The 2020 Crystal Charity Ball bus tour of beneficiaries didn’t start off on a high note. While the clouds covered the area and the temperatures felt like the 30s had taken over, Craig Vogel‘s Savvy Transportation Services bus sought a place to park at Turtle Creek Village on the morning of Thursday, February 20. The usual spot was already filled with cars.
While 53 had signed up to be a part of the tour sponsored by Briggs Freeman’s Layne Pitzer and Joan Eleazer, organizers were starting to worry. Those who’d said they weren’t coming and others who hadn’t RSVP-ed showed up. One person laughed that it might require some folks doubling up in the luxury seats.
Some, like Children’s Book photographer Holt Haynsworth, had a definite excuse for not showing up — wife Megan Haynsworth was giving birth to their son Liam Haynsworth.
As the groups came on board, some like Ann Dyer rushed off to Turtle Creek’s Drip coffeehouse for a warm fix, while Kristina Whitcomb hurried over to the Tom Thumb’s Starbucks.
Due to HIPPA regulations and programs that weren’t in place at the time of the tour, three groups would have to review on board the bus how their grants would be used.
First to present were Center for Vision Health’s Dr. Stephanie Helm Fleming and Dr. Rosita Ghazanfari. They told the crowd that thanks to $964,204 for We See Success! Vision Health Care for Children, there will be funding over three years for “capital and programming to provide vision services to children from low-income families and establish a new vision clinic in southern Dallas County. Approximately 4,700 unduplicated children ages 4-18 will be served.”
Next up was Callier Center for Communication Disorders’ Executive Director Tom Campbell and Foundation President Emilynn Wilson with Speech-Language Pathology Clinical Operations Director Melissa Sweeney. They demonstrated how a tablet will be part of the Pediatric Special Connections Project program funded by $997,996 over a three-year period. It will provide “programming and technology purchases to give low-verbal and non-verbal children a voice to express their needs and connect with others, impacting their psycho-social development, self-esteem and potential for academic success. Approximately 750 children ages 2-17 will be served.”
The final presentation on the bus was made by North Texas Food Bank’s Erin Fincher, who told that thanks to the $898,890 grant, a number of Dallas County middle schools would be able to provide food for the school’s pantries. Approximately 900 unduplicated students will be receiving 525,000 meals over a three-year period. She told of a mom who had just recently reported that when she brought her NTFB box of food home, her children looked on in amazement at the fresh produce and food items.
Despite the surprise additions to the bus, no one had to double up after all. Ahead of schedule, bus driver David drove the bus to the first stop — Healing Hands Ministries in the Vickery Meadows neighborhood, where new arrivals to the U.S. adjust to a different lifestyle. As President/CEO Janna Gardner pointed out, some of their clients have never seen a washing machine or even a toilet in their native lands.
After a group photo in the lobby, the CCB-ers toured the second floor of the building before heading to the wide open space on the third floor with its large windows overlooking the neighborhood that is “a melting pot of social challenges.”
Once the space is finished out, the $650,000 Third Floor Expansion of Children’s Health Center will finish out the space to accommodate educational programs centered on the well-being of children, resulting in 5,000 unduplicated children from infant to age 18 being served. Included in the 15,000-square-foot space will be an educational kitchen, a food pharmacy and other resources.
As the group left, they were presented with miniature whisks to remind them of their visit.
Still ahead of schedule, the bus headed across town to Herbert Marcus Elementary School for the Catch Up and Read beneficiary. On the way, they passed by “tornado alley” showcasing the devastation of the area that was still trying to recover from the October 2019 tornado.
At Herbert Marcus, the CCB-ers took their places in the school auditorium for a presentation by Catch Up and Read CEO Catherine LeBlanc, Education Coordinator Susan Cope and Herbert Marcus Principal Jonatan Romero. The CCB-ers were surprised to learn that the prison system had determined that youngsters who hadn’t learned how to read by the third grade had a greater chance of breaking the law. Thanks to Catch Up and Read, teachers were able to provide a greater impact on the students. In a video, Herbert Marcus student Devontai told how he was interested in pursuing STEM programs but to do that you had to be able to read. His impact was enhanced by his greeting the group afterward in the hallway.
Over a three-year period, the CCB grant of $951,434 will be used “for programming and technology purchases to expand its programming to four additional DISD campuses in South Dallas. Approximately 576 unduplicated students, grades first through third will be served through direct tutoring, and an additional 5,000 students will be reached through specialized teacher training.”
Due to the day being already scheduled for testing, the group’s classroom visits were limited to just a handful of examples of teachers working with students.
It was then on to Ability Connection on Harry Hines Boulevard, where the $1,257,650 grant would be used over 3 years for “programming for three distinct tween and teen Camp Connections programs and to purchase three new specially equipped vans to provide participant transportation to camp locations. Approximately 750 unduplicated middle and high school students, ages 12-17, will be served.”
While Ability Connection President/CEO Jim Hanophy’s pooches quietly stayed in his office, the Ability Connection staff toured the group through the facility where clients learn everything from daily tasks to skills for potential jobs. They also discovered that some clients were in need of lifelong assistance. As one mother explained, thanks to Ability Connection her son had a second family who assisted in his needs.
Returning to the bus, the CCB-ers ate box lunches from Cassandra Fine Catering and Jim took his dogs for a walk.
Just down the road, the bus pulled up to an abandoned one-story building on Butler just a block away from Parkland. The CCB-ers were greeted by Mommies in Need Founder/CEO Natalie Boyle. All work on the space had come to a halt to allow the group to visit the site that was being transformed into Annie’s Place, a no-cost childcare center for Parkland patients. And while it won’t be a traditional daycare center, it will allow women who have appointments at Parkland to secure their children under the age of six at the facility. Natalie emphasized that thanks to so much having been donated, the CCB grant of $970,846 would be used over three years for “programming and capital to staff and equip Annie’s Place. Approximately 3,750 unduplicated children ages 0-6 will be served in the first year and an additional 2,400 children during years 2 and 3.”
The final stop of the day was at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, where a grant of $1,179,000 for “programming and equipment for the urgent crisis in pediatric mental illness seen at Children’s Health. Approximately 1,900 unduplicated children will be served ages 5-18.”
As Rosie the Children’s therapy dog wandered through the group, Children’s Medical Center Foundation President Brent Christopher explained that it had been decided to meet in a building across from the new emergency room that was under construction. The reason was the number of flu cases being admitted at the ER.
Still, the point was made by Brent and Dr. Pamela Okada how great the need was for mental health support for patients in the ER. CCB committee representative Fredye Factor reported that in the previous year, 3,000 children under the age of 11 had tried to kill themselves.
Boarding the bus for the ride back home, the 50+ riders had learned the need of support and were inspired to meet their goal of $7,870,000 in the months ahead.