With of musicians playing nearby and the adjacent 14th Annual Life Lessons Luncheon patron party taking place, the koi in the Dallas Market Center’s Dell Pavilion pond must have enjoyed Tuesday, February 26.
At the other end of the Pavilion Luncheon Co-Chairs Abra Beth Garrett and Heather McNamara joined emcee Jenny Anchondo and the event’s keynote speaker/ Empire actress Grace Byers for a quick photo on the stage surrounded by tables. Then it was off to join the patrons for a meet-and-greet at 11.
By 11:30 a.m. the general admission guests were arriving and made their way to the tables via the table of raffle items including a guitar autographed by Keith Urban.
When the chimes started calling guests like Honorary Co-Chairs Jan Showers and Elizabeth Showers, Lisa Shirley, Bela Cooley, Stephanie Seay, Greg Nieberding, Regina Bruce, Nancy Gopez, Wendy Messmann, Brooke Shelby, Rhonda Sargent Chambers and Dr. Elizabeth Hughes to the tables at 11:50, the musicians put their instruments away and the patron party ended.
Running right on schedule the program celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Elisa Project (TEP)got underway at 12:05 p.m.
In welcoming the group and giving a brief history of TEP, Jenny revealed why the organization dealing with eating disorders and self esteem was so special to her. About ten years ago she had come to Dallas to resolve an eating disorder. It would be years later that she would return to Dallas to work in local TV newsrooms, get married and have a baby. Looking back at her journey, she was grateful to know that TEP existed to help others in need of support and guidance.
Abra and Heather recalled how in March 1996, 20-year-old Elisa McCall had died as a result of having an eating disorder and her inability to control it. Despite the grief of losing their daughter, Leslie and Rick McCall were inspired by her journal to create TEP in the hope that it would help others dealing with the same issues.
Abra told how years ago, she had received a copy of Elisa’s journal in the mail. Reading it several times, the words “impacted me in ways I cannot even describe. I related to it.” Thanks to TEP, there is education, care and support for those in need of help.
TEP Executive Director Kimberly Martinez told the group that thanks to State Senators Nathan Johnson and Royce West were sponsoring Senate Bill 1145 in the legislature. If passed, this Bill would appoint a taskforce to study the prevalence and access to care for eating disorders in Texas. This can have a huge and positive impact to those living with these deadly disease and cause a much-needed culture shift, but we require funding to continue our efforts.
When the program continued, past TEP President Dr. Stephanie Setliff arrived on stage to present the Star of Hope Award to Dr. Ovidio Bermudez. Before making the announcement, she laughed saying she may spinach in her teeth.
While Ursuline Academy students Kendall Griffin and Payton Walker accepted the L.E.A.D. Award for the school’s program, Grace was seen taking a hint from Stephanie and checked her teeth. No spinach was seen and she was on stage. Highlights of her talk included
Following the weekend of the Academy Award presentation, she felt deeply for those who didn’t win, because there may be the feeling that “they were lacking.”
She grew up at the corner of cultures — biracial and having deaf parents. Adding to that her parents divorced when she was a toddler and she was being raised by a single mother.
Through her 20’s and 30’s she questioned herself. She tried to change to one thing or another, so she would be accepted.
Classmates questioning her about her mother’s deafness only made her angry at her mother.
A telling incident occurred when she was seven years old in third grade. Her teacher left her in charge of the class. Everyone got up and one fellow by the name of Ryan started playing around. When she tried to take control of the situation, she landed on the floor and he kicked her in the face. The rest of the year she was picked on and ended up transferring to another school for fourth grade. Being the new kid she felt ostracized and teased.
Looking back Grace wondered why she didn’t fight back. She reasoned it was because she didn’t want to stand out. She then questioned, “Why was I put on earth? What’s wrong with me?”
Her decision was to be in control of something that would make her “good” and people would like her. To achieve that control, her solution was two-fold:
- Be perfect — The more perfect she was the less likely she would stand out.
- Be a people-pleaser — Whatever people wanted, she would do, so they would like her.
But it didn’t work. The more she tried to please others, the unhappier she became — “To please them meant I almost always had to deny myself.” The more she tried to be perfect, the harder she was on herself.
By the 30’s, she was on her own but still regressed to childhood when it came to feeling accepted. She realized that she was afraid of establishing boundaries and saying, “No.”
In the past five year, she has undertaken a journey to discover who she really is. She started by acknowledging PAIN (“Pay Attention Inward Now”). Instead of being a victim, she decided to reclaim her power. In 2017 she wrote the New York Times best-selling book, “I Am Enough,” helping empowering young girls.
She shared the lessons that have helped her move ahead.
- Don’t be afraid to exercise your right to say, “No.”
- Set clear boundaries.
- Accept yourself as you are.
- You are enough. This is the hardest lesson to learn.
As she concluded her talk, the guests rose to their feet to applaud her story and her serving as an example for others.