chairman, global wealth management, managing director, and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley.

Harris, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council in 2013, told the attendees that “you take your life from success to significance when you do things for other people.” And doing for others through leadership, she said, is “all about the letters in the word ‘leader.’ ” Then she proceeded to tick off the word’s six letters, attaching a nugget of wisdom to each one.

Carla Harris*

“L is for ‘leverage,’ ” Harris began. “You need to encourage out-of-the-box thinking, and leverage other people’s ideas. E is for ’empower.’ A leader must define what success looks like for [her people], even when you’re operating in an obscure environment. A is for ‘authentic.’ Authenticity is at the heart of your power, and at the heart of powerful leadership. If you’re authentic, people will trust you, and it will motivate and inspire others to be authentic, too.

“D is for ‘decisive’ and ‘diversity,’” Harris continued, first explaining the decisive part. “Meg Whitman, when she was at eBay, said, ‘The price of inaction is greater than the price of making a mistake.’ Make people know that you are decisive!” As for diversity, Harris said, “We are all competing around innovation. To be innovative, you need a lot of different ideas in the room. You need a lot of perspectives. You need a lot of experience. So, you need a lot of different people. There’s the business argument for diversity!

“E is for ‘engage,’” Harris went on. “You must engage your people. You can’t motivate by fear. This is especially true for women and millennials. What motivates them? You need to ask them, ‘What’s your experience? What’s the stretch experience you’re looking for?’”

Finally, Harris said, “R is for ‘risk.’ You must be comfortable taking risks. The way to differentiate yourself is to show that you’re comfortable taking risks. Why don’t we take more risks? Because we’re scared. Fear. And fear has no place in your success equation. If you’re not sure about trying something, always default to the try.”

Harris’ message was especially apropos because, when it comes to women and girls in North Texas, no group “defaults to the try” like the Dallas Women’s Foundation. As it proved, once again, with this dinner.

* Photo credit: Kristina Bowman

Fifth Annual Can Do! Luncheon Brought Out Stories From All Walks Of Life For The Wilkinson Center Fundraiser

The Fifth Annual Can Do! Luncheon not only ran on time, it sliced off ten minutes with guests scurrying on their way to the valet ten minutes earlier than planned at the Dallas County Club on Tuesday, May 9.

It was a sell-out crowd for The Wilkinson Center fundraiser and it was a heady crowd, thanks to Co-Honorees Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, The Real Estate Council and Wilkinson Center supporters.

Regina Montoya

Craig Innes

Sara Martineau and Nelda Cain Pickens

In the crowd filling the DCC ballroom were Nancy Ann Hunt, Carolyn and David Miller, Ros Dawson Thompson, Gail and Gerald Turner, Angie Kadesky, Marsha and Craig Innes, Kristi Francis, Ellen McStay, Pam Perella, Tucker Enthoven, Stacey Walker, Cheryl Joyner, Suzy Gekiere, Leslie Diers and Sara Albert with their mom Cynthia Melnick, Jan Langbein, Sara Martineau, Nelda Cain Pickens, Regina Montoya, Jeanne Marie Clossey and Jennifer Swift.

Ros Dawson Thompson and Nancy Ann Hunt

Jennifer Swift

Marsha Innes

In keeping with other fundraisers, there was emphasis placed on text messaging donations. Whether it was Event Chair Beth Thoele or stand-up signage on tables, the message was strong to text. The problem with the text donating is that while the younger members of the audience know how to donate via their cellphones, the older crowd and the ones with the most ka-ching shied away from the idea.

Luckily, the Wilkinson message was delivered thanks to The Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder with testimony from Bank of America’s Maria Padilla, who told of her coming to the U.S. when she was 9 years old with her mother and siblings. The purpose was to get an education. She recalled the days when she had to translate for her mother and go to McDonald’s and eat while her mother didn’t, because there just wasn’t enough money. Today her brother is an architect, her sister is a teacher and Maria has not only graduated from college but has earned a saster’s degree from SMU.

Robin Minick and Kelcey Hamilton

Following a video, the first award of the day was presented to The Real Estate Council. In accepted the award, TREC VP and Foundation Director Robin Minick spoke briefly about the similarities between The Wilkinson Center and TREC, which share a mission “to improve the lives of the people of Dallas.”

Next up were the Kleinerts. Chris started off admitting that he had been impressed by the Can Do containers with flowers on the table near the stage and had told their son to grab one after the lunch, so they could give it to Ashlee for upcoming Mother’s Day. Oops! He hadn’t realized that the containers were the awards.

Then he pointed out that the spirit of the Can Do Luncheon is about encouraging entrepreneurship and used as an example a recent news story about a youngster in Rockwall. It seems 7-year-old Kaden Newton had recognized the fact that many food pantries were in short supply when it came to healthy and kid-friendly food. So he created a program for Mac and Cheese and Pancakes to meet that need. Within the first two weeks, he had raised more than 10,000 items.

Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, Beth Thoele, Anne Reeder and Monique Weber

The Wilkinson Center’s Monique Weber also received a standing ovation for her story of surviving heart-rending challenges. She told how she had lost her son to a murder in Chicago and moved to Dallas, only to find herself homeless. She turned to Wilkinson Center’s Food Pantry, where she found a family of support in its staff. They not only provided food but also helped her earn her diploma and receive a scholarship to attend a community college, where she is training to become a surgical technician.

Canine Companions For Independence Graduation At Kinkeade Campus Changed Lives For Both Humans And Their New BFF

Linda and Terrence Marler

May is filled with graduations and that applies to pooches as well as youngsters. On Friday, May 5, Canine Companions for Independence held a graduation ceremony at its Canine Companions for Independence Kinkeade Campus at the Baylor Scott and White Health facilities in Irving. It was overflowing with humans like Jan Rees-Jones with Susan McSherry, Baylor Animal Assisted Therapy Coordinator Linda Marler and her husband Terrence Marler as well as four-legged types.

Before the graduation took place, U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, who had been the driving force for Texas’ only CCI, teased new Baylor Scott and White CEO Jim Hinton, who had just recently arrived in North Texas from New Mexico: “When Jim first got here, he asked me what are those green objects. I told him, ‘Jim, I know you’re from New Mexico, but those are trees. We have a lot of those here.’ ”

Jim and Kristen Hinton and Ed Kinkeade

Following Ed, Jim told the crowd, “I love my wife first, I love my dogs second and I love my kids third and I’m completely unapologetic about that.”

Despite the Hinton dogs still living for the time being in New Mexico, Jim confessed that he does Facetime with them. “The good news is that they recognize my voice and I’m still a little bit of a wag. I miss those dogs terribly. To me this effort is a convergence of two things that I am passionate about: one is dogs and the other one is healthcare, taking care of people. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Judge Ed Kinkeade. It is his vision; it is his passion; it is his unique way that has caused this to exist.”

Jim recalled his attending the previous graduation and “I asked the question that all first-time guests ask, ‘Why are all these Kleenex boxes sitting around?’ And so for the past several months, I’ve been building up this moment with my wife [Kristen] and she is with me today. I’ve noticed that she’s already getting a little teary and we haven’t even started the darn program yet. So, she’s going to be a mess before this thing is over. ”

Luckily, there were boxes of tissues placed throughout the room. Sure, it was Cinco de Mayo to the rest of the world, but it was a parting of relationships for some in the room and for others it was the coming together for a lifelong journey.

Canine Companion for Independence puppy in training

Canine Companion for Independence puppy graduate Dutch II

One group consisted of young Labradors that for two years had been raised through the “awkward years,” thanks to volunteer puppy raisers. These dogs had been loved, hugged and been exposed to the world. Now, they were leaving the comfort of their homes and stepping up to a new level of education that would take place at the facility for months by skilled trainers. Their goal was to become the “companions” for those in need.  

Judy Schumpert and #18

A word about the puppy raisers; they range from all types. Some are families; some are prisoners; and then there was Judy Schumpert, who was turning in her 18th dog and already training her 19th : “I’m either on a mission for God or a glutton for punishment. I’ve got to keep doing it until I can do it no more.”

It’s hard to imagine anyone living, loving and working with a puppy for two years and then giving them up. New puppy raisers Mary Catherine Lombardi and Erica Hotvedt admitted, “When we got started, I think we knew what we were getting into. But I think the final goodbyes are harder than we expected.”  They recognized that their puppy Yoshi III, however, was destined for a truly remarkable role.

That purpose became so apparent when the graduation of the new teams took place. For the past two weeks, the seven humans had arrived and lived at the facility to be matched and trained with their new best friends.

Edgar

Chosen as class spokesperson for the graduating teams, Edgar, with Chase V at his side, eloquently told of the importance of this program for the graduating humans. One was an autistic child, whose outbursts would “calm down immediately” when her pooch, Tess VI, “came to the rescue.” Thomas, whose weakened motor skills caused by cerebral palsy resulted in his dropping things to the floor, had been helped by  Atlas IV retrieving them for him. Wheel-chair-bound youngster Lauren‘s arm was subject to bouts of spasticity and limited control, but when Egan II lay down at her side, it was still and under control. Edgar himself admitted that there were times when he would fall out of his wheelchair and Chase’s bark command would sound the alert for assistance. Thanks to Dutch II, wheelchair-bound Lauren was looking forward to getting out on her own and not being “a burden on my parents.” Sara, who works with first responders in dealing with PTSD, would be assisted in the future by Aiken II, who would be “the non-judging entity in the room that helps the patients relax.” 

From the left: (seated) CCI graduate team Lauren and Egan; (standing) Puppy raisers Andrew, Ella, Mark, Angela and Lauren’s mother

Edgar continued, “These stories are a mere excerpt of what has happened in the past 10 days. Can you imagine what is going to happen in the next 10 years? All of us graduates would like to say thank you for being here today, whether you’re a donor, a puppy raiser, a volunteer. Even if this is your first time with Canine Companions, that’s how it starts. That how you get the ball rolling.”

Summing up the two weeks of team training, he addressed his fellow graduates: “We arrived as seven families, but today we graduate as one. And here we stand on the brink of a 10-year-journey. It won’t always be easy, but I promise it will be worth it. All the troubles that we deal with daily will soon be alleviated by an incredible new resource, my new best friend that is unconditionally at our side just waiting to help anyway they can. Thank you.”

As the new teams headed home for a new life of independence, the new recruits were taken to their CCI spotless digs for the next step in their education to be a life-changing partner for someone in need.   

Lauren and her mother

And that’s why the boxes of Kleenex were throughout the hall.