Ability Connection’s 10th Annual Vine And Dine Delighted Guests With Fine Cuisine, Success Stories And A Paddle Battle In The Live Auction

With Thanksgiving just a week away, Neiman Marcus Downtown came alive after-store hours on Thursday, November 16, for the 10th Annual Vine and Dine benefiting the Ability Connection. From cocktails on the ground level to a three-course seated dinner in the Zodiac Room, the evening was a feast for the gourmets. In addition to clients charming and delighting guests with their success stories, a bidding war arose during the live auction for a culinary package designed by NM VP Corporate Food Services Kevin Garvin. Here’s a report from the field:

Neiman Marcus Downtown*

An annual November favorite, the who’s who of Dallas gathered at Neiman Marcus Downtown’s elegant Zodiac Room for Ability Connection’s 10th Annual Vine and Dine gala. For the past decade, every November the most prominent of Dallasites fill The Zodiac Room in order to wine and dine in support of children and adults with special needs.

Guest drank the most decadent of wine and bid on the most dazzling of items at Ability Connection’s annual Vine and Dine gala at Neiman Marcus.

Amongst the haute couture and glistening jewelry, guests enjoyed cocktails and company as they perused the items available for silent auction. Cosmopolitans, sauvignon blanc and cabernet circled across the entrance of the flagship store as Ability Connection clients greeted the eager attendees.

Vine and Dine Co-Chairs Jack and Meredith Woodworth with their son Jeff Woodworth, and the Ability Connection Board Chair Don Laidlaw were joined by Debbie and Jim Francis, Bob Cavanaugh, Gary Roberts, Vin Perella, Becky Petereit, Stacia Ellis, Steven Levin, Teri Hardin, Jane Corbellini, Claire Emanuelson, Kelli and Lane Seliger, to name a few. Allie Beth Allman and associates were also in attendance.

Vine and Dine table setting*

Guests moved upstairs after a cocktail hour of anticipation, to the adorned Zodiac Room for a seated dinner prepared by Neiman’s Executive Chef David Crow that included a first course (Fresh ricotta ravioli, eggplant caponata, pine nuts, Parmesan, pomodoro and crispy artichokes), second course (Filet mignon, wild mushroom and autumn vegetables, parsnip, mashed potato, caramelized shallot demi-glace) and dessert (White chocolate dried cherry bread pudding, cinnamon gelato and kanlua sauce) with wines from Coquerel Vineyards.

Troy Greisen, Jay Williams and Meredith and Jack Woodworth*

President and CEO Troy Greisen took a few minutes to thank the Ability Connection board, who supported the event, as well as Neiman Marcus and the Woodworths. His Co-MC Jay Williams, a client of Ability Connection dazzled the crowd with his charming jokes and wit, as the two welcomed the guests and introduced the special speakers for the night.

Shawn Robinette*

Shawn Robinette, another client of Ability Connection spoke about how the organization assisted him in finding a job as a dishwasher at St. Marc’s school [sic] St. Mark’s School of Texas, and helped him work towards his goal of achieving independence. Soon after, Nina Shultz spoke about her experience with the organization that was critical in her pursuit of inclusion. The client stories touched the hearts of the attendees and reminded everyone that the night was also to celebrate individuals of all abilities. Debbie Francis shared a powerful message as she shared stories of her son, Bo Francis, and her family’s connection to the cause of the night.

Don Laidlaw*

Auctioneer Adam Williams of Heritage Auctions truly put on a show as he presented the items available for bidding. Jane Corbellini and Don Laidlaw engaged in a bidding war over the Kevin Garvin culinary package, only for the two of them to walk away victorious as Neiman Marcus spontaneously donated two for the night. Among the items available for bidding were one of Susan Palma’s legendary needlepoint belts, pet portraits painted by the renowned Jane Corbellini, and an extraordinary piece by global artist Christopher Martin.

Attendees were completely surprised by the final auction item available for bidding- a true original made by the students of Ability Connection’s Life Change program. A series of three canvas paintings inspired by Jackson Pollock, the masterpieces were purchased by The Sheehans of The Moss Foundation, and generously donated to Becky’s House, an Ability Connection home.

As the night closed out, attendees walked out with keys in their hands, not only to the doors of their homes, but the keys to life change.

* Photo provided by Ability Connection

MySweetWishList: Ability Connection

According to Ability Connection President and CEO Troy Greisen,

Ability Connection*

“When it comes to gifts, many will put a smile on one’s face, but a gift to Ability Connection has the power to change the life of a child or adult with special needs. Ability Connection creates life change across the state of Texas. We serve over a thousand individuals with disabilities through education, health and vocational training, inclusion, and housing. Children and adults with special needs have been neglected, forgotten, and turned away, even abused and with great discrimination and prejudice. Texas has among the very lowest special education outcomes, inclusion, and employment rates in the country.

“This year, we are wishing for support in helping children and adults with disabilities achieve their highest level of independence and inclusion, through education and employment. All of these individuals we serve need financial assistance in order to receive transportation, or care.

“Give the gift of life change this holiday season:

  • $100 Life Change Scholarship — One year of community volunteering for one adult student
  • $500 Life Change Scholarship — Transportation for job seeking for five adult students
  • $1,000 Life Change Scholarship — One-on-one vocational training and job placement
  • $2,500 Life Change Scholarship — One year of independent living activities for our after school program for children with disabilities
  • $5,000 Life Change Scholarship — One-on-one independent living training for five students

“These gifts will make a world of difference in the lives of children and adults with special needs as they strive to reach their goals of independence and inclusion. To give the gift of Life Change, visit www.abilityconnection.org, or email [email protected]. Thank you!”

-By Troy Greisen, Ability Connection president and CEO

* Photo proved by Ability Connection