The Omni Dallas Hotel was the scene of a near-perfect storm on Friday, October 28, with Family Gateway holding its “Stronger Together Breakfast” in the Trinity Ballroom followed by the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas’ “2022 Women of Distinction Luncheon” at 11:30 a.m. If all things went according to plan, the changing of the guard would go unhindered.
But things nearly got off to a rough start for the breakfast, thanks to a stoppage in the hotel driveway. Unlike previous valet challenges of the season, this one wasn’t due to the parking staff.
Taking her place at the podium on the stage in the ballroom, Family Gateway’s Chief Development Officer Ruthie Umberger notified guests that cars in the driveway were backed up. It seems someone had taken their car key with them. Like people scrambling for their cellphones in church to make sure theirs hadn’t gone off when one was heard in a nearby pew, the early-morning crowd reached into their pockets and purses to make sure their keys weren’t the culprit.
Ah, but that was not to be the only driveway challenge of the day. More about that later, though.
To streamline the breakfast operation, a seated breakfast was replaced by a taco and fruit buffet in the reception lobby. While guests like Breakfast Honorary Co-Chairs Selwyn Razor and Rich Moses, Joyce Goss, City Councilperson Paul Ridley, Cynt Marshall and Joel Williams III took their plates of goodies to the ballroom, keynote speaker Chris “The Pursuit of Happyness” Gardner waited his turn in a side conference room. When he spotted Family Gateway Board Chair Gary Moor in suit and tie, the towering Chris in shirt sleeves laughed that it had been two years since he had worn a tie. Gary admitted that he had had trouble tying his that morning.
Before taking his place on stage, Family Gateway President/CEO Ellen Magnis presented the Annette G. Strauss Community Service Award to Shannon Reed, and Event Co-Chair/Booker T. Washington grad Quincy Roberts sang “Happy Birthday” to his mother Audry and Dallas City Councilperson Cara Mendelsohn.
Just after 9, Chris took his place on stage telling the crowd he was “glad to see real people for the first time in three years.”
He then surprised some by admitting that life could be as lethal as drugs and alcohol. This thought took root for Chris when he was 21, single and in San Francisco making $7,500 a year. Then he met a woman, had a child with her and was making double his previous salary.
Now he was selling medical products hauling in $85,000 a year. He felt like “the NBC peacock.”
Then one day Chris saw a guy driving in a fantasy car in the parking lot, and he offered his parking space to the fella if he would just tell Chris what he did. The driver was a stockbroker making $85,000 a month. Chris decided by hanging out with stockbrokers perhaps some of that magic would rub off on him. What he hadn’t counted on was the number of parking tickets he started collecting.
His persistence paid off and he got a chance to be part of a training program at a major brokerage house. However, the first day he showed up for training, he learned that the man who had made the offer had been fired the day before and nobody had heard of Chris. Now he had no job, no promised training and his lady friend was leaving.
Oh, and those parking tickets had amounted to $1,400 in fines. He was handcuffed and put in a cell with a rapist and an arsonist. When asked by his cellmates what he was in for, Chris said, “I’m here for murder and I’ll kill you.”
He ended up at San Jacinto State Penitentiary for ten days, and all he could think of was his son. Upon his release, he went home to discover his girlfriend and son had left with everything “except the dust.”
Wearing only what he had on when he was arrested, he went to his job interview in blue denim bell bottoms and a “Members Only” jacket.
When he described why he had shown up like that, the interviewer sympathized, telling Chris that he himself had been divorced three times.
The good news was that Chris landed a spot in the non-paying training program. The not-so-good news was the morning his ex- showed up and handed Chris their toddler son. The problem: Chris’ boarding house didn’t allow children.
Chris and his son were now homeless. But he persevered in the training program and became a top producer and eventually a self-made millionaire, entrepreneur, best-selling author and motivational speaker.
As he wound up his talk, Chris shared his belief in the Power of One. It seems that after Katrina hit New Orleans, he saw one man mowing grass with a push mower. It wasn’t his yard. It was his neighbor’s, but the man knew his neighbor would be coming home. A year later Chris went by the house and saw the man playing dominoes under a shade tree with the neighbor who had come home.
He finished right at 9:30, reminding the guests, “The cavalry is not coming. Because we are the cavalry.”
As for the valet conundrum mentioned earlier, it took place as guests headed to the driveway to fetch their cars. On the way most folks passed a woman at a table with a sign about paying for tickets. Alas, hardly anyone noticed the woman, the table or the sign. Evidently, they had taken it for granted that the valet parking had been complimentary. Only upon arriving at the driveway were they confronted with the cold reality. Hapless attendants could only tell the guests they had to go back and validate their parking stubs. Some accepted their situation begrudgingly; others appeared more vocal about their discontent. But even then it wasn’t all a breeze. One eagle-eyed guest who had spied the table and paid before heading downstairs waited 45 minutes for her/his car. Even then s/he had to show a photo of her/his car and its license plate to get it retrieved. Adding to the driveway kerfuffle of ruffled departing guests was the arrival of the Girl Scouts group to set up for the day’s luncheon.
In hindsight, it might have been wiser to have made an announcement from the stage that guests would need to pay for their parking as they left, and to have had more than one innocuous table with a single staffer. Or, better yet to have had the parking underwritten.
According to 2022 Crystal Charity Ball Chair Susan Farris,
“Contribution Tickets and Silent Auction are both very important parts of the fund-raising efforts for this year’s Crystal Charity Ball and have been an integral component of the $171 million raised in the last seventy years.
“We are so fortunate to have very generous partners provide unique and valuable goods donated so that our dedicated members can sell tickets that enable our organization to raise $7.1 million for eight worthy beneficiaries this year: Agape Clinic, Baylor Oral Health Foundation, Behind Every Door, Educational First Steps, Family Compass, Hope Supply Co., Southwestern Medical Foundation and United to Learn.
“The incredible Contribution Ticket offerings include the choice of a luxury vehicle from the Sewell family of dealerships with a value of $100,000 MSRP (only 400 tickets will be sold!); $25,000 prepaid VISA card sponsored by Prosperity Bank; $20,000 shopping spree at Highland Park Village; $32,000 Italian getaway from Stanley Korshak and $10,000 gift certificate from Eiseman Jewels NorthPark. Contribution ticket chairmen Amy Hegi and Laura Downing have spent countless hours making certain that all tickets are reconciled.
“While the Ball is “sold out” through the generosity of underwriters, my wish is that that you visit crystalcharityball.org or call 214.526.5868 to purchase Contribution Tickets. You can also bid on the Online Luxury Silent Auction by visiting crystalcharityball.muradbid.com which is online now!
“Silent Auction/Special Gifts Chairmen Wendy Messmann and Mary Martha Pickens have assembled the largest collection of items, rare experiences and beautiful goods in our history. From exotic travel to glittering jewelry to sporting experiences, there is something for everyone.
Bidding is easy and you do not have to attend the ball to participate and still support the children of Dallas!
“So, call Crystal Charity or log on…That would also be a wish come true!”
* Graphic provided by Crystal Charity Ball
When Austin-based singer Cory Morrow agreed to trek up to North Texas to perform for Dallas CASA‘s Champion of Children on Thursday, October 27, he had a double purpose. In addition to entertaining the crowd at The Rustic, the father of four boys and a daughter was well aware of the need for Dallas CASA’s mission “of getting kids out of bad situations.” Here’s a report from the field:
Dallas CASA’s Champion of Children returned to The Rustic this year with an outdoor performance by Cory Morrow, an Austin-based singer-songwriter with a heart for children.
Friends in Austin introduced Morrow to CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and the mission appealed to him, so when Dallas CASA came calling, he happily said yes.
“My heart is all in for getting kids out of bad situations,” he said.
A board member at an Austin charity which aims to get kids out into nature, Morrow shared with the audience that he had five kids at home, four boys and a girl ages 5 to 11, which got a loud “whoop” from presenting sponsor, Dallas CASA Board Chair and Dallas Mavs CEO Cynt Marshall. Morrow also shared that he thinks long and hard before accepting engagements that take him away from his wife and five kids, but that he had to say “yes” because of the difference Dallas CASA volunteers make.
“We want children to know they are cared about, and that’s what tonight is all about,” Marshall said to the crowd before making her plea for “money for the honies.”
For Dallas CASA CEO Kathleen LaValle, evenings like Champion of Children are really messages to the children served by the agency. “We want to make it possible for all children to fulfill their full potential and dream those big dreams.”
LaValle also called out Marshall, who just published her first book “You’ve Been Chosen: Thriving Through the Unexpected.” Signed copies of the book were available at the event, with proceeds going to Dallas CASA. LaValle said she read it over one weekend and found it “more inspiring and more authentic than any memoir she’s read” as well as “completely Cynt.”
After dinner, Morrow kept the crowd including Gina and Randall Porter with T. Mason Porter, Sherry Thurman, Gayle Sands, Lauren Sands and Nikki Nolan rocking with original songs as well as covers, some sing alongs and a call and response, which got Jackson Walker L.L.P’s and Retta Miller’s table rocking. Guests came dressed for the perfect weather and the entertainment, with boots, cowboy hats and jeans the look of the night.
Special friends of Dallas CASA in attendance included Judge Clay Jenkins (accompanied by his daughter, Madeleine), Judge Scott Beauchamp and Dallas County Child Welfare Board Immediate Past President Marcellene Malouf, along with former, current and future Children’s Council presidents Beth Cholerton, Hannah May, Gina Porter and Nicki Stafford.
Dallas CASA board members in attendance included Corey Anthony, Margaret Cervin, Janice Davis, David Krahe, Dave Kroencke, Laura Losinger, Greg May, Woody McMinn, Chance Monroe, Paige Richey, Nicki Stafford and Linda Swartz, along with advisory board member Bill Smith.
Guests enjoyed appetizers of deviled eggs, cactus fries and meatballs before a full dinner of center-cut ribeye, drunk chicken, wood-grilled broccolini, jalapeno spoon bread and more. Guests ended the night roasting their own marshmallows for S’mores and perhaps even remembering their own childhoods.
* Photo credit: Ray Carlin ** Photo credit: Rosanne Lewis
According to Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation volunteer Dennise Watanabe,
“In 2021, my retired in-laws, Lillian and Steve Watanabe, embarked on a mission to give back to our nation’s heroes. They established a local non-profit organization, the Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation, whose mission is to provide combat veterans and first responders with the skills necessary to overcome traumatic stress experienced during their service to our country. Lillian and Steve’s vision is to create a place these Warriors and their families can call home and where they can begin to write their new story.
Inspired by their determination to make a difference, I wanted to get involved with the Foundation. Through this incredible chapter in my life, I have met some of the finest men and women who have ever served. So many continue to suffer daily because they haven’t been trained on how to overcome traumatic stress or because of the stigma associated with discussing mental health. Often, we take our freedoms for granted without fully understanding the true magnitude of sacrifice required for us to enjoy these blessings.
“We have all heard the statement ‘freedom isn’t free,’ but it wasn’t until I became involved as a volunteer, I had not stopped to ask what that statement really meant to me. My experience with Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation has shown me that there are men and women in our community struggling to connect to civilian life or life as a family unit directly because they volunteered to serve our country.
“Over 22 veterans die every day by suicide, and we lose more first responders to suicide every year than in the line of duty. It is up to organizations like Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation to deliver training programs that help our Warriors turn their struggles into strength. One of the program’s chief principles is that struggle is a terrible thing to waste, for without struggle, we wouldn’t have growth. Eagle Oak Retreat is dedicated to teaching our Warriors how to use their struggles to find personal growth and resiliency.
“Our Posttraumatic Growth programs, transitioning home training, and family reconnection services are what this generation of heroes need. Their sacrifices for us shouldn’t cost them their lives or their ability to connect with those closest to them. Now we have an opportunity to volunteer and fight for them. Together we can be the light of hope and give them their freedom back. As we prepare to open our retreat in North Texas in a few months, I ask you, ‘How will you serve these men, women and their families?’
“We are the first location in Texas to provide this type of training, which is provided at no cost to the students. My wish this holiday season is to receive in-kind donations for classroom and program materials, which can be found on our Amazon Wishlist. Help these Warriors thrive and write their new story.
* Photo provided by Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation
Considered one of the fun events leading up to the annual Crystal Charity Ball, the Circle of Angels dinner on Tuesday, October 25, in the Pecan Room at Old Parkland appeared to suffer from the season’s valet challenges.
In trying to enter the Old Parkland grounds, luxury vehicles were waiting in the valet lineup for 15 to 20 minutes as evening traffic stalled along Maple Avenue. As also occurred at the CCB’s Husbands Party a couple of weeks before, some guests like Tricia George simply left their cars and their husbands (Kenn George, in this case) in the driver’s seat waiting for the line to start moving.
On the other hand, Elaine Agather finally pulled her car up to the entry and headed to discuss the situation with the head valet. As they were talking, another valet took off in her car while the head man scrambled to record her license plate.
The reasons for the auto slo-mo ranged from a “second party in another part of the complex that was taking up space” to the challenge of having the parking area underground. Said one guest, exiting her car at last: “It’s interesting out there on Maple Avenue.”
As vexing as the valet situation was, it was only a momentary distraction. Once at the entrance, the 115 or so guests including Pat and Charles McEvoy, Margaret and Barry Hancock, Claire and Dwight Emanuelson, Patti Flowers and Tom Swiley, Kristi and Ron Hoyl, Kim and Greg Hext, Jennifer and David Lancashire, Aimee and Paul Griffiths, Margaret and Barry Hancock, Katherine and Austin Wyker, Candace and John Winslow, Jan and Fred Hegi, Louise and Joe LaManna, Aileen and Jack Pratt, Kim McCue, Michal Powell, Mary Clare Finney, Shannon Graham and Doug Box were directed to the elevated garden of the bell tower and the Alexander Stoddart statue for the cocktail reception.
Perhaps it was the beautiful weather, or the releasing of pent-up energy following a couple of years of pandemic, but there was definitely an ease and a frivolity in the air, with some of the ladies mischievously providing “rabbit ears” as the gents were photographed. Leading the raising of the ears was former CCB Chair Tucker Enthoven‘s mom, Julie Ford.
2022 CCB Chair Susan Farris was grateful that each of her outdoor events had enjoyed glorious weather. The evening was a far cry from the 2022 CCB beneficiary presentation in February that took place despite a snowstorm’s closing down most of North Texas.
Laura and Jason Downing were in countdown mode for daughter Caroline Downing‘s wedding to Trent Gahm on Saturday, November 5… Eric Gambrell was drinking in all of Old Parkland’s marvels, as this was his first visit to the complex… Gail Fischer remarked that the gathering was like “old home week,” just before making a beeline to catch up with her friend Tricia George.
Just past eight, the chimes rang out and the bars closed, signaling the guests to move downstairs to the adjacent Pecan Room.
There, they found a carefully prepared Cassandra dinner consisting of baby greens salad with port poached pear, goat cheese, celery and honey pearls; pan roasted beef tenderloin, crushed marble potatoes, apple smoked bacon, root vegetables and beer batter onion rings; and cinnamon apple crumble and ginger ice cream.
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