Unlike years past, this year’s Children’s Cancer Fund annual fundraiser for Children’s Health took on a different spin on Friday, April 22. Instead of a luncheon, Event Co-Chairs Giora Barker and Lisa Cooley moved it to nighttime with “An Evening In Oz” as the theme. And the only thing missing was the horse of a different color! And the decision to move it worked, because the evening’s net … oops, can’t reveal it because the board is keeping that number under wraps. Still word has it that it was a record breaker.
But from the beginning of the night, it was obvious that more than Dorothy’s red slippers had been clicking for wishes to come true. As the girl from Kansas and her pals welcomed more than 900 guests at the Anatole, the munchkin artists and models were hunkered down in the Wedgwood Room with makeup being applied, hair curled and partying. In the meantime, the older high-paying kids were in the Peacock Room for the VIP meet-and-greet with Honorary Co-Chairs Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach.
Over to the side, Marianne Staubach reported that they had just returned from Disneyland with daughter Amy Mentgen and her kids. She admitted that after making the rounds of the park with the grand-kids, the adults were worn out.
In another part of the room Bela Pjetrovic and mustachioed Chase Cooley were being congratulated on their recent engagement. Has a date been set? Nothing definite yet, but April 2017 is looking good. And speaking of mustaches, Cooley dad Clay recalled that when he and wife Lisa met, he also had a mustache and long hair.
Another dad in the crowd was Ben Lange, sans son/T-shirt entrepreneur Luke Lange, who was at Benihana for a birthday. The mention of Benihana set off a memory for Clay, who remembered how in the early days, Chase’s birthdays were celebrated there.
All too soon the VIPs adjourned to join the hundreds of others checking out the silent auction in the Chantilly Ballroom reception area just as the ballroom doors were opened.
Inside the ballroom, it appeared as if the Emerald City of Oz had indeed taken up residence, with a stage for the Emerald City band at one end and the presentation stage with runway at the other. All around were tables with folks like presenting sponsor Anne Davidson, Cindy Turner, Suzy Gekiere, Patti Flowers, Tanya and Pete Foster, Mary Meier, Betty Turner and Mary Poss.
Serving as background for the stage were mega scenes straight from “The Wizard of Oz,” including the yellow brick road leading through the field of poppies to the city of Oz.
First on stage were Roger and Troy, joined by Lisa with Emme Nees and Giora with son Jack Barker. The exchange between Rog (this was his 28th CCF appearance) and Troy (it was his 20th) proved their ongoing commitment to battling children’s cancer as well as their mutual respect and friendship for each other.
Following Lisa’s and Giora’s personal testimonials about each of their reasons for undertaking the fundraiser, Tom Gilchrist sang a capella the Lord’s Prayer. (Quipped Roger afterward: “I’d trade my Heisman for a voice like that.”)
Under the direction of special events producer Rhonda Sargent Chambers, not a moment was lost for the fashion show of Dillard’s kiddo clothes. As Rog, Troy et al left the stage, emcee Scott Murray arrived at the podium to introduce the Children’s Cancer Fund artists and their celebrity escorts including
- 6-year-old Cooper Dorr with Roger
- 10-year-old Hayden Ritchie with Troy
- 12-year-old Mercedes Howdeshell with Tara Pavlock and Ashleigh Panelli
- 9-year-old Myles Allison with Jason Garrett
- 13-year-old Carsyn Sapp with Sunny Malouf
- 7-year-old Corbin Glasscock with Terrance Williams
- 5-year-old Kamryn Rakestraw with Jim Stroud
- 11-year-old Maxwell Matlock with members of the Dallas SWAT
- 5-year-old Reese Skelte with “Dorothy”
- 11-year-old Keamus Bryant with Medieval Times Red Knight
- 8-year-old Trip Rowley with Brandon Carr
Unfortunately, 5-year-old Flick Blevins was under the weather and couldn’t make the event. In his stead, Dallas Fire Department #19’s Jerry Hooker, Michael Wolfe, Derrick Brouhard and John Keeler walked the runway holding his photo.
At this point, Scott introduced KDFW’s Clarice Tinsley to introduce the other cancer-surviving children and their celebrity escorts, including:
- 13-year-old Andrew Russell with Kaitlyn Wade
- 16-year-old Sabeen Wazir with Jake Pavelka
- 6-year-old Jackson Houser with Morris Claiborne
- 6-year-old Rina Cantrell with Jane McGarry
- 15-year-old Saket Ashar with Dr. Ted Laetsch
- 9-year-old Laura Beth Rote with Brianna Kiesel
- 10-year-old Brady Pampilonia with Kliff Kingsbury
- 9-year-old Julissa Garcia with Jocelyn White
- 11-year-old Juan Lopez with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and Rowdy
- 7-year-old Jordan McDowell with Miss Texas America
- 16-year-old Averi Moya with Mitch Gaylord
- 10-year-old Julia Brown with Amy Vanderoef
- 12-year-old Christian Arroyo with Byron Jones
- 9-year-old Lynette Quintana with the Pink Heals Firefighters
As 18-year-old Kaitlyn Wade escorted child artist Andrew Russell, Marianne recalled how, years ago, Rog had escorted the pretty blonde on the runway when she was presented. Yes, she had conquered leukemia, but her story of challenges hadn’t end there. After winning the battle, she was the victim of a drunk driver. As the result of the horrendous car accident, 9-year-old Kaitlyn “spent two months in a coma and six months at Cook Children’s before she could return home.”
But on this evening, the emphasis was on the current crop of cancer-conquering kids as they mugged, twirled and charmed their way on the catwalk. Blonde Brill Garrett cheered each one like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. Okay, so maybe she had an extra whoop when husband Jason took his turn in the spotlight with Myles Allison.
All of this was building up to the live auction. Troy won the trip to the Masters and learned from Rog all the perks associated with the package. Jana and Mike Brosin won the artwork created by CCF Gala artists and Christopher Martin.
To the delight of many of the ladies in the audience, Jake “The Bachelor” Pavelka was doing double duty. In addition to walking the runway, he also was part of the “Dancing With The Stars” package. Shoot! They could have auctioned off pictures with Jake and won a passel of dough, as lady after lady wanted a quick cell-snap with the cutie. But it was Tracy and Ben Lange who won the package. So, watch for them during Season 23 that is scheduled to air this fall.
As soon as the live auction ended, the focus shifted to the other end of the ballroom, where Emerald City took over to get guests on their feet and dancing the night away.