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.

A Beacon of Hope Luncheon Introduced Faces Of Hope And Had Glennon Doyle Melton Mix Humor And Honesty About Mental Health

As final preparations were underway on the second floor of the Renaissance Hotel for “A Beacon Of Hope” silent auction and luncheon benefiting the Grant Halliburton Foundation, a VIP reception was taking place on the fourth floor’s City View room on Thursday, February 23.

Foundation President/Founder Vanita Halliburton was surrounded by people whose had been touched by teenagers dealing with mental health issues. She herself had created the foundation due to the suicide of her son Grant Halliburton at the age of 19 in 2005 after years of suffering from depression and bipolar disorder.

Dealing with teen mental health is very difficult issue for a fundraising event. It’s a delicate weaving of the emotional turmoil and hope for helping others overcome such challenges. On this occasion, Vanita was celebrating the launch of a new program — Faces of Hope. As Faces of Hope Chair Barb Farmer explained, the collaboration between the foundation and Gittings was to honor people within the community who “work in diverse ways to promote mental health every day.”

This year’s group of Faces included Suzie and Mike Ayoob, Senior Corporal Herb Cotner, Julie Hersh, Terry Bentley Hill, Patrick LeBlanc, Sylvia Orozco-Joseph, Sierra Sanchez and Priya Singvi.

Sierra Sanchez, Priya Singhvi, Sylvia Orozco-Joseph, Mike and Suzie Ayoob, Terry Bentley Hill, Julie Hersh, Herb Cotner and Patrick LeBlanc

In addition to pieces of crystal being presented to each of the Faces, their portraits were displayed in the lobby on the second floor.

Gittings Faces of Hope portraits

Following the presentation, Vanita had the day’s speaker author/blogger/newly engaged Glennon Doyle Melton briefly talk. Her message was that you can let tragedy drive you forward for the better or let it drive you further down.

Then, right on cue at 10:55, Vanita directed the patrons to the second floor to check the silent auction and buy raffle tickets. On the way down, Barb showed a bracelet that she got from last year’s raffle. It seems her husband bought ten tickets and claimed it was his. Luckily, he gave it to Barb.

Tom Krampitz and Terry Bentley Hill

Hailey Nicholson and Shannon Hollandsworth

The patrons discovered the lobby and ballroom jammed with guests like Tom Krampitz, Shannon Hollandsworth with daughter Hailey Nicholson. Dixey Arterburn was walking through the crowd with a Starbucks cup and a very hoarse throat. Seems she lost her voice at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League Ball the Saturday before.

Dixey Arteburn and Ginger Sager

Taylor Mohr and Amanda Johnson

Taylor Mohr was with her buddy Amanda Johnson, who lost her sister to suicide resulting in Amanda’s working with others involved in such emotional crisis. Unfortunately, there were many in the audience with similar reason for being there. Luckily, they were there to not just support Grant Halliburton Foundation but each other.

Steve Noviello and Vanita Halliburton

Just past noon, KDFW reporter/emcee Steve Noviello recalled that the first year only 100 people attended the luncheon. Now eight years later there were more than 400. In introducing Vanita, he told how when he first met her in her office, he had remarked about the art on the walls, only to learn that it had been done by Grant.

Vanita told about the Foundation and its purpose to help young people struggling with mental health crises. In the past suicide had been the third leading cause of death among young people from ages 15 to 24. It is now second among those between 10 and 24. In Texas, the average is one suicide per week among young people.

After a break for lunch, Vanita and Glennon took their places in chairs on stage. Less than 30 seconds into the conversation, Glennon’s headset mic wasn’t working. A man hustled to the stage with a handheld. Despite the change of mic, there continued to be rustling noise over the PA. Another handheld was brought to the stage for Vanita. It didn’t seem all that necessary, since Glennon appeared to need no help in sharing her life of bulimia, alcoholism, drug addiction and her personal views.

Glennon Doyle Melton

She got sober when she was 25 after being in addiction for a decade and a half. Then she got married and life was good until her husband told her that he had been unfaithful. Learning that news, she just couldn’t stay in her house, so she headed to her yoga class, where they had her go to a hot yoga room. Upon entering the room, Glennon thought, “What the hell is this?”

When the question was raised about what the yoga members’ intentions were that day, Glennon admitted, “My intention is sit on the mat and not run out of the room.” The results? “It was the hardest 90 minutes of my life.”

While her talk was a mix of self-deprecating humor and brutal honesty, it was definitely not a scripted speech but rather just Glennon just being Glennon. 

But her message was clear — “My entire life is to not to avoid the pain of life.” She also said that as a parent, “It’s not our job to protect our children from pain.”

In closing, she consoled those who had suffered the loss of loved ones to mental illness by saying, “Grief is just the proof of great love.”

Inner Beauty Shop’s Embody Love Movement To Provide Healthier Alternatives For Area Girls

With summer comes the look. Whether it’s flirty sundresses, too-cute shorts or sizzling swimsuits, the emphasis is on today’s Holy Grail — having the perfect body. Too many young gals actually think there is such a thing. In trying to achieve it, they make unhealthy choices. That’s why the Inner Beauty Shop aims to help women appreciate the whole person and better understand what real perfection is. Here is a report from the field about the program’s official launch:

Melody Moore and Michelle Collins*

Melody Moore and Michelle Collins*

On a springlike evening this past Thursday, May 14, a most inspiring new initiative was celebrated at Blue Print in Dallas. Embody Love Movement (E*L*M) engages in communities of both privilege and transition, offering workshops (their InnerBeautyShop™) incorporating media analysis, affirmation and yoga.  Melody Moore, PhD is a therapist based in Dallas, committed to bringing girls with disordered eating and self-esteem issues to health.  It was through her enlightened practice that Michelle Collins and her daughter Charlotte met Melody, and realized that the message simply had to travel beyond just the world of therapy circles. Hence the birth of E*L*M – a partnership built with the mission “to empower girls and women to celebrate their inner beauty, commit to kindness, and contribute to meaningful change in the world”.

Artwork display*

Artwork display*

James Davis and Katheryne Davis*

James Davis and Katheryne Davis*

The evening captured the creativity and optimism of both founders. The art projects completed by BeautyShop participants decorated the walls of the ever-gorgeous interior design mecca that is Blue Print.  Past participants of the InnerBeautyShop mingled with cute t-shirts on and special turquoise Embody Love bracelets around their wrists (also for sale at the event). Jazz wafted from a trio on the patio by the pool and lovely healthy apps were passed throughout the evening. Melody and Michelle took a moment to articulate the vision and the inspiration of E*L*M and didn’t leave a sign unheard. It was a gorgeous evening.

Host Committee: Robin and Norm Bagwell, Cynthia and Bruce Collins, Charlotte and John Legg and Mary and Mike Smith.

Board members of E*L*M: Caroline Brasch, James Davis, Wayne Goodwin, Paula Larsen, Christie Reniger and Stephanie Setliff, PhD.

To sign up for the next Embody Love Center Inner Beauty Shop, click here.

* Photos provided by Embody Love Movement