The 7th Annal Callier Cares Luncheon at the Dallas Country Club was a group hug on Tuesday, April 17. VIPs gathered in the Founders’ Room with Barbara and John Stuart, Dee Wyly, Jill Rowlett, Ann Dyer, Honorary Co-Chair Joyce Lacerte and her sister Roxann Vyazmensky, Richard Neely, Nancy Carter, Louise Griffeth, Pam Perella, Lynn McBee and Lisa Cooley. On the terrace overlooking the golf course and with geese flying overhead, Honorary Co-Chair Larry Lacerte told Ken Altshuler of his life since 2010 when he nearly died from leukemia and his more recent struggles with heart issues resulting. Pretty soon the conversation was put to a halt when a Lacerte family photo was taken.
In the meantime, the guests were moving into the ballroom that was so fully packed that it was a wonder that servers could squeeze between the tables. Foundation for Callier Center Board Chair Tricia George admitted that it was a tight fit, but it was also a total sell-out.
Before the program got underway, the crowd was filled with chit-chat. When asked how many days he still had as mayor of Highland Park, Joel Williams said his last day was May 14, “but who’s counting?”
But right on schedule the program kicked off with a video at noon. It was followed by Luncheon Chair Beth Thoele in typical Beth Thoele fashion starting off by admitting she couldn’t remember her official title. But once past that, she stressed the fact that 100% of the proceeds from the luncheon were going to the children’s services at Callier Center for Communication Disorders.
Following a brief invocation by Christ The King’s Monsignor Don Zimmerman, lunch was on.
A little over 20 minutes later, Beth returned to the podium and revealed that for the first time there was a $50K presenting sponsor made up of 10 philanthropists in honor of the late Ruth Altshuler.
Callier Center for Communication Disorders Executive Director Dr. Tom Campbell then revealed the naming of the two new wings of the Callier Center — The Altshuler Wing and The Meadows Foundation Wing.
Following the announcement, Tricia presented the Ruth and Ken Altshuler’s Callier Care Award to The Meadows Foundation. While Meadows Foundation President/CEO Linda Perryman Evans was out of town and Virginia and Al Meadows grandson Mark Meadows was scheduled to accept the award, there was a last minute change of plans. Instead, Meadows Strategic Initiatives and Grants Senior VP Bruce Esterline accepted the award, and with good reason. He told how a family had sought help years ago for their child with hearing disorder. He concluded by revealing that the child was his, adding that his appreciation for the work of Callier was both professional and personal.
Following a video on the summer camp conducted by Callier each year, the Purcel family provided the keynote talk. It started with patriarch Scott Purcel, who told how their son Ben Purcel had been born on November 24, 2003. Ben had been “been the best. He never cried around loud sounds, never was scared of fireworks, he was never startled.” It seemed perfectly normal for this first-time parents. Still they realized that something was up and asked their pediatrician about it, who assured them that all was right. But soon the family realized that this lack of reaction was not normal. They sought professional care. There were surgeries and still nothing worked. Eventually, someone asked, “Have you heard of the Callier Center?” That proved the turning point of their lives in 2005. The result was “the great thing for my family” and Scott joining the Callier Center board.
Next up was 11-year-old sister, Bailey Purcel, who at the age of 6 watched other children at the pool laugh and talk. Benji couldn’t hear or talk because he had to take his processors off. She wondered “Why me? Why our family? And why Benji?” She asked her mother, “Why did God do this to Benji?” Her mother explained that “god actually chose Benji and our family, so we could help others.” Today she admitted that she was not only grateful for Callier for helping her brother, but also for the fact that a waterproof processor was invented..
With the enthusiasm of a Cowboys cheerleader and the passion of a mother on a mission, Pamela Purcel said that when they heard the words, “profound hearing loss,” they wondered:
- Why us?
- Why him”
- How did this happen?
But then as the realization of the situation sank in, they changed the questions to:
- Why not us?
- Why not him?
- How do we move forward?
Once they found Callier, they discovered that Ben “had superior intelligence with incredible curiously, but severely delayed speech and language.”
Helping the family tackle those challenges, the Purcels discovered that Callier had a wealth of professionals who helped him and the family “catch up with his speech… “Deafness does not define Benji. Callier has always given us tools to ensure this… Life so many of the children with cochlear implants, deafness has not limited his interests, passions or participation.”
With so many accomplishments under his belt, Ben told his mother that when competing in sports, “one of the best sounds he’s heard is the sound of people cheering, ‘Go Benji!’”
The finale was Ben, whose speech was so succinct and his story so touching, that it was no wonder that he had excelled in everything from musicals to sports. He joked that his friends described him as “Daddy Long Legs” because of his being a fast runner on the track field record. “I guess the trade-off was my long legs for perfect hearing. I am currently one of the fastest 8th grade male runners from my school, and I can outrun some high schoolers also!”
He had scored the role of Frederick Von Trapp in “Sound of Music.” He recalled his mother driving him to his after-school sessions at Callier and his family scheduling their summer vacations around the Callier Summer Camp. His regret? That he had aged out of the Callier summer camp. The good news was that he was now a volunteer working with Callier campers. One of the first graders was so taken with Ben that he asked if Ben could go to his house and find his cat who mysteriously ran away.
The Purcel family brought home the work of Callier, thanks to families like the Altshulers, the Lacertes, the Meadows and countless others.