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.

JUST IN: 2017 Rising Stars Luncheon Scored A Touchdown Netting $336,870 For After-School All-Stars North Texas

Ben Lange (File photo)

Nancy Rogers and Gina Betts (File photo)

If you see attorney Gina Betts and America’s Auto Auction CEO Ben Lange giggling and high-fiving each other, it’s not because they just won a lawsuit or sold a lot full of cars. Nope. The two just learned the results of their After-School All-Stars North Texas’s Rising Stars Luncheon fundraiser on Wednesday, May 17, at the Dallas Country Club.

Dak Prescott and Brad Sham

It was only the second luncheon fundraiser for the group, but ASAS Advisory Board Chair Ben managed to get fundraising queen Gina to chair the event that was such a sell-out that folks were nearly sitting in laps.

In addition to the need for the ASAS program being a big draw, Gina and Ben pulled in a couple of big guns — Nancy and Richard Rogers as presenting sponsors and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.on stage in a chat with Brad “Voice of the Dallas Cowboys” Sham.

The event was a grandstand touchdown scoring a whopping $336,870. No, that’s not the amount raised. It’s the net.

Needless to say, ASAS Executive Director Marissa Castro is thrilled because it means that middle schoolers will have “safe and structured opportunities between 3 and 6 p.m.”

Grovel Alert: 2nd Annual Rising Stars Luncheon

Dak Prescott (AP Photo)

Ben Lange (File photo)

Unlike former Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott hasn’t exactly been making the speaking rounds.  Perhaps that’s why Wednesday’s “2nd Annual Rising Stars Luncheon” benefiting After-School All-Stars North Texas is nearing SRO status at the Dallas Country Club.

According to ASAS North Texas Board Chair Ben Lange, the fundraiser that will have Brad “Voice of the Dallas Cowboys” Sham interviewing the football wunderkind is within one or two tables of selling out.

Nancy Rogers and Gina Betts (File photo)

Chaired by Gina Betts, the fund raiser is being presented by Nancy C. and Richard Rogers.

One of the surprises for organizers has been the number of papa and mama bears who are bringing their kids to the luncheon. Seems that the recent show of munchkins attending The Jonathan’s Place’s “A Chance to Soar” with featured speaker Simone Biles has caught on. Makes sense. Such events provide an excellent opportunity to expose youngsters to role models.

Consider this news to be a “last call” shout-out, so get one of those last spots now by emailing  Liz Arrington or calling her at 469.330.4970.

National Football Foundation’s Hall Of Fame Dinner Honoring Dr. Kenneth Cooper Proved Ideal For Roasting And Toasting

Starting Thursday, January 8, Dallas was being invaded by folks from Ohio and Oregon for the College Football Playoff at AT&T Stadium. And while thousands were attending concerts with Sting, Lady Antebellum and Lenny Kravitz, a very special dinner took place at the Omni Dallas Hotel on Thursday.

Ken Cooper

Ken Cooper

The occasion was the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame in which Father of Aerobics Dr. Kenneth “Ken” Cooper was to be inducted. It turned out to be a twofer event. Voice of the Dallas Cowboys Brad Sham was to be presented with the Blackie Sherrod Award during the weekend’s festivities. But due to a date in Green Bay to announce the Cowboys-Packers game, it was decided to move up the presentation to Cooper’s induction dinner.

Troy Aikman and Jay Novacek

Troy Aikman and Jay Novacek

Limited to 300, the evening was heavy on all-star athletes and light on body fat. Former Dallas Cowboy Jay Novacek with his wife Amy by his side and his cowboy hat firmly in place opened arms and embraced his old quarterback/buzz haircut partner Troy Aikman.

Dang! Why do Troy and Jay look taller and cuter in person?

A handler pointed to the far back of the reception lobby and said, “They’re back there.”

They turned out to be Roger Staubach, Archie Manning and Brad with Dr. Ken nearby.

From the left (seated): Kristi Scales, Kyla Brinkley, Chick Sham and Peggy Sham; (standing) Bob Thomas, Eric Sham, Paul Sham, Brad Sham and Marla Thomas.

From the left (seated): Kristi Scales, Kyla Brinkley, Chick Sham and Peggy Sham; (standing) Bob Thomas, Eric Sham, Paul Sham, Brad Sham and Marla Thomas.

In other parts of the lobby were a herd of Sham family and friends like Kristi Scales, Peggy Sham, Chick Sham, Kyla Brinkley, Bob Thomas, Eric Sham, Paul Sham and Marla Sham.

At 7, key folks were directed to the private meet-and-greet with Staubach, Aikman, Manning, Cooper and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Roger Staubach and Lyda Hill

Roger Staubach and Lyda Hill

Standing nearby was Lyda Hill, who recalled a dance that she once had shared with Staubach. Was he any good? Sure! And Lyda should know, since she “taught dance lessons at the Air Force Academy.” Her favorite dance? A cha-cha.

Stan Richards and Carol Murphy

Stan Richards and Carol Murphy

At another place in the room, Carol Murphy and Stan Richards revealed that The Richards Group was making the old-heave-ho move from its Northwest Highway-Central headquarters to its new digs on Central between Lemmon and North Haskell the next week.

Veteran football widow Marianne Staubach greeted one and all like a homecoming queen. Everyone was being so copacetic and proper.

But then the Dallas Ballroom doors opened and the guests entered for an evening of toasting and roasting by the super hero types. But it didn’t started until after Daniel Rodriguez sang a stirring “God Bless America” causing the guests to rise from their chairs.

Former journalist/National Football Foundation Executive Director

presented the Sherrod Award to Sham. Brad promised to keep his comments brief since the evening really belonged to Cooper, but in graciously accepting the award, he surprised some and didn’t others by saying the person who had most influenced him in loving sports was his mother Chick.

Bobby Brown and Ken Cooper

Dr. Bobby Brown and Ken Cooper

While some then dined, others like Jennifer Sampson, Tony Fay with daughter Katie Fay, Tommy Bain, Steve Hatchell and Margo and Jim Keyes table-hopped like Easter bunnies. Dinner Co-Chair Laura Leppert was spouseless. Seems husband Tom’s plane was late. The 83-year-old Cooper made his way through the room, finally catching up to 90-year-old cardiologist Dr. Bobby Brown, who was a four-time World Series winner for the New York Yankees. Living in Fort Worth, he was with his daughter Beverley Dale and her husband Larry. Roy Sheldon told a story that has made the rounds about Bobby when he roomed with Yogi Berra. One night while Bobby was studying one of his medical books, Yogi was reading a comic books. When Berra finished his, he asked Brown, “How does yours end?”

Lynne and Roy Sheldon and Marianne Staubach

Lynne and Roy Sheldon and Marianne Staubach

It almost seemed like Roy’s tale was just a prelude of what was about to take place on stage.

It seemed rather proper at first. With Brad as emcee, Foundation Chair Archie introduced a video about Cooper’s amazing work in the area of preventive healthcare from his days as an Air Force doctor. It was followed by a video tribute by former President George W. Bush, who happens to be one of Cooper’s patients. Then Manning invited Staubach and Aikman to the stage to present the Hall of Fame ring to the father of aerobics.

Archie Manning

Archie Manning

That’s when the team of Staubach-Aikman proved to be as sharp at the podium as they were on the football field. Whoever writes their stuff earned their keep.

With Manning to the side, Staubach led off telling the guests that earlier in the evening Manning had ribbed him, asking, “How many Super Bowls have your kids won?” referencing Archie’s sons Eli and Peyton’s two Super Bowl wins. Staubach claimed that he responded, “How many Heismans have you won?”

Then feigning humility, Staubach reported that Ken’s wife Millie had indicated that he had been replaced by Aikman as the No. 1 quarterback in her life. The reason she was supposed to have given? “Well, he’s won more Super Bowls. He’s younger. And he’s better looking.”

But rising above the indignity, Staubach then introduced “my favorite quarterback,” Troy Aikman.

Sauntering up to the podium with a smirk, Aikman added to Staubach’s dilemma, telling him that Millie had told him that Tony Romo was now vying for the No. 1 spot.

Poor Millie without even appearing on stage had become the scene stealer of the night, as Aikman finished up saying that she didn’t approve of his being a part owner in Dunkin’ Donuts (not healthy enough, you know).

Now it appeared to be time for all the antics to end and for the formal induction to take place. As Troy read the official words and Roger flashed the ring for the hundreds to see, Ken stood and received his ring.

Admitting that he was a bit overwhelmed by the recognition, Cooper recalled the early days championing his theory on health. From his days with the Air Force, working with professional football players to going international in Brazil, he proved why the tribute was obviously deserving.

However, even the dedicated physician couldn’t resist having the final laugh of the night, upstaging all the legendary jocks. He told of a competition that had developed between Staubach and former NFL referee Jim “The Dean of NFL Referees” Tunney for a treadmill record. The battle went on and on. Finally, Cooper had to call Staubach and notify him that Tunney had won the competition. Staubach’s comeback? “I knew he was blind, but I didn’t think he could run!”

For more photos, check MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.