Grow the Grove Co-Chairs Karen and Mark Carney managed to pick the perfect couple to salute for the fourth annual Cristo Rey Dallas fundraiser on Saturday, November 2, at Sixty Five Hundred. It was none other than Liza and Will Lee, who have had a great impact in both the educational and healthcare arenas. Here’s a report from the field:
Cristo Rey Dallas hosted its 4th annual Grow the Grove on Saturday, November 2 with Honorary Co-Chairs Karen and Mark Carney and Honorees Liza and Will Lee.
CRD cheerleaders greeted the 250 attendees as they arrived at venue Sixty Five Hundred for the annual fundraiser, which benefits Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep, an innovative high school located in Pleasant Grove that offers students who would otherwise not consider private school a rigorous college prep education paired with a valuable work study program.
Once inside, partygoers mingled as they enjoyed light bites and cocktails, including signature drink, the “Full Ride,” featuring TX Whiskey. As DJ Lucy Wrubel spun tunes, attendees took turns at the interactive stations located throughout the space, which included a student art display, Smackdown Trivia and a Science taste experiment, in addition to ping pong and foosball.
Mid-way through the evening, guests proceeded to their seats for the evening’s program. Cristo Rey Dallas’ Ballet Folklorico kicked the program off with a lively performance. President Kelby Woodard then took the stage to welcome everyone to Grow the Grove.
Woodard thanked the many individuals who had ensured the success of the evening, including Karen and Mark, who helped launch Grow the Grove five years ago, with Patty and Mark Langdale, as its first chairs, and this year’s honorees Liza and Will, who have been champions of education and healthcare in Dallas.
He then shared some exciting highlights of the growth of Cristo Rey Dallas, made possible by many individuals in the room, including the recent groundbreaking for the school’s 40,000-square-foot Innovation Center, which includes the Crystal Charity Ball Corporate Work Study Center, the Popolo Student Union, the NexBank Gymnasium, a soccer field, fine arts classrooms and more.
Cristo Rey Dallas student Jasmine Ramirez, class of 2021, followed to share a special reflection written by classmate Daniel Venegas, who passed away during his freshman year, entitled “Protect the Dream,” which included his hopes and dreams for his own education and for his family.
Guests were served a family style dinner which included an antipasto/mezza plate, smoked brisket slider with French fries and sesame-sriracha aioli, walking Frito pies with Texas chili and spice-rubbed chicken tacos with apple pico and salsa crema.
As dessert of mini-milkshakes with a selection of toppings were served, Woodard returned to introduce Liza and Will.
He said, “One of the truly amazing things about Cristo Rey Dallas is how the school has the uncanny ability to attract incredible champions who lend their support to making Cristo Rey Dallas a success. Liza and Will Lee are two people who have taken that task to heart. They have a decades long commitment to supporting education and healthcare in the underserved communities of Dallas…communities just like ours in Pleasant Grove.”
A video followed which included remarks from community leaders and friends, such as Nancy Halbreich, Janie McGarr, Stuart Bumpas and Lee Cullum, sharing how they met the Lees, how they have impacted the community, as well as other personal stories. Jasmine returned and was joined on stage by Liza and Will for a conversation.
Ramirez led an interesting conversation with the honorees with topics ranging from books they are currently reading, life lessons, dreams they each had when they were in high school and what they did to protect them, and what is one thing they might do to influence high school students today. The conversation concluded with a lightening round of questions including the place they most want to travel, what super power they would want to have, how many cups of coffee do they drink daily, what question they would ask God if they could, and more. When asked what their greatest wish for Jasmine’s generation would be, Liza said, “I hope that the world will become more peaceful.”
After a standing ovation from the crowd including Donna Woodard, Micki and Mike Rawlings, Nelda Cain Pickens, Lindsay and George Billingsley, Isabell Novakov Higginbotham and Trey Higginbotham, Joyce and Larry Lacerte, Maryann and Frank Mihalopoulos, Mary Blake and Chuck Meadows, Stuart Bumpas, Nancy and Jeremy Halbreich, Laurie and Phil Evans, Janie and Cappy McGarr, Lucy and Henry Billingsley, Gunnar Rawlings, Dee Dee and Hale Hoak, Chandler and Jeff Winslow, Richard Joyner, Peggy and Dan Meyer, Sharon and Tom McNearney, Laura and Jim Einspanier, Chris and Joe Popolo, Megan and Joe Barrie-Schwarz and Alex and Ford Halbadier, it was time for the much-anticipated live auction featuring one-of-a-kind packages and experiences.
Top bids went to fabulous items such as, first-class transportation for ten on a Falcon 2000XL private jet to anywhere in the U.S.; a three night stay for six at the award-winning Esperanza Auberge Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico; a lunch for four with Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson, including a private tour of the Mavs locker room; a dinner for eight with a private chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings courtesy of Bistro 31; a VIP Santa experience at NorthPark Center complete with $2,500 in NorthPark Gold; a stay at a private home in historic Charleston including airfare, dining and tours; and much more. The auction concluded with the opportunity for partygoers to raise their paddles during “Cristo Raise,” as the auctioneer asked for donations at all levels to support the students.
For more information, visit cristoreydallas.org.
* Photo credit: Tamytha Cameron