If Drew Brees ever wants to run for anything, he’ll be elected. At least according to the folks who stood in line for a photo or autographs with the New Orleans Saints quarterback Thursday. Appetite for Advocacy luncheon chair Gina Betts knew just what she was doing when she arranged to have the Super Bowl MVP as the guest speaker.
Held at the Sheraton Dallas and benefiting the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, the crowd was made up of starry-eyed kids and adults. Don’t tell anybody by Christine and Chris Cook let son Christopher get out of school to meet Drew. That Christopher knew just the right thing to wear, too — a Drew Brees #9- jersey. But it was to be expected. Mom Christine is from Lafayette, so it’s in the blood to be present for a man who led the charge to bring New Orleans back to life.
While the line grew for photos with Drew, Gina was coordinating her army of youngsters selling raffle tickets. Little did they know that she had also arranged to have lemonade, McNuggets and less-adult-type food for them at the luncheon.
Finally a halt had to be called to get the speaker to the luncheon. As guests made their way, a couple of therapy dogs (Beecher and Hunter) proved to be the real scene stealers of the day. Like Drew, they were accommodating to one and all.
Speaking of the dogs, Gina told the luncheon crowd of the six-year old who wouldn’t speak, but would lie on the floor and whisper into the Golden Retriever’s ear. When the child saw the dog’s handler at a later date, he asked if the pooch had had bad dreams. No, was the reply, why? Because the child had told the dog about what had happened to him and he was afraid it might have upset the dog.
Retired Lt. Bill Walsh presented the award named after him to Sgt. James Sears of the Irving Police Dept., who told the guests, “You’re all on my team.”
Then it was time for Ruth Altshuler to present the Ruth Sharp Altshuler Award to Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones. To say she stole the show was an understatement. First telling the crowd that she was told that she had one minute to speak, she responded, “That won’t do at all.” The she described the couple as the Melinda and Bill Gates of Dallas.
“Trevor’s mother and I were friends at Woodrow Wilson High School. She was the valedictorian. I didn’t know what that was.”
She then recalled the day that Caren Prothro called her that a Lt. Bill Walsh wanted to come and see her. In typical Ruth fashion, she raised her eyebrow and said, “What about?” as if she were going to be carted off to jail.
But Bill’s visit ended up in Ruth’s helping to buy DCAC’s present facility on Swiss that cost $600,000. But eventually DCAC outgrew that building and was in desperate need of a much larger one. That’s where Jan and Trevor stepped in. Last fall it was announced that the Trevor Rees-Foundation was providing a gift of $5 million to the $11 million needed for the new building.
On accepting the award, Trevor told the crowd that he was especially happy because the award was given by Ruth. He then let it be known of his and Jan’s concern about this cause that is “hard to fathom” and how the work done by DCAC is of “paramount importance.”
Then it was time for Drew to speak. He told of attending Armstrong Elementary School in Dallas and eventually going the San Diego Chargers, where his mentor was Doug Flutie. His life was set. He was doing great and wanted a long-term contract, when an accident not only took him out of the game, it nearly ruined his football career. Needless to say, he didn’t get the contract and ended up joining the New Orleans Saints in 2001.
“To be perfectly frank, in 2001, the Saints were ateam you didn’t want to play for. 95% of the guys said New Orleans was known as a dysfunctional place,” said Drew. But they were the only ones who wanted him. On arriving in New Orleans to check things out, coach Sean Payton drove him around and got lost in bad neighborhoods. But what he saw was a city with strength and resolve. “They needed somebody to believe in them. I needed someone to believe in me.”
Drew admitted that the greatest thing of all was being a father. Upon reading the card at his place about a child who had been helped through DCAC, he said, “I thought, ‘What if my boys had had to go through that?’ As I told Lynn (Davis, President/CEO of DCAC) at breakfast: ‘It makes you so mad. It makes you want to string all these people up and do bad things to them! But we’ll let the police take care of them.'”
As lunch broke up, emcee Scott Murray reminded everybody that this was still Cowboys country. From the back of the room was heard, “Who Dat?”