As the Children’s Cancer Fund model kids were gathering in the Hilton Anatole’s Wedgwood Room and its foyer on the evening of Friday, April 21, one little fellow was opening a bag of goodies. To the delight of family and friends, he pulled out a plane for a perfect cellphone shot.
While the kids would be on the runway later, the event’s top sponsors were being directed across the way to the West Wing’s DeSoto Room. On the far wall was a Gala backdrop for photo opps with the men of the night — CCF Gala Honorary Co-Chairs Troy Aikman and Dak Prescott. When asked what the game plan was… in other words, were Troy and Dak going to show, and what was going to be the protocol for the meet-and-greet? … one go-to-know type admitted they didn’t have a clue.
Inside the room, the VIP gathering was a cornucopia of ages, personalities and philanthropists. Gala Co-Chairs Heather Randall and Blake Stephenson laughed about their glittering gowns that were in keeping with the theme “Light It Up.”… Across the way was former KXAS Sports Anchor Scott Murray with his Carole Murray… Holding their own in the all-dressed-up department were Julie Brown, Banjo Blevins and Jubilee Blevins.
As the crowd in the DeSoto swelled, the action seemed to be taking place in the adjacent hallway. Children’s Cancer Fund Executive Director Jennifer Arthur and her husband D’Nard Arthur II were awaiting the arrival of the honorary co-chairs, while Miss Texas Allison Drake was adorably showing the custom-made “purse” in which she carried her crown… Nearby Communities Foundation of Texas Senior Vice President, Chief Giving and Community Impact Officer Monica and Children’s Medical Center Foundation President Brent Christopher were receiving congratulations on their recent first anniversary. When asked who does the cooking in the household of heady fundraising, all fingers pointed to Brent. If you ever want to meet up with Brent, head to Central Market on Lovers Lane on a Saturday morning where he shops. The one rule? He always buys something that he’s never tried before.
In another part of the hallway was Dallas fashion godfather Brian Bolke, who was the man of the hour for the ladies who love fashion, chatting with longtime CCF supporter Kimberly Schlegel Whitman in shimmering silver, and then with TV personality Kathy Hilton and her daughter Nicky Hilton Rothschild.
But the hands down show-stopper of the hallway action was the Hilton gals’ pal Alice and Olivia founder Stacey Bendet. Draped in one of her own creations — a parrot-green gown with layers of godet skirting with sunburst sleeves — it was the action above the shoulders that topped off the look. From the neck up it was an accessory feast with a multi-strand pearl necklace and glittery choker and a matching hairband that held her thatch of blonde hair atop her head while she checked her cellphone with her raccoon eyes. Think Barbie and Edward Scissorhands having a daughter who got Ghostbuster slimed.
But even this head-turning vision and other hallway beauties were sidelined by the arrival of Troy and Dak surrounded by friends, families, fans and associates. Not to worry. The beauties hardly noticed the football players and their entourage.
After a couple of quick shots in the hallway, Troy and Dak were herded into the DeSoto Room for an anything-goes, meet-and-greet.
Unlike other meet-and-greets/step-and-repeats where there’s an organized arrangement of guests queued up for an event photographer to officially capture the momentary relationship, this one was what legendary sportswriter Blackie Sherrod would have described as a “scattershot.” Troy and Dak were lined up on a blue carpet against the Children’s Cancer Fund backdrop facing a wall of guests looking a bit like the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense. The quarterbacks kept their cool smiling as the squad of friends and volunteers aimed cellphones and fired at guests like Graham Johnson, Noah Johnson, Luke Martin, Madeleine Martin and Emma Johnson. As KXAS Anchor Meredith Land and her husband Xander Moore and their kids Alexander Moore and McCall Moore along with kid pals Searcy Mae Ferguson and Wynne Horton were being shot, another well-known couple stood on the sidelines watching in amazement. Finally a new-found friend offered to cellphone the couple … if they could manage to slip in.
And then there was that blue carpet. Due to the bank of onlookers and the jostling for guests vying for a place with Troy and Dak, a ripple in the carpet had developed into a stumbling wave. A team effort of the guests and quarterbacks rallied to flatten the bulge down.
Eventually an event photographer was drafted from another part of the room. Somehow s/he squeezed in among the wall of cellphoners and started shooting away at the revolving doors of guests.
Within minutes the pop-up shots were done and Troy and Dak were ushered away. The crowded room simmered down in head count.
But the boys weren’t going into hiding. They headed to the Wedgwood Room through a gauntlet of well-wishers and fans, signing autographs and smiling for selfies with the young models.
It was a true jam with kids, parents, volunteers, celebrity models and videographers for a chance to shoot the perfect moment of the night.
As Dak was directed by handlers to head straight to the back hall of the Anatole, he stopped dead in his tracks when he spied a golden retriever service dog. Looking at the pooch, Dak made a sound that was foreign to all but the dog who immediately wagged his tail. They immediately shared a come-together moment.
Just as quickly Troy and Dak were gone.
But perfectly timed in the Wedgwood foyer, a scruffy faced Tony Romo was talking with the kids like Christopher Villarreal and providing more footage for the videographers.
But the football players weren’t the only ones being perfect celebrities for photos, as “Future Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader” A’zyriah “Za-Za” Brown huddled with current Cheerleaders and Rowdy.
As the VIP-ers moseyed past the bar that was hosting an EarthX private party, they discovered a 2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB Azure SUV and a Super Air Nautique G23 literally showboating the CCF fundraising gusto.
One young EarthX supporter accidentally wandered into the CCF reception. Surrounded by the black tie set and spying the Bentley and six-figure luxury ski boat, she realized that just perhaps she had taken a wrong turn and headed to the bar.
Inside the Chantilly Ballroom, the scene was beautiful with staging that wasn’t so high as to intimidate the young models.
As guest like Katy and Parker Brooks, Kristen and Ladd Sanger, Myrna and Bob Schlegel and Kristin Gibbins with son Greyson Gibbins found their tables, a touching video honoring the late Izzy Martin was shown, with dancers celebrating both Izzy’a love of dance and her effort to help other youngsters facing cancer.
Then Troy and Dak arrived on stage, with Troy recalling how 25 years ago the original Honorary Chair Roger Staubach had invited Troy to come on board as an honorary chair. In turn with Roger stepping down this past year, Troy had made a similar call to Dak, who not only came on board but said, “We must beat cancer. We will beat cancer. … I’m here for the next 30 years.”
Funds raised by the evening of wining, dining, modeling and celebrity ogling will support the research and efforts against pediatric cancer at Children’s Medical Center and UT Southwestern Medical Center.