Leave it to the Dallas Junior Forum to have a luncheon that snuck under the radar with a knock-out speaker on Wednesday, April 13, at Belo Mansion. The speaker was Rebekah Gregory, who survived the infamous Boston Marathon bombing. While the news accounts of her life-changing experience have been covered ad nauseam, hearing Rebekah in person was another thing entirely. Here’s a report from the field:
Dallas Junior Forum sponsored its annual Spring Event at Belo Mansion and Pavilion Wednesday, April 13. The theme was “DJF Celebrates Service from the Heart” which embodies the goal of each member as she works with the organization’s seven core agencies throughout the greater Dallas area.
Festivities began with a reception and silent auction as guests were served “Tipsy Texas Tea,” a cocktail sponsored specialty from Belo Mansion. Theme colors of black, hot pink, and white adorned the auction tables as patrons had an opportunity to bid on amazing items in the silent auction. A vast array of over 300 auction items included beautifully framed original artwork by Sherri Alexander; a 48” by 34” Limited Edition Silkscreen on canvas entitled “Desert Beauties” by local artist Bonny Leibowitz; beautiful jewelry items; a fabulous Santa Fe Getaway; airline tickets and tickets to exciting entertainment venues; numerous food, spirits, and dining options; and boutique, children’s, gardening, and sports auction areas.
Raffle tickets were sold for items “All from Deep in the Heart of Texas” in keeping with the Dallas Junior Forum’s motto, “Service from the Heart.” Offerings included a Ruthie’s Rolling Café Party for 50. Ruthie’s is Mobile Cuisine’s 2015 Grilled Cheese Food Truck of the Year. Continuing the celebration with Texas style, a lucky guest won a $1,500 shopping spree at NorthPark Center, one of the retail wonders of the modern world. Another raffle item included a luxurious getaway at San Antonio’s finest luxury hotel, Eilan Hotel and Spa. The winner will relax and rejuvenate with an indulgent spa gift basket including champagne, gift certificates for spa services and fine international dining as well as round-trip airfare from Dallas.
At noon, guests were welcomed by Mistress of Ceremonies Karen Borta of CBS 11 News. At 12:05 p.m., the luncheon was served on tables adorned with white clothes, black and white stripped runners, and black and white polka dotted napkins in heart shaped gold napkin rings. Fresh flowers in myriad shades of pink and white adorned each table.
Guests enjoyed a delicious lunch which began with fried green tomatoes and black eyed pea caviar, with buttermilk ranch drizzle. An Entrée Salad followed with sliced southern fried chicken breast, colorful salad greens, jicama, sweet red bell pepper, carrot, granny smith apple, blueberries and Honey mustard dressing. A Belo Mansion bread basket and butter were included. Delightful desserts were wafer banana pudding or strawberry shortcake trifle along with coffee service.
At 12:35, Karen introduced Luncheon Chairs. Dallas philanthropist Faye Briggs was honorary chair of the event. Event co-chairs were Lexia Allen and Gay Nassri. Host committee was comprised of Linda Claycomb, Cathy Marquis, Cathy Packard and Steven and Misty Smathers. Committee Chairs were Maritza Acosta, Candy Carby, Kathy Caywood, Helen Curtis, Mary Lou Fleming, Vanessa Hoffman, Ann M. Jones, Nancy Malooly, Valerie McMahan, Diana Melendez, Kristin Parrino, Sandra Prater, Mary Preslar, Penny Sanders, Julie Sheridan and Kay Trapp. Carly Madison is vice president of development.
DJF President Mary Cartwright remarked on the mission and agencies served by the organization and the four core areas addressed by volunteers including Nourish to Flourish, Child Stars, Golden Friendships, and At Your Service.
“Dallas Junior Forum extends our sincerest thanks to all our sponsors, donors, contributors and special friends,” Cartwright said. “Your generosity enabled us to directly improve the lives of thousands of individuals across North Texas. It is only through your support we are able to continue to commit financially to the North Texans in need.”
Next, Karen introduced guest speaker Rebekah Gregory, who is a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombings three years ago. With tears and with laughter Gregory told the story of “The Best and Worst Day of My Life.” It was the worst day because her world and her body were shattered by a bomb planted three feet behind her by two brothers bent on destroying our American way of life. It was the best day because she survived, and because her five-year-old son Noah was sitting on her feet when the bomb exploded, his life was spared. Gregory sacrificed her left leg for the life of her son. She said she would do it over again in a heartbeat. She said that she and her son have learned to deal with the cards they were dealt by using humor.
Noah is proud of his mom because none of the other kids have a “robot” mom. Gregory named her prostatic leg “Felicia” after a character in the movie “Friday.”
“I saw a quote on Pentrist right before my amputation, and it just said, ‘I wish I had Felicia’s life; she’s always going somewhere,’” Gregory said. “That was perfect. I’d been completely wheelchair bound for a year-and-a-half, and when I got this new leg, there was no stopping me.
Since her recovery, Gregory has traveled all over the United States and internationally telling her story. Guests at the luncheon laughed and cried with her as she shared her journey over the last three years.
Although Gregory had planned to spend this April at home in Houston, trying to keep life as normal as possible, she changed her mind and came to Dallas to speak at Dallas Junior Forum’s Spring Event.
“I’m so excited to be a part of this today because these ladies are absolutely phenomenal,” she said. “When I read about the work that they do and the hours that they put in – that is leading a meaningful life. Women’s inspiring other women is so important and powerful. Anytime I can be involved in something like this, I’m 100 percent all for it.”
About Dallas Junior Forum
Dallas Junior Forum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was founded in 1977. Last year DJF members volunteered more than 14,700 hours of work valued at more than $362,500 and awarded more than $103,000 in grant and non-grant funding to nonprofit agencies in the greater Dallas area. DJF is one of nine chapters of Junior Forums, Inc., a Texas-based service organization founded in 1959. For more information, visit www.dallasjuniorforum.org.
* Photos provided by the Dallas Junior Forum