As crowded sidewalks led to SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium for The Podcast Live’s Jamie Golden and Knox Mccoy and other stayed on couches to watch the 2022 White House Correspondents Dinner, hundreds of the black-tie optional types … finally … headed to the Arts District Mansion for the Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer’s 40th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, April 30.
Like many others the celebration had hit speed bumps thanks to pandemic hitches in the road.
Early arrivals included the “Warriors” [kids battling cancer], who along with their families and friends gathered in a VIP side room.
In the meantime, Event Co-Chairs Jackie Thornton and her daughter Jenice Dunayer were “tweaking” some last minute hiccups, as WOKC Founder Cindy Brinker was coordinating some off-site questions.
A shatter of glass in the VIP Room to the right of the Pavilion had staffers pulling out mops to sweep the shards of glass away before the nine “warriors,” grouped together with country-western singer Billy Dawson, arrived for a photo. Immediately Billy gathered the kids (Naomi, Eli, Shane, Elijah, Lucy, Olive, Elian, Haylie and Niko) around him like a seasoned patriarch.
Over to the side a photographer spotted a gorgeous brunette in red. He asked her for a photo, which she accommodated, only to learn afterward that she was Billy’s wife, Lacy Dawson.
And what was the country-western singer doing there? Thanks to his friendship with Cindy, he had not only created a song, “Gold Ribbon,” commemorating the battle of the Warriors, but he was also debuting it that night.
You’ve got to give Jersey Mike’s CEO/Honorary Co-Chair Peter Cancro credit. When he arrived right on time for the WOKC’s 40th Anniversary Gala, it was not with handlers and such trappings that the head of a national food chain would expect. And when you realized that his Jersey Mike’s was the presenting sponsor for the twice-delayed WOKC celebration, Peter and his drop-dead gorgeous wife/Honorary Co-Chair Tatiana Cancro settled in as if they were North Texas neighbors.
Since 2010, Jersey Mike’s has contributed $1.9M to WOKC thanks to Jersey Mike’s Month and Day of Giving.
The evening’s plan was for the reception to take place in the Mansion’s receiving area. At 6:40 p.m. the “Warriors” were to escort the top donors through the reception past the ballroom via the Warrior Walk to the Pavilion equipped with bars and into the ballroom. While it may have sounded great on paper, the multitude of guests in the reception area created a daunting situation for the youngsters. So, organizers pivoted.
At 6:35 they simply encouraged guests like Karee and Greg Sampson, Pat and Claude Prestidge, Ana and Don Carty, Carla and Joe Russo, Mary and Mike Poss, Gina and Tom Landry Jr. and Jacqueline and William Stavi-Raines to move on to the Warrior Walk that celebrated youngster who had battled cancer and commemorated those who had valiantly succumbed.
Despite the postponements it was well worth the wait for the Warriors, families, organizers and supporters to have this night to shine in the ballroom all decked out for the celebration with such highlights as:
- The formal presentation of the Warriors.
- Emcee Karen Borta‘s “verklempt” following the slideshow featuring Babe Laufenberg and his son, Luke Laufenberg, who died of cancer. She recalled doing an emotional interview with Babe following Luke’s death and how it came to light that Jerseys Mike’s had been Luke’s favorite sub.
- Billy debuted “Gold Ribbon” that would be released the following day on iHeartMedia.
- A paddle-raising live auction that included a Reba McEntire concert package, a private tour of the Harlan Crow Library, dinner for 12 at The Capital Grille and luxury trips courtesy of Tatiana and Peter, Billy, McLemore Club and Beth and Stefan Noe.
But the big news of the night followed Cindy’s introduction of Tatiana and Peter and telling of their longtime history in supporting WOKC. In addition to appreciating the introduction, Peter and Tatiana were joined on stage by Jersey Mike’s Area Director and Franchisee Dalton Stewart, who spearheaded Jersey Mike’s fundraising efforts for WOKC in 2010. The trio unveiled a $1M check on stage for Cindy’s 40-year program to help children battling cancer.
In a state of shock, Cindy said, “Since 2010, WOKC has been the recipient of $1.9M from Jersey Mike’s Month and Day of Giving. Now, this glorious donation of $1M just takes my breath away! WOKC is profoundly grateful. Jersey Mike’s is such a remarkably generous company that just happens to make the best subs in the stratosphere!”
* Photo provided by Wipe Out Kids' Cancer