Austin’s SAFE Alliance Hosts Hundreds At Annual Storybook Gala

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by Mari Nelson and Ben Porter

THE SETTING: A picture-perfect Saturday evening in Austin was the recent setting of one of the Capital City’s most anticipated fall events. Over 500 sociables, philanthropists, and other VIPs descended upon the JW Marriott hotel for the SAFE Storybook Gala. The event, A Coat of Many Colors, unfolded like a classic fairy tale. The evening featured great friends, touching tributes, and most importantly of all–fundraising.


THE STYLE: The first chapter of this magical evening began in the foyer of the JW Marriott Austin for a lively cocktail hour. Here, the guests, many of whom donned colorful ensembles, sipped delicious drinks while getting reacquainted with old friends and making new ones. Additionally, guests could peruse silent auction items, preview live auction items, and purchase raffle tickets to win luxury items that were being awarded to supporters.  


Turning the page, partygoers entered the JW Marriott ballroom for the main program. As guests dined on their delectable multi-course meals, they were treated to words from the SAFE leadership, as well as several emotional testimonials showcasing the positive impact the organization has on the community. Other highlights of the main program included a spirited live auction and honoring philanthropist Gary Walker with the Guardian Award for his tireless support of the organization. The evening concluded with an after party where guests danced the night away.


THE PURPOSE: The event raised nearly $800,000 for the SAFE Alliance. SAFE provides a stable and healing space to those who have lived through violence and abuse. Funds raised from this event will help provide assistance for essential services, including housing, prevention programs, and support services.



The Contemporary Museum Art Dinner Raises Over $1.7 Million

By Rob Giardinelli         Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

THE SETTING: A picture-perfect autumn evening at Austin’s Laguna Gloria was the scene featuring a night of fun and philanthropy. The 360 patrons, sociables, and VIPs on hand for the 8th Annual Contemporary Art Dinner were treated to a dazzling evening that those fortunate enough to attend will not soon forget.


THE STYLE: From the moment the patrons walked up to the gates of Laguna Gloria in their finest cocktail attire, guests knew they were in for a magical evening. The festivities began with a cocktail hour where partygoers gathered with friends on the beautiful Laguna Gloria grounds. Meanwhile, art collectors could be seen heading to the villa to preview works of art from internationally known artists in advance of the live auction.


Revelers then proceeded onto the central lawn for dinner al fresco and the main program. While attendees dined on a delectable, multi-course meal, they were treated to words from the event and organization’s leaders celebrating what was for many their first gala in Austin since the pandemic began. The action then turned to the main event…the live auction. Christy Williams Coombs, of Sotheby’s, headlined the auction for a seventh consecutive year. Included were works by Loie Hollowell and Adam Pendleton that each fetched over six figures. In addition, the paddles-up giving opportunity raised over $250,000 to bring a temporary and permanent outdoor installation for the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria. The festivities were capped off with an after-party where the crowd danced the night away to songs performed by Riders Against the Storm.


THE PURPOSE: The event, co-chaired by Kristin Gish and Kathleen Loughlin, raised over $1.7 million for The Contemporary Austin, with the museum giving back $345,000 to artists from the live and silent auction proceeds. In addition, funds raised from the evening’s event will go towards The Contemporary Austin’s exhibition programs.



Helping Hand Society Hosts Annual Presentation Gala

By Rose Betty Williams     Photography by Jetter Photography and Rose Betty Williams

THE SETTING: The Helping Hand Society recently celebrated the 78th annual Crystal Ball with a brunch and fashion show followed in the evening by a black tie Debutante Presentation Gala at Palmer Events Center. Twenty-nine debutantes, their escorts and junior escorts were presented along with 143 ninth grade Helping Hand Girls and Boys and 36 First Grade Princesses.


THE STYLE: Adelante, The Garden Room and Nordstrom presented the stylish fashion show that was produced by Sue Webber and team of Webber Productions. Emcee Jim Spencer introduced the First Grade Princesses, Helping Hand girls and Helping Hand debutantes. Helping Hand Home for Children Executive Director Ted Keyser expressed gratitude for everyone’s important support. At the gala, HH Society President Lucy Weber thanked the event sponsors, underwriters, auction donors, the participants, their families, Helping Hand Society members, and the gala committee for devoting “countless hours creating this special celebration in our community despite these unprecedented times and a date postponement.” The gala featured the debutante presentation, a silent auction, a seated dinner, and dancing to the music of Skyrocket.


This year’s Helping Hand Crystal Ball debutantes are: Riley Elizabeth Alam, Katherine Pearson Braziel, Madeleine Taylor Breeden, Bridget Faith Bryant, Taylor Ann Chatmas, Martha Coffin Crawford, Charlotte Williams Crider, Virginia Kathaleene Dolce, Grace Elizabeth Eckols, Anna Grace Gerrie, Mason Claire Gillingwater, Mei Mei Elizabeth Graber, Ellie Worth Greer, Brennan Paige Haralson, Corley Catherine Holland, Kay Lee Jenkins, Allison Elaine Kemmerer, Sarah Louise Latham, Hannah Mckenzie Maund, Ellen Reed McCartt, Madalyn Ann McCutchin, Ainsley Caldwell Merritt, Annabel Dooley Merritt, Shelby Lynne Owens, Grace Elizabeth Paape, Sarah Grace Shore, Hallie Varner Tyler, Meg Helen Utley and Patricia Claire Warner.


THE PURPOSE: Leslie Davenport and Suzanne Nash co-chaired the 2021 Crystal Ball and worked with a gala committee comprised of more than 65 Helping Hand Society member volunteers. It is the largest fundraiser for the Helping Hand Home for Children, annually raising approximately $1.4 million in support of the Helping Hand Home’s mission: to provide a nurturing and therapeutic home for children and to restore each child to a healthy family setting. The goal of the organization is to protect and restore the lives of victimized children so that those without hope may reclaim their futures. Today the Helping Hand Home has a nationally accredited Residential Treatment Center, a growing Foster and Adoption program and an on-campus charter school, and is mid-way through the construction of new facilities on the east side of the campus.




Make-A-Wish Night of Wishes Dazzles

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by Chris Caselli, Julia Franco and Mary Holguin

THE SETTING: The Fairmont Hotel was recently the setting for the Make-A-Wish Night of Wishes gala. Over 250 of the Capital City’s philanthropists and community leaders turned out in person…with another 250 guests attending virtually for an incredible night of fun and fundraising that those fortunate enough to be a part of will not soon forget.


THE STYLE: From the second the black-tie crowd entered the foyer of the venue, partygoers knew they were in for a special evening. The festivities began with a VIP cocktail reception where the organization’s patrons sipped cocktails, socialized with friends, and posed for photos on the step and repeat to commemorate the event.


The action then moved to the Fairmont Ballroom for the program. Emcees Allison Miller and Cariel Rentas effortlessly kept the festivities flowing and the audience engaged in the action-packed evening. As guests dined on their delectable multi-course meals, they were treated to touching stories from several testimonials from children whose dreams came true due to the efforts of Make-A-Wish. The evening was capped off with a live auction and paddle raise, which included several experiential packages like luxury getaways to Costa Rica, Lake Tahoe, and Willamette Valley Wine Country in Oregon.


THE PURPOSE: The event raised over $900,000 for Make-A-Wish Central and South Texas, which provides life-changing wishes to children with critical illnesses. Since its founding in 1980, Make-A-Wish has granted over 315,000 wishes to children throughout the United States.



St. David’s Toast Of The Town Star-Studded Party Series Goes Virtual

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography courtesy of St. David’s Foundation

THE SETTING: St. David’s Foundation’s Toast of the Town, one of Austin’s most anticipated party series of the year, recently completed another star-studded round of soirées with a twist. This year’s events were hosted virtually due to the pandemic. Despite toasting from afar, guests were treated to the same fun, engaging parties with interesting speakers as in years past. The result was virtually the best Toast party series ever.


THE STYLE: Those who attended the party series were still treated to the same white-glove  experience they’d always had for the in-person events. In advance of each of the events, a welcome kit featuring multi-course meals from some of Austin’s best and most beloved venues, along with program details and a special thank you gift, were delivered to guests for them to savor and enjoy their five-star experience at home. In addition, prior to the launch of each event, guests were provided a special welcome on their screens by St. David’s Foundation CEO and President Dr. Ed Burger, allowing them to feel a part of the action in person.


The evenings began with words from St. David’s leadership before moving to the main programs. This year’s parties provided something for everyone. Those passionate about food engaged in separate events, including the Taste’s of Japan with celebrity chef Tyson Cole and barbecue with Daytripper Chet Garner. While, history buffs were treated with several options, including a conversation with Presidential historians Douglas Brinkley, Mark Updegrove, and H.W. Brands, as well as a national security discussion featuring Gen. Vincent Brooks, William Inboden, and Robert Chesney. Lastly, no Toast party series would be complete without music. This year exceeded expectations with separate evenings featuring music from legends of multiple music genres. These performances included country music legend Clint Black and Society Texas’ own Lance Avery Morgan and Rob Giardinelli, who interviewed pop and punk rock icon Kathy Valentine about her new book All I Ever Wanted…she even serenaded the audience with The Go-Go’s iconic song, Vacation.


THE PURPOSE: The event, chaired by Mary Katherine Stout, with Ellen Troxclair serving as vice-chair, raised over $1.7 million for the Neal Kocurek Scholarship Program. Since the program’s founding, nearly 600 students have received annual scholarships of $7,500 to pursue health-related careers at Texas colleges and universities.



Dell Children’s Medical Center Virtual Gala Raises Over $1.6 Million

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by Ben Porter Photography and Dell Children’s Foundation

THE SETTING: The top philanthropists in Austin and beyond recently enjoyed an evening of fundraising for one of the capital city’s most influential and beloved organizations. This year’s Dell Children’s Ball went virtual and featured over 2,000 philanthropists from 96 Texas cities and 42 states who accessed the occasion. The event included touching tributes and dazzling musical performances, which resulted in an incredible experience that those on hand will not soon forget.


THE STYLE: The fun commenced before the event even began courtesy of the city’s celebrity florist David Kurio, who provided a gorgeous Ball in a Box to the sponsors’ homes and VIP attendees. Guests dressed for the evening with a wide array of styles from Austin casual to fine cocktail attire that allowed revelers to bring the ballroom to them, even in a virtual environment.


The evening began with a virtual cocktail hour followed by the evening’s main program. Due to the generosity of the event’s lead sponsor, AT&T, guests were able to view the program from their homes at no charge, which created a welcoming space for all who attended. Highlights of the event included testimonials from two families whose children’s lives were saved due to Dell Children’s Medical Center care and a spirited fundraising appeal. The evening was capped off by a soulful, inspiring performance by Grammyâ award-winning artist, Lukas Nelson.


THE PURPOSE: This year’s event, steered by a committee featuring 21 of Austin’s most influential and philanthropic couples, raised over $1.6 million for Dell Children’s Medical Center. At Dell Children’s, 70% of children who receive care are uninsured or underinsured. The funds raised from the event help ensure that no child, regardless of income level, is turned away from receiving the world-class care Dell Children’s offers.