With the fundraising spring season for 2018 in its final days, there are still plenty of folks supporting the nonprofit efforts. Despite Monday being a “dark day” for most events, Monday, May 7, felt more like a Thursday. It started off with the Sixth Annual Can Do! Luncheon at the Dallas Country Club. Unlike a couple or three years ago when tornadoes were threatening this Wilkinson Center event, this year marked the first 90-degree day of the year with the sun brightly supplying the heat.
Inside the DCC it was filled to the max to celebrate the entrepreneurship. But before the program got underway, talk ranged from plans for the summer to the upcoming nuptials of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on May 19.
Luncheon Chair Emilynn Wilson was slightly distracted. Seems that her freezer had gone out and she was waiting for a call from the repairman notifying her that he was on his way. According to Emilynn, “Don’t be surprised if you see me rush out suddenly.” Luckily, the call didn’t come until after the luncheon.
Nancy Gopez was talking with Gregory Dunbar about her volunteering at the Dallas International Film Festival over the weekend… Claire Emanuelson was back from the Kentucky Derby, where Lisa and Kenny Troutt’s horse Justice won on the muddy track… Others in the room included Marsha and Craig Innes, Nancy Carter, Debbie Oates, Kristina Whitcomb, Pam Perella, Linda Secrest, Patti Flowers, Ellen and John McStay, Paige McDaniel, Joanna Clarke, Pam Busbee, Barbara Stuart and the five past Can Do! Chairs Joan Eleazer (2013), Christie Carter (2014), Leslie Diers (2015), Sara Alberts (2016) and Beth Thoele (2017).
At 11:30 Wilkinson Center Board of Directors Chair Kathryn Koons welcomed the guests and had Rev. Jenna Morrison provide the invocation before lunch got underway including pan roasted chicken breast, fresh Mozzarella, heirloom tomato, shave cucumber, asparagus, fennel, petite greens with white balsamic vinaigrette.
At high noon Emilynn was at the podium thanking the sponsors and people who had supported her. Getting right down to business, she introduced a video for the first Can Do! Award to the Orix Foundation. Following the video, Emilynn presented the oversized “Can Do!” with flowers to Orix Foundation Board Member Jim Dunn adding that she was keeping it the family “My daughter Michele is married to his brother Gerald Dunn. In accepting the oversize “Can Do!” can, Jim brought additional levity to the luncheon by saying, “We don’t sell vacuums.” Rather, it is the employee-led charitable arm of the Dallas-based, financial services company Orix Americas.
Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder presented the remaining video introductions and awardees. First was Shelton School And Evaluation Center Executive Director Emerita Dr. Joyce Pickering, who “has devoted her life to addressing the needs of student with learning differences” and has helped Wilkinson Center students. Joining Anne in the presentation was her former Hockaday classmate Hannah Cutshall.
As Joyce and Hannah left the stage, a video was shown about Can Do! Awardee Jennifer Woods, who had decided that she wanted to make a better life for herself and her family. In turning to Wilkinson Center Case Manager Myra Collins, she developed a five-year program to achieve such goals as improving her financial standing, having a better job, buying a house and being able to spend more time with her children. The results have been her applying for a job as a phlebotomist and qualifying for a mortgage.
In accepting her award, Jennifer was obviously touched by the standing ovation. Despite being nervous, she attributed her success to the Wilkinson Center staff and their helping her achieving her goals.
The final recipient was introduced by Chris Kleinert. Back story: Last year Chris and his wife Ashlee Kleinert were Can Do! Awardees. In accepting the award, Chris held up a newspaper article about a little fellow by the name of Kaden Newton, who exemplified the “Can Do! spirit. At the age of 7, he had noticed that in various food pantries and food banks, there weren’t many kid-oriented foods, like Kaden’s favorites macaroni and cheese and pancakes. So, he launched an online campaign to collect food. Within a week, he had collected more than 5,000 items. Since that time Kaden created Mac And Cheese and Pancakes to provide food for Rockwall, Dallas, Denton, Collin, McLennan, Wise, Kaufman and Hunt counties.
In accepting the award to a standing ovation, Kaden passed up the podium, since it was a foot taller than he was, and with mic in hand, he thanked all and posed for a photo with Anne and Chris. Only problem — he was hard to see behind the flowers in the Can Do! can.
Unlike years past where the event has ended with a singing choir or soloist, the luncheon finished up with Kathryn Koons returning to the podium and explaining how the Wilkinson Center had fulfilled her desire to give back and reminding guests that they could contribute by texting, donating and/or buying a centerpieces.