Jonathan’s Place CEO Allicia Frye had been at “Good Morning Texas” with A Chance to Soar’s keynote speaker/”Dancing With The Stars” vet Cheryl Burke earlier Tuesday, April 28. Alllicia admitted that she had been scared to death, but it went off without a hitch. Now at 10:30 a.m., Allicia was at the VIP champagne reception at Brook Hollow and glowing over the fact that more than 400 were expected. That was an increase from last year’s 380 for the Jonathan’s Place fundraiser.
By 10:45 there was no sign of Cheryl, but the VIP-ers didn’t seem to mind. In the ballroom there was a blue cast along with kites suspended from the ceiling.
Outside it was drizzling and the temperature was downright chilly considering that it was the end of April. Still the ladies wore their most colorful silk and cotton dressed above the knee with stilettos. A couple of gals posed for a cellphone shot.
Promptly at 11 Cheryl arrived, was directed to the far end of the room and handed a drink. She hardly had time to take a sip before people were wanting to have a photo taken with her. Despite wearing Louboutins that seemed to have 3-inch heels, she appeared tiny. Some guests were keeping their distance as she was introduced to all the Jonathan’s Place staffers. The smile never dimmed. Cellphones were pulled out.
After 10 minutes she was herded to the opposite side of the room where the crowd was thick. No sooner did she arrive than she disappeared in the mass, making photo opps difficult at best.
In the meantime Luncheon Co-Chairs April Willingham and Jennifer Steubing were making sure all was going smoothly at the check-in tables and the ballroom.
By 11:45 a second round of chimes calling guests to the ballroom for lunch were heard. While the gals appeared to know the protocol, the men in the crowd moved slowly to take their places. One VIP guest was seen leaving the reception with a flute filled with champagne in one hand and a bottle in the other. Barbara Brice was on her first outing since her right foot landed in a cast.
With every seat occupied, guests like Jonathan’s Place Board Chair Stacey Walker, Susan Campbell, Pamela Graham, Lynn Dealey, Tiffany Divis, Jill Rowlett and Karla McKenzie started lunching at noon and Hockadaisies sold raffle tickets.
The program kicked off at 12:15 with the presentation of awards:
- Award of Compassion to Eliot D. Raffkind
- Award of Service to AMLI Residential
- Award of Excellence to Capital for Kids
At 12:31 Cheryl was introduced and kicked off her talk by recalling the time that a person told her, “You look so much prettier in person.”
Then she briefly recalled how she got started with “Dancing With The Stars,” the sudden fame and her ongoing friendship with former dance partner Emmitt Smith and his family.
After the niceties were done, the award-winning dancer and survivor of child abuse explained how just as dancing requires a plan, so does life. She had used three lessons in both dance and life:
Lesson #1 — Be willing to take chances. In 2005 her life changed due to “DWTS.” She really didn’t think the show would take. At that time she was a struggling dancer living in Harlem with her dance partner, who became abusive. It was the move to Los Angeles for the show that changed the situation. Her first “DWTS” partner Drew Lachey helped her handle the glitz and attention. He made her dance to a song that she didn’t know, but they ended up winning the competition.
Lesson #2 — Really find your passion. Having studied ballet at four, it was her mother and stepfather who introduced her to ballroom at 11. She ended up loving the rhinestones and false eyelashes. Dancing provided to therapeutic for the little girl, whose parents had separated when she was just two. It gave her a purpose. Over the years, her DWTS partners have included actors Drew Carey and Ian Ziering, politician Tom DeLay, singer Wayne Newton, reality TV stars Rob Kardashian and Jack Osbourne and, of course Emmitt, who presented her with a life-changing question: “What’s next for you, Cheryl?”
Lesson #3 — Overcome adversity. At the age of six, she told how she had been abused by her male nanny. She didn’t know what he was doing. Eventually she told her parents and testified in court at the age of 8 against the man. Throughout her life, she has confronted adversity with resounding results. For instance “DWTS” created problems that she eventually addressed realizing that she needed to meet her own needs instead of trying to please everyone else. In her personal life she finally got together with her father despite being estranged for years. She reported that she now talks with him daily.
In concluding her remarks at 12:45, she summed it up by saying, “You can either get better or bitter.”
If you missed this year’s luncheon, mark Tuesday, April 26 on your calendar now. That’s when you’ll get “a chance to soar.”