The Elisa Project leadership decided to take a turn in the road for their 13th Annual Life Lessons Luncheon on Wednesday, February 28. Unlike last year’s fundraiser at Belo Mansion that had unsuspecting guests invited to the microphone for comments and keynote speaker Nancy Kerrigan admitting that she wasn’t a public speaker, this year’s event was restructured and followed the planned schedule to the “T” at Brook Hollow. It also featured “This Is Us” co-star Chrissy Metz in an affable conversation with lifestyle guru Kim Whitman.
As an early indication that the event was headed to a success, tickets had been gobbled up with delight when the announcement of Chrissy’s presence was made. Still, there’s always the fear that the personality won’t live up to the on-screen persona. That definitely wasn’t the case for Chrissy, who charmed one and all from the VIP meet-and-greet in the bar to the luncheon itself.
During the meet-and-greet, the guests kept coming and coming. Some VIP types even sneaked non-VIP buds in through a side door just to get a photo with Chrissy.
While waiting to visit with Chrissy or for the main act to get underway were Jan Osborn back briefly from working at Zachary’s House in Ghana and attending just two events including this one and the Virginia Chandler Dykes luncheon that honored Norm Bagwell… Robin Bagwell was also back in town from a trip to India and Dubai with sister Diane Moreau… Filling a table were The Eliza Project President Kristi Bare’s tennis pals including Sally Giddens, who has let her hair go natural resulting in all white.
Others in the crowd included Honorary Co-Chairs Sandra Estess and Elizabeth Estess Hughes, Holly Davis with daughter Landry Davis, Cindy Stager, Rhonda Sargent Chambers, Stephanie Setliff, Amy Turner, Greg Nieberding, Paige McDaniel, Joanna Clarke, Andrea Gates and Tracy Fitz.
After a couple of requests by the voice over the PA system, the crowd of 450 in the ballroom and the promenade took their seats. Unannounced, Sally Van Winkle came to the podium and read a haunting letter that she wrote to her sister Elisa McCall following Elisa’s death in 1996. Despite the laughter and chatting that taken place during the pre-lunch reception, the rooms went silent. The words served as a reminder of the person and purpose around which The Elisa Project was in 1999.
Then NBC’s Samantha Davies took Sally’s place at the podium and handled the welcome and thank yous for the board, sponsors and committee leaders. Next up were the Kims (Lunch Chair Kim Bannister and Elisa Project Kim Martinez), who keep their comments brief.
Kim Martinez invites “Katy” to the podium to give a testimonial about her eating disorder challenge. About a year-and-a-half ago she went into treatment. “Without it I probably wouldn’t be here today.” By being in a treatment center, she was monitored about her eating. She admitted, “It’s been a struggle.”
Following Martinez’s call for funding, the program was ahead of schedule and guests settle back to chat.
At 12:39 p.m. Samantha was back and introduced The Elisa Project President Kristi Bare, who presented Dr. Carrie McAdams with the 2018 L.E.A.D. Award. In accepting her award, Carrie gave a six-minute thank you reviewing her work with patients in recovery and the people who had supported her.
On the other hand, 2018 Elisa McCall Start of Hope Awardee Elizabeth Estess Hughes simply said thank you adding that she knew that the audience was eager to hear from Chrissy.
As Chrissy and Kim Whitman take their places on the stage, the sound of chairs being moved for a better look could be heard throughout the room. From the start, it was obvious that Chrissy was spontaneous, thoughtful and funny. Highlights from the conversation included:
- Success has meant — “The fact that I can buy Christmas gifts and go to dinner and pay for it. It’s great!”
- Being an agent before acting — “It was like watching your boyfriend go out with another girl.”
- The lesson that look the longest to learn — “Nothing is personal.”
- Sibling relationships — “We lived in Japan for nine years. Then my mom got a divorce and I became the middle child. That’s why I became an actress… My sister and I misunderstood for many years. My mom told us to take it outside, so we did in the front yard.”
- “Six to 10 girls stop doing things because of the way they feel about themselves.”
- “I’m a work I progress. Every day I start with a grateful list…. Everyone is here for a purpose.”
- Early childhood — “There was physical and emotional abuse. I learned about forgiveness.
- Puberty —“When you’re going through puberty, you’re so aware of your body.”
- Co-star Jack Pearson — “He’s perfect. Milo is the same way.”
- Co-star Mandy Moore — “Mandy Moore is an angel from heaven. She plays my mom, but I’m older than she is.”
- “Food is the symptom. It’s what in your mind.”
Following the conversation, Chrissy handled questions from the audience with the last one from a man. He wondered if she had had any men reach out to her about eating disorders. Chrissy told how she had been seated in an airport going from Orlando to New York. A mother walked by and said that her son was a big fan. Chrissy just thought the woman was talking about a 20-something son. A minute later a little boy appearing to be around 10 years old approached her telling her that she had been so inspirational. Chrissy later learned that the boy was suffering from bulimia. Luckily, there was a treatment center for him and a family to support his efforts for recovery.