Former Dallas Police Chief David Brown Wows The Crowd At Just Say Yes’ “Building Bridges” Fundraising Dinner

Building Bridges

Tony Romo autographed football

Honorary Chairs Candice and Tony Romo weren’t going to be able to make it. But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm Wednesday, April 19, when around 350 people showed up for Just Say YesBuilding Bridges celebration dinner at Belo Mansion. The keynote speaker, after all, would be another high-wattage local celeb: former Dallas Police Chief David Brown. And the evening would be raising money for the Just Say Yes (short for Youth Equipped to Succeed) nonprofit, a good cause that aims to equip teens to succeed by educating them through classroom curriculum and inspirational student-assembly speakers.

While guests checked out the silent-auction items—including offerings from Al Biernat’s and Papa John’s Pizza, plus a Dallas Cowboys jersey and football signed by Tony—musician Emilio Mesa blasted out some cool sounds on his saxophone. Then everyone filed into the ballroom, where emcee Anna de Haro welcomed all and gave the podium over to Just Say Yes Development Director Marissa Leach. Marissa explained that “Building Bridges” would be the nonprofit’s theme this year, before presenting Just Say Yes Founder/President Dan Bailey with the “15-year award.”

Marissa Leach and Dan Bailey*

While attendees like Bill Noble and King Crow looked on, Dan reviewed the organization’s progress, citing its influence on students in 39 states, for example. It’s also reached more than 600,000 students in Dallas-Fort Worth since the early 2000s, he recalled, and is poised for still more growth in the coming months. Dan was followed by presentation of the annual Coach Avery Johnson Impact Award, which went this year to Paula and Darrell McCutcheon (though Darrell was absent due to “a root canal that didn’t go so well”).

Next came Veronica Lee, the nonprofit’s senior mentoring coordinator, who introduced a student “mentee” named Jasmine and Jasmine’s mother, Veronica. They agreed that Jasmine’s life, once troubled and unhappy, had been turned around thanks to the positive influence of Just Say Yes. “I first joined the program to get out of class,” Jasmine confessed to the crowd with a laugh. “But now we’re one big happy family!” 

Then came what everyone had been keenly anticipating: the keynote talk by Brown, who’s been working as a contributor lately to ABC News. Bespectacled as usual and dressed this evening in a dark business suit, the former Dallas police chief, who’s 56, said he wanted to focus his talk on the aftermath of the Dallas police shootings last July 7. Among the countless letters containing good wishes—and cash—that poured into the department then, Brown recalled, one letter in particular attracted his attention. It was from a fellow named Lance, whom Brown had befriended back during his days attending The University of Texas at Austin.

David Brown*

Receiving the letter set him to remembering how they’d met, when Brown—a poor African-American kid from Oak Cliff—climbed one day aboard a bus bound for Austin and UT and sat down next to the “white kid” from Missouri named Lance. Lance, Brown soon discovered, was also traveling to school at UT, and had also grown up poor. After learning as they approached Waco that Lance was hungry, Brown pulled out a bag of his great-grandmother’s fried chicken and offered some to his new pal.

In his letter to Brown last year, Lance remembered that bus trip and wrote, “My views of blacks changed because of how you treated me.” (Reading those words, Brown said, “I didn’t start crying, but my allergies started acting up.”) Then Lance wrote, “I always wondered why you sat down next to me.” That question was an interesting one, Brown said to the Just Say Yes crowd, so he would let them know why he’d done it.

David Brown*

It seems that a few years before the Austin trip, when he was just 11, the ex-chief was among the first group of local kids bused to a distant school as part of a court-ordered effort to desegregate Dallas’ schools. “No one wanted me there” at his new school, Brown said. “I didn’t want to be there. No one spoke to me for three months.”

Then, one day, Brown said, “a little white kid [named Mike] invited me home to dinner—at 3 p.m.!” Brown accepted Mike’s offer and walked with him to his home, where Mike’s mother quickly summoned her son into the kitchen and began whispering to him. “I felt like Sidney Poitier in the movie ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,’ ” Brown said. But then, after a long while, Mike’s mother came out of the kitchen carrying a couple of pot pies. “Mike and I wound up talking until 7 p.m.,” Brown said. “And, eventually, our friendship led Mike to befriend other black kids.”

A little while ago, Brown said, he reconnected with Mike and asked him, “What were you whispering with your mom about in the kitchen that afternoon?” Mike, who’s Jewish, said he’d reminded his mother that day about their family members who’d survived the Holocaust, and how their advice had always been to be kind to strangers—especially those who were “different” from them.

All three pals—Brown, Lance, and Mike—wound up attending UT Austin at the same time. “So you wonder, is the moral of this story that all we need is fried chicken and pot pies to change the world?” Brown said to the Just Say Yes group. “No! But, you can transform lives with the way you interact with young people. The moral of this story is: we all have a responsibility to one another—one life at a time.

“People ask me, what’s the ‘secret’ reason you quit” the Dallas police department? Brown went on. “There wasn’t any secret reason. I was called to the job for a purpose, and I left for a purpose. I grew up poor, in a tough, high-crime neighborhood, and adults invested in me. That’s why I said yes to Just Say Yes. The Lord can call you to do things that you don’t want to do.

“The things you do for these kids’ lives means something,” Brown said, wrapping up his talk. “I’m proud to be in the same room as you all. Now my allergies are acting up again, so I’m going to stop.”

Of course, Dallas’s former top cop got a standing ovation.

* Photos provided by Just Say Yes

 

Just Say Yes’ “Building Bridges” Will Celebrate With Romos, Brown And Chances For Gragg Gems, Royal Dining, Grelle Artwork And More

Tony and Candice Romo*

David Brown*

As if having former Dallas Police Chief David Brown as the keynote speaker and Honorary Co-Chairs Candice and Tony Romo weren’t enough for the 7th Annual Just Say Yes (Youth Equipped to Succeed) Celebration’s Building Bridges,” organizers have put together quite a line up for the Wednesday, April 19th raffle and live auction fundraiser at Belo Pavilion.

Sue Gragg necklace*

For the raffle, it will be “a custom-made diamond necklace by jewelry designer extraordinaire” Sue Gragg. The winner will be able to select their choice of an 18-karat white, yellow or rose-gold necklace. And to add that personalized touch, they’ll have “their name, or a word of their choice, encrusted with diamonds.” If your chance ticket is picked, you’ve got your Mother’s Day gift locked down! The value of the necklace is $1,400 with raffle tickets going for $25 each or 5 for $100. The raffle winner does not need to be present to win, and there is no limit to ticket purchase. Raffle tickets are available here.

There’s an added incentive to buy those raffle tickets online. There will be a drawing prior to the event to have a VIP meet-and-greet photo opp with keynote speaker Brown.  The Photo-Opp winner must be present to win. Each raffle ticket purchase serves as one entry into the contest.

In addition to a silent auction, there will be a live auction including:

Darren McGrady (File photo)

  • A Royal Dinner Party by Eating Royally Owner/Chef Darren McGrady (Value: $5,000) — Chef Darren will prepared a three-course dinner for ten at your home, just like he did for Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana. After dinner, he’ll regale guests with stories about the good old days at the palace.
  • A Week in Kauai, Hawaii (Value $3,000) — With plenty of time to plan, four guests will enjoy the luxury lifestyle at the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club’s oceanfront digs from April 14 thru 21, 2018. Whether it’s just taking it easy lounging on the beach or checking out the sites where major Hollywood films have been made, Kauai has everything.
  • Western Artist/Member of Cowboy Artists of America Martin Grelle Artwork — Two pieces of art by the renowned Western art master will be up for bid.
    • The first piece is a 13” by 10” original drawing in custom frame of a Native American on horseback. (Value $3,800)
    • The second is a 33” by 38” giclée of “Prayers of the Pipe Carrier,” which Grelle created a few years ago.  It is an artist personal proof, No. 4 of 5. BTW, the original won the Buyers Choice Award at the 46th Annual Cowboy Artists of America exhibit in 2011. (Value: $1,750)
  • Two-Night Hunting Trip at Giesecke Ranch (Value: $2,500) — For the hunter, the Giesecke Ranch outside of Llano is the perfect place to hunt deer, turkey and wild boar. In addition to having the use of a crew cab pickup, the winner will have ranch owner Dick Giesecke himself assist in finding the spots to explore.

(This offer expires December 31, 2018, and does not include Thanksgiving, Christmas or opening weekend of hunting season.)

Building Bridges*

Regarding this year’s theme — “Building Bridges —  Just Say Yes Development Director Marissa Leach explained, “Just Say Yes is ‘Building Bridges’ this year because we recognize the need for connection. Our youth can set the stage for a stronger connection with each other, their families and ultimately our community. With your support, we can further the Just Say Yes cause by building connection in our youth, ultimately creating long-lasting connectedness within our community.”

While individual tickets are $250, $1,000 will get two tickets plus the photo opp with David B.

* Photo provided by Just Say Yes

Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo Is Star Attraction At Just Say Yes’s 6th Annual Celebration

The pool house at Lisa and Kenny Troutt’s sprawling Preston Hollow manse was buzzing with excitement Tuesday, April 12, for the Just Say Yes group’s 6th Annual Celebration, officially titled “Missing Puzzle Piece.” The reason: Candice and Tony Romo were down at one end posing graciously for photos, and all the VIP guests wanted to get close to the Dallas Cowboys quarterback and his wife.

Candice’s mother, it turns out, had been instrumental in introducing Just Say Yes founder and president Dan Bailey to potential donors at a coffee some 15 years ago. And tonight, the 350 attendees—including Annette Simmons and Jerry Fronterhouse, Ed Franklin, Lee Ann and Alan White, and Tiffany and Paul Divis—would listen to Romo being interviewed by Bailey at the dinner fundraiser. Just Say Yes (Youth Equipped to Succeed) empowers youth to attain their dreams and goals—and say no to destructive choices—by educating them through student-assembly speakers and classroom curriculum.

While honorary chairs Gena and Chuck Norris weren’t able to make it, Cassandra and Avery Johnson flew in from California for the evening. Avery, the former Dallas Mavs coach who now coaches men’s basketball at the University of Alabama, presented the Avery Johnson Youth Impact Award to Lisa and Kenny. During brief remarks, Avery joked that his son Avery Jr.—a basketball player who will be transferring from Texas A&M to Alabama—is “obsessed with Tony Romo.”

Avery’s son would have been in good company at this event. During a wide-ranging conversation with Dan, Tony:

  • Said that his broken clavicle is mending nicely, and that “I think I’m gonna make it through the season, so we should be fine.”
  • Disclosed that his parents were his most influential role models growing up. He was reared in modest circumstances as a “little bit of an outcast,” Tony said.
  • Advised today’s high school students to resist peer pressure from the “cool” kids: “It doesn’t matter. Don’t let them affect you day-to-day. Don’t let them control you. Just give it to God and live your life.”
  • Criticized the often-negative effects of social media. “This social media world is so not real life,” Tony said. “I would say, a.) don’t read it. But b.), if you do, be unemotionally attached. People don’t really care about you that much. Life will go on. Just do your job and everything will be fine.”

“Missing Puzzle Piece” also featured a dinner by Chamberlain’s and an auction and raffle, with Louis Murad calling the shots. The fundraising aspect was important, Bailey explained, because Just Say Yes is aiming to triple its annual budget in three years, from $900,000 currently to $2.7 million. With the larger amount, he said, Just Say Yes would be able to reach 250,000 students a year.

JUST IN: Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo To Be “Just Say Yes” Keynote Speaker

Kenny and Lisa Troutt (File photo)

Kenny and Lisa Troutt (File photo)

So exactly what does Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo do during the off season? Play a little golf? Work out? Post on Facebook? Perhaps, but he’ll definitely be at Lisa and Kenny Troutt’s home as the guest speaker for the Just Say Yes’ “The Missing Puzzle Piece” on Tuesday, April 12.

Due to Tony’s schedule, the annual gathering is going to be a night-time supper instead of a lunch.

Adding to the importance of the evening, 20 of Just Say Yes’ STARS Peer-To-Peer Mentor students will be featured.

But the extra-oomph doesn’t stop there. Chef Richard Chamberlain will be in charge of the evening’s feast in the Troutts’ indoor basketball court.

If you’ve been curious about the organization that “provides speakers, peer-to-peer mentoring, parent programs and teacher trainings to enable at-risk students to break through the barriers in their lives and excel inside and outside of the classroom,” just want to say that you’ve been to the Troutt estate or want to hear Tony, here’s how to be there!

Chuck Norris Impressed And Inspired Kids And Adults At Just Say YES! Lunch

As vehicles bearing more than 300 adults and students filled the private parking lot of Lisa and Kenny Troutts’ estate, the Just Say Yes lunch supporters gathered on Tuesday, April 14.

Chuck and Gena Norris and Sue and Dan Bailey

Chuck and Gena Norris and Sue and Dan Bailey

While VIP guests had their photos taken in the cabana with Gena and Chuck Norris, Kenny confided that he was working on his midriff with exercise and a “girdle-like” waist trimmer to stay in shape.

Tavia Hunt

Tavia Hunt

Myrna Schlegel

Myrna Schlegel

The guests included Honorary Co-Chairs Sue and Jimmy Gragg, Myrna and Bob Schlegel, Jan Rees-Jones and dotter-in-law Jenny Rees-Jones, Jan Miller and Jeff Rich, Tavia Hunt, Diane Wolford and Cassandra Johnson (Avery couldn’t make it due to his new position as a coach at the University of Alabama).

Jenny Rees-Jones and Jan Rees-Jones

Jenny Rees-Jones and Jan Rees-Jones

The real action was at the lunch on the Troutt indoor basketball court, though. Atop each table was a “golden tree” centerpiece. The day’s theme was “Break Through.” But that didn’t mean breaking barriers as much as allowing a seed to break through and become a golden tree thanks to mentoring.

Just Say Yes Founder Dan Bailey told the group that, since last year, Just Say Yes had experienced a 38% increase in expanding its program to more than 100,000 students. He also thanked the Kimberlin Elementary students for playing in the garden during the reception.

Kimberlin School musicians

Kimberlin School musicians

Dan went on to tell about how following last year’s lunch, Thomas Jefferson High School Principal Sandi Massey signed up for the program resulting in a break-through year.

He told how he had recently discovered that there were four ingredients to success for young students:

  • Graduate from high school
  • Get a full-time job
  • Get married at 21 or later
  • Wait until after you’re married to have a baby.
Sue and Jimmy Gragg

Sue and Jimmy Gragg

A raffle then was held for a necklace donated by Sue Gragg. When Tavia pulled the ticket, it turned out to be Cathy Peterson of Topeka, who was not present. However, a friend volunteered to take it to her. Eyebrows and laughter arose.

Dan then introduced Mentor Coordinator Veronica Lee, who told about Just Say Yes’ mentoring program that has resulted in students showing more respect, improving their grades and arriving for class on time. She then told of Tyree Jackson, who was having conflict issues. After having joined the mentoring program, Tyree’s turning point was when she walked away from a fight and her attitude changed. Then she became a mentor.

Dan returned to the podium to announce the creation of the Avery Johnson Impact Award. Appropriately, the first award went to Avery himself. In his place Cassandra accepted it. A video clip was shown of Avery’s press conference where he announced he was joining the University of Alabama and thanked Dan and the Just Say Yes organization for including him in their efforts to help youths.

At 12:36, Dan introduced Chuck kidding that the former “Walker, Texas Ranger” “doesn’t do pushups. He presses the earth down.”

Chuck admitted that public speaking didn’t come easily to him. He was an introvert and didn’t participate in sports as a kid. It was in the military that he started training in Tae Kwon Do and eventually Judo. In 1961, he was transferred and started a club. For the first class he wrote a half-page speech and worked to memorize it for two weeks. He still doesn’t know whether he gave the speech or not, but it broke the egg that he’d held for 21 years.

After the military he went to work at Northrup. To make more money he started giving karate lessons. His stepfather gave him $600 to open a school. To grow his name in the sport, he and three of his students drove to Salt Lake City, where the students won and he lost.

But that loss resulted in his understanding that “the only time you fail is when you don’t learn from the experience.”

Eventually he ended up winning the national in Washington, D.C., and then the international in San Diego. In 1968 he won the international competition again and then the World Middle Weight competition. It was around this time that he met Bruce Lee, and they started working out together. In 1971 Lee called him and said he wanted Chuck to be his opponent in a movie staged in the coliseum.

With that movie under his belt, Chuck sold his two karate schools. However, within two years the new owners had put the schools into bankruptcy and Chuck bought them back. In four years he had paid off the debts 100% on the dollar.

One of his students was Steve McQueen, who asked him if he wanted to be an actor. The 34-year-old Chuck didn’t think it was a great idea. After all, there were 16,000 unemployed actors and the average income for an actor was $4,000.

McQueen said, “Is this the same instructor who told me that nothing’s unsurmountable?”

Chuck ended up going to acting school on the GI bill and took lessons for six months. He decided to create a screenplay with a student with a plan to sell the screenplay and star in the movie. Alas, there weren’t any takers.

After four years his friend Larry called a 21-year-old producer, who agreed to have dinner with Chuck and Larry to discuss the idea. When the bill came for the meal, Chuck realized he didn’t have enough money to pay it, so he borrowed the money from Larry.

Even after the movie “A Force of One” was made, no studio would take it in 1977. So, Chuck set out to personally show the film in theaters in small markets. After four months, the movie had earned $12M.

He then created and starred in “Good Guys Wear Black.” Again, no studio wanted it. This one earned $19M. In the end, “A Force Of One” earned more than $20M.

After taking a beating by critics, Chuck went to Steve and said, “They’re crucifying me.” Steve responded, “It doesn’t matter what they say. If your movie makes money, you’re gonna keep working.”

Steve added, “You talk too much. Let your co-star do all the talking.

After describing how his movie career had taken off, Chuck started recalling the success that he had had in teaching. In the early 1980’s, it seems, he tried to convince the public school system to make martial arts a part of the inner school programs. They turned him down.

In 1988, President George H.W. Bush’s advisor Lee Atwater called Chuck and asked him to emcee a rally. Through the time together, Bush and Chuck got to know each other. One day at lunch the President asked him, “Do you have any other ambition outside your acting career?” He told him about his idea and the President said it was a great one. When the President learned that the idea had been rejected, he said that perhaps he could help. Through his contacts, the President arranged for the program to take place in one school in Houston’s Third Ward. It turned out to be the toughest school in Houston. He assigned Roy White to the task of teaching the program.

As Chuck was leaving for a four-month shoot in Israel, he got a call from blond, blue-eyed Roy, who was fearful to say the least. Roy said, “I don’t know if this is going to work. These kids are tough. They don’t listen to a word I’m saying.”

Chuck asked him to stay with it until he returned from the shoot. Roy said that if he was still alive he would be there.

Upon his return Chuck went to the school that was surrounded by barbed wire, “like a prison.” When he got to the gym, there were 150 kids standing at attention. They addressed him as “Mr. Norris,” were presented with a demonstration by Chuck, did a Q&A with him and left. Chuck was amazed that four months ago Roy was ready to throw in the towel. Roy explained that every day he would provide positive affirmations and they were showing slight signs of turning around. The turning point was an eighth-grader named Jerome, a 6’1” kid who wanted to spar. Roy told him that one didn’t challenge his instructor in class because he didn’t want to embarrass him in front of the other students. After the class, the two sparred. Then Jerome said that he was better at wrestling. Roy accommodated him. Jerome thanked him for the session and word got around “not to mess with Mr. White.”

That was 23 years ago. Today Roy is still there. About five years ago Roy had to have double-hip replacements and the kids called Chuck and begged him to let Roy teach from his wheelchair and “we’ll take care of him.” Chuck agreed. The kids would meet his van with a wheelchair and take him to class and the cafeteria. As Chuck said, they “loved him because they all felt like they were people.”

And as for Jerome? He got a full scholarship to MIT. From the seed that Roy nurtured, a tree of gold grew.

Round Robin April 8 (Part I): Linz Award, Cherish The Children And Just Say “Yes!” Luncheons

Tuesday, April 8, was one of those days that poets write about. The skies were magnificent with just enough clouds to break up the all blue look. The temperatures were so friendly that new spring clothes made their seasonal debut without fear of needing a pashmina. It was almost as if Mother Nature realized that the day would be filled with countless fundraising activities and she’d better cooperate.

Due to the number of events, the day’s Round Robin is broken into two posts — daytime and night-time. Thank you for bearing with the MSC team.

85th Annual Linz Award

85th Linz Award program and friend*

85th Linz Award program and friend*

Attendees at the VIP reception before the 85th annual Linz Award luncheon at the Omni Dallas were a virtual who’s who of Dallas civic leadership. From Ruth Altshuler and Jennifer Sampson to Walt Humann, Caren Prothro, Laura Johnson, Kate Newman, Bea and Walt Humann, Pat Patterson, Dolores Barzune, Susan McSherry, Carol and Don Glendenning, Margot Perot, Bobby Lyle, Erle Nye, Margaret Keliher, Kern Wildenthal and Luncheon Chair Sandy Ammons, the group was beyond stellar. Then again, what would you expect at an event honoring Forrest Hoglund, the man who raised more than $185 million toward construction of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and one of the most respected civic leaders in Dallas?

Ruth Altshuler, Margot Perot , Lyda Hill and Caren Prothro*

Ruth Altshuler, Margot Perot , Lyda Hill and Caren Prothro*

“We love the Hoglunds,” Paige McDaniel of Community Partners of Dallas was saying, referring to Forrest and his wife Sally Hoglund. “They give to every nonprofit in town. And, they really care. They’ll call and ask, ‘How’s it going?’ That’s why you see so many agencies here today.” Not far away, Forrest was basking in congratulations from, among others, Lyda Hill, Lee Jackson and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. How did he feel, being chosen for the prestigious Linz honor? “I’m surprised,” Forrest replied. Really? “Well, you know,” he went on, “everybody else does all the work, and I get the credit!”

David Dewhurst*

David Dewhurst*

Inside the ballroom, where 700 had gathered for a luncheon of garden spinach brie en croute, petit filet of beef, seasonal vegetables, and chocolate or key lime pie desserts, SMU President Gerald Turner reviewed the history of the Linz Award, which is presented annually by the Zale Corp. and the Dallas Morning News. Turner pointed out that Hoglund represents the “rock chop [University of Kansas] Jayhawk” contingent in Dallas. “But, due to a twinkle in his eye named Kelly, SMU is a close No. 2,” Turner contended. “Forrest had hoped Kansas would win the NCAA [basketball tournament], and then we’d just slide on into this. At least he got in the tournament! Some of us are still smarting from that …”

Forrest Hoglund*

Forrest Hoglund*

Next Jim Moroney of the DMN said the Linz was awarded in part for Hoglund’s “civic engagement,” while Jack Lowe, a board member for Zales, lauded Forrest’s money-raising—$30 million so far—on behalf of Reasoning Mind. That’s a pioneering, Web-based program that helps elementary students learn math, including students in the Dallas Independent School District. Then Nicole Small, former CEO at the Perot museum, called Hoglund the “ultimate cheerleader, “a man caller ID almost put out of business,” and “a big thinker who’s not afraid to challenge” the status quo.

Forrest, for his part, made an acceptance speech that was brief, gracious and to the point. Calling the luncheon “a rush” for him, Hoglund thanked a number of people including his wife and daughters, applauded Small, and humorously recalled one of his first fundraising experiences, in Houston at the age of 26. Calling on a crusty oil-and-gas mogul on behalf of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Forrest said the energy magnate told him point-blank: “I ain’t givin’ no friggin’ money to no museum.” But, Hoglund hastened to point out, the donation would be to benefit the Houston community, not just the museum. Retorted the oilman: “I hate this g-d city.”

But Dallas, Forrest concluded, is “on a roll [these days] like I can’t imagine. … Everybody’s trying to do great things in Dallas—and getting them done.” If that’s true, the 85th Linz awardee is one big reason why.

Cherish The Children Luncheon

Tea party chair

Tea party chair

Like Goldilocks, the 300+ guests at the annual Dallas CASA’s “Cherish the Children” fundraising luncheon had to check out the designer chairs and furnishings in the silent auction at the Ritz Carlton’s lobby. There was a white chair all prettied up with satin trim and pillow that included a “goodie basket of MacKenzie Childs.” Nearby was an art “full” toy chest. On the other side of the tables of items that extended the full length of the lobby were two chairs with teddy bears in coveralls and yellow plastic “hard hats.”

A treasure chest of art

A treasure chest of art

But the one that literally stopped traffic was the green lounger near the check-in. Valued at $1,700, it was a magnet for eyes and try-ons. While guests like Caroline Rose Hunt and Dedie Leahy watched, others like Lara Tafel and CASA Executive Director/President Beverly Levy gave the “Fit” chair a try.

Beverly Levy, Caroline Rose Hunt and Dedie Leahy

Beverly Levy, Caroline Rose Hunt and Dedie Leahy

But the luncheon was more than bidding and sitting. It was “to raise critically needed funds for Dallas CASA to recruit and train volunteer advocates who help ensure that abused and neglected children are safe, healthy and protected with loving families.”

To inspire guests, decorated U.S. Marine vet/Princeton and Harvard Business School grad/author Donovan Campbell was the keynote speaker. In addition to sharing “how he led his men through some of the worst battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was able to translate those experiences into a life of servant leadership upon his return home.

“Campbell described the three values that underlie his belief in servant leadership:

“Be humble — ‘At its essence, humility is nothing more than a realistic and unflinching view of yourself and your relationships.’

“Give your best everyday — ‘Today I have given all that I have, that which I have kept I have lost. Effort is good, but direction is better.’

“Challenge yourself — ‘What is it that I want to be known for when my life is over?’”

Regarding troops returning from overseas, he stressed that “the best way to say ‘thank you’ . . . is to make sure that they come home to a country worth fighting for.”

Just Say YES! Pointing Youth In The Right Direction Luncheon

Lisa Troutt and Dan Bailey

Lisa Troutt and Dan Bailey

It was a spectacular day with just the right amount of sunshine, breeze and temperatures to enjoy the outdoors. Ah, a true rarity in these parts. But the perfect spot to enjoy these conditions was Lisa and Kenny Troutt’s estate. For about 300 very fortunate guests at the annual “Just Say YES Pointing Youth in the Right Direction Luncheon,” they not only got to take in the incredible grounds during the reception, they learned and were inspired by the work of Just Say YES! established by Dan Bailey back in March 2002.

_MG_5388 Dan BaileyThe program helps “equip teens to succeed by educating them through student assembly speakers and classroom curriculum. Our goal is empowering students to say ‘Yes’ to their dreams and goals and ‘No’ to destructive choices.”

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson

On this day, the guests got a double whammy! Not only was the speaker Gabe Salazar, but he was introduced by Luncheon Chair Avery “Coach” Johnson, whose legendary basketball acumen is quickly being surpassed by his motivational talks.

Sue Bailey and Gabe Salazar

Sue Bailey and Gabe Salazar

And, yet, the young Latino Gabe gave Avery a run for his money in the speaking department. The adorable Latino with his wife, Nancy, tableside told of his first-hand knowledge of being homeless, gang influence and being the first in his family to go to college. Blending humor with touching compassion, his message ranged from a skit depicting a disabled teenager to frank talk regarding the following:

Too many kids are wishing and not dreaming big.

No teenager’s goal is to be homeless, in jail, strung out on drugs or dead.

There is hope. No one was born an accident. When students tell him, “I was an accident. My parents were married. My mom was a teenager, etc.” Gabe’s response is, “Your life is not an accident. You are here for a purpose.”

Tavia and Clark Hunt, Knobel Hunt and Nancy and Gabe Salazar

Tavia and Clark Hunt, Knobel Hunt and Nancy and Gabe Salazar

Turning to the adults, like Honorary Chairs Tavia and Clark Hunt with their son Knobel, Sue and Jimmy Gragg, Heather and Ray Washburne, Sue Bailey, Jennie Gilchrist, Janet McColloch, Bill Nowlin, Craig Vaughn, Phillip Wise and Robbie Fusch, seated at luncheon tables throughout the room, Gabe said, “Be a mentor.” To the students, he advised, “Find a mentor.”

But there was still a third speaker, student Chris Caldwell, whose message summed up the program’s message perfectly: “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”

* Photo credit: Lisa Stewart

Coach Avery Johnson To “Just Say Yes” To Area Students This Week

Avery Johnson and Trevor Rees-Jones (File photo)

Avery Johnson and Trevor Rees-Jones (File photo)

While Coach Avery Johnson‘s household was not all that pleased about his departure from the Brooklyn Nets, locals were probably secretly delighted because it meant his spending more time in the area.

In addition to his basketball coaching achievements, Coach is an amazing speaker, especially when it comes to young people. His enthusiasm and positive attitude are contagious.

This week thanks to the “Just Say Yes” program he will be sharing his words with students at:

Wednesday, February 27

  • 10:30 am Richardson High School – 1250 Beltline Rd., Richardson, TX 75080 (student athletes)
  • 1:30  pm Lake Highlands Freshman Center- 10200 White Rock Trail, Dallas, TX 75238 (student body)

 Thursday, February 28

  • 9:45 am Thomas A. Edison Middle Learning Center – 2940 Singleton Blvd., Dallas TX 75212
  • 10:45. a.m. L.G. Pinkston High School – 2200 Dennison St., Dallas TX 75212

Suggestion: If you know of a student body that might benefit from hearing Coach, contact Celia Weitzel at 972.437.0002 x227 or [email protected] Better yet make a donation to Just Say Yes to keep the words coming.

Avery Johnson Tells “Kids” At KL Troutt High School To “Just Say Yes”

Troutt basketball court

The crowd of 300 hardly noticed that Lisa and Kenny Troutts’ indoor basketball court was transformed into a banquet hall last Wednesday for  Just Say YES luncheon with former Dallas Mavericks’ coach Avery Johnson.

Will Allen and Kenny Troutt

Toward the front of the room were the likes of the Troutts, Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones, Lillie Romano, Alicia Landry, Sue Gragg and Dee Wyly.

Lillie Romano

Lisa was still a little amazed at all the hubbub over the recent rumor about her being involved in a reality show. One would suspect that a drive-thru beer barn would open in HP Village before Lisa would be on a unreal drama show.

Avery Johnson and Trevor Rees-Jones

Before Avery addressed the group, the audience learned that girls who are sexually active are seven times more likely to drink alcohol and 46 times more likely to use marijuana.

Lessons to be learned in raising healthy kids from the information:

  1. Parent-child connection like having five family meals a week is a powerful weapon;
  2. Positive role models are essential;
  3. Connection to dreams and goal are key.

As Just Say Yes Founder/President Dan Bailey introduced Avery, he described him as a “Master at Connecting With Teens” and went on to tell the group that Avery “has been to 23 schools talking with teens. . . Off-season in basketball is the on-season for him at Just Say Yes.”

Avery’s commitment to the program was emphasized by his arriving at 1:30 a.m. immediately following a game in New Jersey, where his New Jersey Nets played the night before.

To show their appreciation, Avery was presented with two gifts:

  1. A sleeping mask to wear on the flight home.
  2. A donation in Avery’s name to Hunger Busters.

Following a brief video, Avery took over the microphone telling the room full of adults that they were to “transform yourself into being a student at KL Troutt High School.”

The “kids” gave him a standing ovation. Don’t know if it was him just being Avery or letting them return to their youth.

Avery started off by telling the kids how he met his wife, Cassandra, 24 years ago. “She’s the sugar in my tea. She’s not Sweet and Low. She’s the real thing. This is the first time for her to hear me speak to high schoolers.”

Throughout his talk, he referred to himself at “Coach.” Avery told the “youngsters” that 30 years ago, people  used mailing addresses and phone numbers. But now there are different ways to communicate.

Using Facebook as the backdrop, he proceeded to walk them through, “What are the chapters of your Facebook?”

According to Avery, the chapters should be:

  • Chapter 1 — “I’m Special. I’m not an Accident.”
  • Chapter 2 — “Compete and Don’t Complain.” He then shared a touching story about his youth. It seems from the ages of 14 to 20, he got a job as the “warehouse boy” at Crescent Plywood. Despite offers, Avery refused to succumb to “offers” to provide a little more than the customers paid for. As he prepared to head to college and a long daily commute, the mill’s owner told Avery to go to a neighborhood car dealership and pick out the kind of car he would get for himself. The next day the car — an $8,500 Escort —  was waiting for him. When Avery asked, “Why?”, the owner said that he had watched Avery over the years and appreciated his honesty.
  • Chapter 3 — “Expect Conflict. (You Can’t Get to the Top Without Conflict)” Conflict will help train you. You sometimes need failure to get success. Frustration is the cocktail for depression.
  • Chapter 4 — “Exploring the Other Side”
  • Chapter 5 — “Say ‘No’ to Drugs”
  • Chapter 6 — “Under Construction”

In closing, he also told the “children” that the photo that they post on their Facebook is important. It’s got to reflect their character.

Needless to say, the students at KL Troutt H.S. gave him another standing ovation and this time there was no doubt that it was for Avery being Avery.

“Just Say Yes” To Lunch At Lisa Troutt’s With Avery Johnson Chatting And Chef Richard Chamberlain Cooking Up A Storm

Lisa Troutt (File photo)

There was all that silly stuff about Lisa Troutt‘s being involved with some reality show a few weeks ago. Oh, please! Lisa’s life is too crowded with real problem-solving to bother with such staged dramas. Her driveway is busier than the Hilton Anatole’s when it comes to hosting events for charitable programs.

Of course, you want a “for instance.” How about Wednesday, April 11? She’s hostessing a luncheon served up by Chef Richard Chamberlain for more than 350 to raise funds and awareness of “Just Say Yes.” As if lunching at Troutt manor wasn’t enough of a draw, the speaker will be former Dallas Mavericks head coach/current New Jersey Nets head coach Avery Johnson.

If Just Say Yes is new to you, it’s “a non-profit educational organization that has been helping youth say, ‘Yes’ to their dreams and goals and ‘No” to risk behavior-drugs, alcohol, sexual activity and bullying.”

Individual tickets are $100, with sponsorship packages going for $1,250.