After two years of challenges thanks to Mother Nature and the pandemic, the After-School All-Stars North Texas‘ Rising Stars Luncheon was finally going to take place at Brook Hollow Golf Club on Thursday, May 5. And for the sold-out crowd it was well worth the wait, with Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel “Zeke” Elliott being on stage for a chat with WFAA Main Sport Anchor Joe Trahan. But even before the luncheon got underway, the 26-year-old football star was an accommodating and gracious special guest during the VIP reception in the Oak Room.
Zeke’s arrival was slightly delayed due to his being interviewed by USA Today in the ladies’ locker room. Yet as soon as he arrived for the meet-and-greet at 11:40, the crowd of guests made way for him allowing him to make a seamless walk to the back of the room where the photo opps would take place.
In the meantime, Presenting Sponsors Robyn and Don Conlon had their brood of sons and spouses (Kevin and Marybeth Conlon and Keith and Megan Conlon) and grandchildren (Quinn Conlon and Luke Conlon) front and center like a family reunion. The only twosome MIA were Lizzie and Casey Conlon, who were in Austin.
Another family taking advantage of seeing, meeting and hearing from Zeke were Event Co-Chairs Nicole and Tommy Somerville, who were accompanied by son Thomas Somerville.
And in keeping with the After-School All-Star North Texas feel, blue was the color of the day.
Sporting glasses, nose- and ear-rings and dressed to the nines in a white collarless shirt, multi-color houndstooth jacket and black jeans, Zeke looked right at home with the guests. At times he almost appeared to be a kid, laughing at comments and signing autographs for youngsters. To accommodate the lengthy line, the time for the reception was extended so that even ASAS North Texas staffers and Brook Hollow servers had the chance for a photo with Zeke.
In the meantime the ballroom was literally filled wall-to-wall with tables.
Following the welcome by Nicole and Tommy and a heartfelt presentation of the Champion Award to Robyn by her son Kevin, who was co-chairing the event along with his wife Marybeth, After-School All-Stars Executive Director Justin Hensley told how ASAS North Texas had survived the pandemic, a tornado and an ice storm since the last luncheon.
With approximately 101,000 Dallas students being unable to participate in out-of-school programming, 32,000 are “left home unsupervised between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m.” Thanks to ASAS North Texas’ partnership with area schools, programs have been created for youngsters free of charge after their last class. As a result,
- 100% of the students in the program were “promoted to the next year level on-time during the 2020-2021 school year.”
- 86% of the students in the Academic Readiness programs have “an aptitude to develop and pursue long-term life goals.”
- 81% in Career Exploration programs “report confidence in their ability to understand and navigate various career pathways.”
- 74% of those in regular ASAS North Texas programming “report feeling empowered to share their thoughts, ideas and feelings at ASAS.”
After a video was shown, ASAS North Texas Marketing and Development Coordinator Sara Salazar moderated a brief conversation with ASAS North Texas 10th graders Danio Lopez and Joshua Garcia on how ASAS North Texas had affected them and their hopes for the future.
At 12:30 Zeke and WFAA Main Sports Anchor Joe Trahan took their places in chairs on the stage and Joe, calling out Danio and Joshua from the stage, told them that while they were talking about how ASAS North’s programs had been important to them, Zeke had been at his table, nodding in agreement.
That comment opened their conversation on how the Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club in St. Louis had not only influenced Zeke’s childhood, but had resulted in his ongoing support of such programs by hosting them to Dallas Cowboys games, donating equipment and holding football camps.
Other highlights of the talk included these insights from Zeke:
- “You’ve got to do as much as you can to inspire others.”
- “I was a pretty shy kid growing up.”
- “It’s not really about us. You need to shine the light on others.”
- “You have to prioritize. You have to make time for helping others.”
- “I met my best friends when I was seven years old. They are all my brothers and I talk to them everyday.”
- “Life is gonna be hard, so you’ve got to keep working hard.”