As 2019 St. Valentine’s Day Luncheon and Fashion Show emcee Clarice Tinsley pointed out on Thursday, February 7, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of North Texas’ fundraiser has had been held in all types of weather. As she spoke those words, vets chuckled and recalled those days of torrential rain and ice storms. And they figured the 2019 event would probably go down in the record books, too.
If only the lavish luncheon and fashions by NorthPark merchants had taken place 24 hours earlier, it would have been simply ideal for guests to wear their spring frocks and sip ice tea and champagne. But once again Mother Nature decided to throw a wrench in the plans.
From early predictions, organizers were going to miss the weather bullet. Yes, there would be thunderstorms with possible hail from midnight to 5 a.m. And, yes, the temperatures would drop from Wednesday’s 70s dramatically to the 40s Thursday after 2 p.m. At least, that was the game plan as of late Wednesday.
All was in place with the reception in the NorthCourt and the main event in a magnificent enclosed tent in the CenterPark next to the Buckyball. Knowing that the body count of 550 might create a warmish environment within the tent, the industrial strength A/C units were turned on Wednesday night.
Right on cue, the storms came through like a sky-high tsunami. But in their wake, they left 40-degree temperatures plus 20 MPH winds. Quickly the A/C was turned off and the heating units cranked up in the beautiful tent with its white walls, white table clothes, white chairs and white carpeting.
While the heaters were doing their thing in the tent, the reception was getting off to a delayed start. Scheduled to begin at 10:30, four tables had been set up for guests to check in for the reception in the corded-off court. But there were only two to three people checking in people and their credit cards. Soon the waiting line extended to Kona Grill. By 10:53 a.m. some guests, like Tricia Besing and her pals, were skipping the credit card check-in and sneaking in through the ropes. On the other side of the court, Melissa Sherrill and Machelle Davenport simply entered through the exit.
Melissa had had her own change of plans. Just the night before, one of her twins had gotten so frustrated about her tangled ponytail, she cut it off. While the new look was different, it wasn’t mother-approved. Quickly, the family hairdresser saved the day.
Back in the tent, the temperature was working to be a little more user-friendly. By 11:30 a.m., the guests like St. Valentine’s Day co-founders Rusty Duvall and Janet Evans, Luncheon Honorary Co-Chairs Melody and Rick Rogers, Nancy Nasher and her gal squad (Kristen Gibbins, Loryn Weddle and Shelby Foster), Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, Gigi Salley, Lynne Dunning Miller, Preston Evans, Nancy Gopez, Ciara Cooley, Bela Cooley and Robert Weatherly made their way to the tent. While many had kept their coats, others, like David Higgins, decided to return to the NorthCourt for their jackets that they had checked in. Andrea Nayfa wondered if she should go make a quick purchase of leggings for her daughter, who was in the show.
In the crowd were those who had gone through the journey of the disease and were there to support the patients and families now going through treatment. For instance, Marvin Weaver with his bride of 26 years, Beverly Weaver, was proud of conquering chronic myeloid leukemia.
In the back of the room at the production platform, two of North Texas’ legendary fashion producers — Sandy Marple and Jan Strimple —got together for a photo. According to one source, it was the first time the two had been photographed together.
As the program got underway, the number of bodies helped raise the room temperature — except for a group at table 4. It was right in front of a renegade cooling unit. As they shivered in their coats and huddled together, they swore that it was blowing another cold front in.
After Luncheon Chair Christy Berry presented the Lynda Adleta Heart of Gold Award to Joyce and Larry Lacerte, a shout-out was made for UT Southwestern Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Program Dr. Bob Collins, resulting in cheers from guests and a big hug from Joyce.
Emcee Clarice then introduced Babe Laufenberg who stood in for his son/the recipient of the Tom Landry Character Awardee Luke Laufenberg. It seems that Luke, who was in remission from Burkitt Leukemia, was getting his life back to normal and attending the University of Texas at El Paso. Looking at a nearby table, Babe spied Brill Garrett, wife of Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. He told how when Luke was in the hospital, Jason and other Dallas Cowboys, past and present, would visit the teenager. Knowing how much weight Luke had lost, Jason hauled in burgers from Burger House — enough to feed the team. While the intention was excellent, the problem was that Luke was barely able to stomach a cup of liquid. After weeks of treatments, Babe told his son that he had to get well, because Babe was gaining so much weight from eating the burgers.
As a surprise, Luke appeared via Skype on the two mega screens for a brief chat with his dad and to thank all for supporting the research and developments made in leukemia and lymphoma.
Following the call for money, the fashion show kicked off with apparel from Versace, Fabiana Filippi, Canali, Kids Atelier, Cavalli and Neiman Marcus. Upstaging the world-renowned designs on the professional models were the kids in the clothes from Kids Atelier.
While some of the more experienced kids did the hair fling and hands-on-hips pose, it was the first munchkin Piper Henderson who stole the show. The tyke only made it one-third of the way down the runway to applause when she burst into tears and reached out for her mom, Marjon Henderson, who was on the front row with open arms and a cellphone. It should be noted that Piper later scrambled back on the runway and headed straight for backstage, only to slip and fall. That just goes to show that life on the runway isn’t always as easy as a walk in the park.