On the evening of Friday, April 1, North Texas was awash with everything from face-painted munchkins, chic philanthropists and burly wrestling aficionados.
While hundreds of thousands filled downtown Dallas in T-shirts boasting their favorite WrestleMania athletes and clogged traffic along highways, the generous donors who had made the cut for Saturday’s Sweetheart Ball headed to that event’s patron party.
But despite the glacial movement along I-30, children and their parents nonetheless headed west to the 54th annual Family Night at Six Flags.
And what a relief it was that, as the parking lot there filled up, the Superman Tower of Power stood tall against a flawless sky.
In years past, the Children’s Health fundraisers have really knocked heads with Ma Nature (i.e. the Holiday Parade and a previous Family Night fright due to unfriendly skies). But on this night, conditions were ideal for T-shirts and shorts.
For the VIP reception, Bugs Bunny, Tom Thumb and Tweety Bird strolled among the crowd, stopping for photos opps, while a clown made balloon animals. Over to the side Landry, Chandler, Ellis and Finley waited their turn to have their faces painted.
Inside the Crazy Horse Saloon, there was a sight that would have made a drover cry with delight: a buffet on one side of the room and, across the way, a friendly barkeep for folks like Joanna Clarke, Holly Hassmann, Co-Chairs Katy Brooks, Megan Brooks, Elle Finney, Gina Finney, Mary Catherine Finney and Meredith Finney and Six Flags GM Sharon Parker.
In the center was a stage. But instead of dance hall girls, it was WFAA’s Marc Istook serving there as emcee and introducing Children’s Medical Center Foundation President Brent Christopher, who told a bit of the history of the 60-year old Women’s Auxiliary to Children’s Medical Center that has provided more than $24M to Children’s Medical Center Foundation. He also pointed out the night’s success was due to Auxiliary President Lisa Rocchio and Honorary Co-Chairs Maura and Tim Costello.
As a sign of the results of the efforts, the Honorary Patient Family Melissa and Greg Dvorocsik and their youngsters Peter and Hannah were introduced. Melissa told how their relationship with Children’s had started just prior to daughter Hannah’s birth. It was during this time that tests revealed that Hannah’s birth was going to have challenges. But thanks to Children’s Health’s FETAL Center team, Hannah’s birth was relatively successful until the day after, when she developed breathing issues resulting in her staying in the NICU for three weeks.
Thanks to Hannah’s having five surgeries at Children’s involving a cleft palate, chronic ear infections and a seizure, she is now attending preschool, learning to speak and walk and just starting her first cheerleading class.
As if to prove that point, Hannah managed to steal the scene as only a toddler can. But to finalize the presentation, her parents asked if she wanted to thank the crowd responsible for the financial support. And like the most well-trained ingénue, Hannah coyly played hard to get. Then, as all eyes focused on her, she looked up, smiled and said, “Thank you.” Her timing was flawless.
Then it was time for the ribbon-cutting, with Melissa holding the scissors and Hannah continuing to scene steal.
With the ribbon cut, the official night at Six Flags was on its way.
With the crowd pouring into the park, Sharon walked through the grounds talking with guests and helping families with directions. While she admitted that the pandemic had been a challenge, the Six Flags team knew that people would want to come to the park that has provided family fun since 1961.
On this day, the park was thriving with families who were also celebrating and supporting the health of children like Hannah.