As North Texas braced for a gnarly cold front approaching, complete with hail, lighting, straight-line winds and possible tornadoes, 21 youngsters at NorthPark seemed hardly bothered on Thursday, March 16. After all, they had already been on the frontlines in the war against cancer.
While the corded-off crowd of family and friends seated in the NorthCourt and hundreds of onlookers waited for the announcement of the models for the 2023 Children’s Cancer Fund fundraiser “Light It Up Gala,” Gala Co-Chairs by Heather Randall and Blake Stephenson went over the day’s plans with CCF Executive Director Jennifer Arthur.
Closely associated with the Dallas Cowboys quarterback brotherhood, thanks to Cowboys legend Roger Staubach’s serving as the original CCF gala honorary chair, the day’s reveal had a trio of quarterbacks, past and present, onstage. First to arrive was Babe Laufenberg, who was to serve as the day’s emcee and also knew all too well the need to raise funds for pediatric cancer research and development.
It was back on the day after Christmas in 2017 that Babe’s son Luke Laufenberg was diagnosed with cancer resulting in the family’s ups-and-downs in battling cancer. In the Laufenbergs’ case, the end came in 2019 with Luke’s death. Still Babe continued supporting fundraising by programs like CCF to benefit research and developments in treating pediatric cancer that had helped extend Luke’s life.
During her tenure heading up CCF, Jennifer had known all too well the losses like Luke and the courage of parents. Just this past July, adorable Izzy Martin had lost a two-year battle with Osteo-sarcoma, but her parents, like Babe, had not given up the fight, establishing the Team Izzy Foundation.
Next to arrive was former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback/ESPN sports analyst/2023 CCF Honorary Co-Chair Troy Aikman, who quietly went back of the stage to autograph the rows of footballs provided by the Dallas Cowboys and personalized for each of the models.
As the crowds surrounding the court grew, Landrie Lay huddled with her mom, Lindsay Lay, on the day’s game plan. In the meantime, nine-year-old Ricardo Guerra and seven-year-old Thiago Hernandez took their places on the second row with their folks. Showing their Cowboys colors were Stellan Piggot in a Cowboys jersey boasting the number “4” and nine-year-old A’zyriah Brown, who showed all the signs of being a future Cowboys cheerleader.
In the crowd with kids and parents was Dr. Caroline Smith, who knew many of the youngsters from her work as a Hematology/ Oncology Fellow in Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Center.
Word was passed that Dallas Cowboys Quarterback/2023 CCF Honorary Co-Chair Dak Prescott was delayed. Was it because he was commiserating with former teammate Zeke Elliott over being dropped by the team?
Nope, it seems that escorts were needed to help him make it through the crowds. Even so, shouts of “Love you, Dak” from spectators only proved that the poor guy’s popularity doesn’t make a walk through a shopping center easy.
Troy recalled his being recruited for the CCF fundraiser was due to not being able to say “No” to an invitation from CCF’s original Honorary Chair Roger Staubach. For Dak it was the same inability to turn down an invite by Troy when Roger opted to step down this past year. But it was a simply decision to make, since like both Roger and Troy, Dak’s front and center in raising funds to battle cancer.
It was interesting to note that, despite none of the honorary and gala co-chairs having had a child suffering from cancer, all were committed to helping parents who helplessly watch their kids on a daunting journey.
As soon as Dak arrived, he signed the footballs that already had Troy’s John Hancock. No sooner had the last football been signed, than the presentation got underway with Dak throwing a fashionable challenge onstage for Troy “to out-dress me” the night of the gala.
The program went seamlessly with Babe going off-script reporting that Miles Dagelewicz had just turned eight and leading all in singing “Happy Birthday” to the youngster. While some of the kids showed their fashionable looks like Hannah Bisharah, Emma Lee, Addalyn Lovett and Peyton Scraver, others like Stellan Piggott and A’zyriah Brown made no bones about where their football loyalties lay. And Troy and Dak couldn’t resist Monique Hardin‘s pulling out her cellphone for a trio selfie.
After Jaxon Starling was presented with his ball, the class of 2023, honorary co-chairs, gala co-chairs Tiffany and Jennifer gathered on stage for a class picture. It would be the last gathering of the class of 2023 until their presentation at the gala at the Hilton Anatole on Friday, April 21, when the models will be escorted by celebrities onstage.
Then Troy and Dak faced the sports media to the side of the stage to no doubt give their thoughts about the Zeke development.
Luckily, the presentation finished up in time for all to make it home before the storms swept the area.
For additional looks of the class of 2023 and their friends, check out MySeetCharity Photo Gallery.