Since the last in-person Celebrating Women Luncheon in 2019, the pandemic created another challenge for healthcare workers to battle the ever-evolving virus. But that didn’t mean breast cancer took a break and neither did Baylor Scott and White Dallas Foundation‘s Celebrating Women fundraising to battle the disease.
During those two years, 2020 Co-Chair Peggy Meyer with Underwriting Chair Jill Tananbaum and 2021 Co-Chairs Elizabeth Gambrell and Marybeth Conlon with Underwriting Co-Chairs Amy Hegi and Libby Hegi provided $2.5M.
For 2022’s event, the 2021 foursome (Elizabeth, Marybeth, Amy Hegi and Libby) signed up for the return of the in-person mega-fundraiser on Friday, October 21, at the Hilton Anatole.
Coming on board to help their effort was the power team of Gene Jones and her gal squad daughter Charlotte Jones and daughters-in-law Karen Jones and Lori Jones, who served as honorary co-chairs.
As guests like Nancys ( Nancy Dedman, Nancy Halbreich and Nancy D. Rogers), Jones relatives (Jerry’s brother Jacque Jones and Charlotte’s daughter Haley Anderson), Christie Carter, Leslie Diers, Lisa Cooley, Caren Prothro, Gail and Gerald Turner, Lyda Hill, Karla McKinley, Pam Mathias, Jan Langbein, Gail Davis, Randi Halsell, Angie Kadesky, Margo Goodwin, Debbie Oates, Venise Stuart, Carol Seay, Ramona Jones, Sharon McCutchin and Joan Levy visited with keynote speaker Patricia Arquette at the VIP reception in the Wedgwood Room and filled the Chantilly Ballroom, there were two important people who represented the importance of the hours and days of fundraising for breast cancer research and treatments. Both women had been diagnosed with breast cancer during the pandemic and had been treated despite the pandemic restrictions.
One gal was Baylor Scott and White Dallas Foundation’s Gift Planning VP Cynthia Krause, who smiled and proudly told friends, “This year I’m a breast cancer survivor.”
The other was Krystal Smallwood-Whitaker, who had just finished her final chemo treatment and was joined by her husband Rodrick Whitaker at the luncheon.
In keeping with the tradition of finishing chemo treatments with the patient ringing a bell, this day each guest found a small bell at their place. Elizabeth asked all to ring their bell at the count of three to honor Krystal. No sooner had she said “three” than the ballroom was filled the jingling. Spontaneously all stood to honor Krystal and other breast cancer patients and survivors in the room.
Another surprise was announced by Baylor Scott and White Dallas Foundation President Ben Renberg, who reported that thanks to the donations by Gene’s friends (Lana and Barry Andrews, Anita and Truman Arnold, Linda Barrow, Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt, Nancy Dedman, Jennifer and Richard Dix, Kelli and Jerry Ford, Kelly Green, Nancy Halbreich, Susan Hayner, Jinger Heath, Sue Justice, Su-Su Meyer, The Aileen and Jack Pratt Foundation, Caren Prothro, Nancy C. Rogers, Myrna Schlegel, Shelle Sills, Annette Simmons, Jill Smith, Betsy Sowell, Debbie Stewart, Diana Strauss, Gayle Stoffel, Cindy Turner, Julie Turner, Jimmy Westcott, The Alinda H. Wykert Foundation, Carolyn Williams, Trisha Wilson and Lee Ann and Alan White), funds had provided for the hiring of a patient navigator.
It was also learned that during the pandemic the completion of the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Hope Lodge had taken place. One of the first to use this home-away-from-home for cancer patients was breast cancer patient Sharon Benningfield and her husband Larry Benningfield, who lived an hour-and-a-half away from Dallas. The revelation of her being diagnosed with breast cancer had been daunting. But the anxiety of seeking treatment so far from home was relieved thanks to her being able to stay at Hope Lodge. She laughed that she hadn’t really been a football fan, but that had changed due to the generosity of the Jones family.
To cap off the day, Academy Award winner Patricia Arquette joined former Dallas TV news anchor Rene Syler on stage for a chat. Their common denominator was being the children of parents with breast cancer. In addition to her aunt dying of breast cancer, Patricia’s mother, Brenda Denaut, had died 25 years ago from the disease at the age of 57, and both of Rene’s parents had had breast cancer. Because of that Rene had had a double mastectomy.
Patricia’s fierce and passionate advocacy for battling the disease was obvious as she encouraged guests to help whether it was donating money, rallying friends to have a mammogram or just driving carpool for a mother going through treatments. She recalled the courage of her mother going through chemotherapy and how it inspired her to overcome her own fears. One such fear was becoming an actor instead of a midwife. But she went for it despite being turned down time and time again for roles until she finally landed a job.
But despite her sincere advocacy, the conversation wasn’t all about breast cancer. Her self-deprecating humor was endearing, as she admitted that she was “terrible at managing my own health to tell the truth, but I have a doctor who calls me to schedule my mammogram.” She felt that in addition to coming together at gatherings like Celebrating Women to discuss the issue, fundraising and supporting one another was vital.
When asked how she manages to make time for herself, Patricia once again fessed up: “I don’t. I know I need to. I told my kids that I think we raise our children and at a certain point they raise us.” She asked her children what mistakes she had made and how she could make amends for any mistake that she had made. They wished she would make more time for herself instead of “taking care of the world all the time.”
After dropping her son off at college, she admitted that she drove home crying for six hours.
With Halloween around the corner, Rene asked her if she like candy corn. Patricia nearly came out of her chair saying, “No.”
Kristin Bailey says
Beautiful story at such a beautiful event!!!!