Turtle Creek Conservancy Hosts Virtual 12th Annual Day At The Races


By Cynthia Smoot     Photography by James Edward Photography

THE SETTING: With the pandemic’s social distancing protocols still in place, the Turtle Creek Conservancy hosted their Twelfth Annual Day at the Races virtually. Streaming from Arlington Hall, guests enjoyed Derby Day’s excitement in the comfort of their own home, with the event raising almost $113,000.


THE STYLE: The sponsors and patrons received a festive hat box filled with Derby-inspired goodies that included all manners of tasty treats, an Angry Orchard straw derby hat, a t-shirt, as well as horse racing wagering tickets. Guests tuned in to watch a live broadcast hosted by the Conservancy’s CEO Gay Donnell Willis and Louis Murad of Murad Auctions.


The CAUSE: The event was led by its chairs, Courtney Edwards and Reanae Seth, with community chairs, Leigh and Brian Danley, while Julie and Frank Reedy served as honorary chairs. The Day at the Races Derby event benefits the Turtle Creek Conservancy, whose mission is the care and preservation of Arlington Hall and Turtle Creek Park. Modeled after the Central Park Conservancy in New York, the nonprofit organization manages two treasured City assets where Dallasites have made cherished memories for generations.



Buffalo Bayou Partnership Picnic Celebrates Five Years Of Buffalo Bayou Park


By Jennifer Roosth     Photography by Jenny Antill

THE SETTING: Over 200 Houstonians (135 in-person and 85 virtually at home) joined together for a magical evening to celebrate Buffalo Bayou Park’s fifth anniversary. The Park, is an essential public space in Houston during good times…and even more so when times are challenging. Guests experienced a socially distanced, intimate, and elegant picnic al fresco with garden lights beaming under the stars. Jazzy sounds by José-Miguel Yamal Phase One filled the air as guests opened their picnic baskets packed with a delicious meal by A Fare Extraordinaire.


THE STYLE: Bergner & Johnson provided the magical outdoor setting complete with colorful wildflower centerpieces. Jo’s Mini Mobile Bar was on hand as a whimsical setting for the event’s signature cocktail; a blood orange margarita dubbed Buffalo Rita. Guests were also treated to a performance by ROCO to showcase the orchestra’s musical scavenger hunt currently installed throughout Buffalo Bayou Park through the end of the year. Anthony DiLorenzo’s unique piece, Anthem of Hope: Houston Strong, originally written for the heroes of Hurricane Harvey, was recently re-commissioned to celebrate our frontline COVID workers.

THE PURPOSE: The live event took place at the Water Works at Buffalo Bayou Park. Winifred and Carleton Riser, and Leslie and Shannon Sasser chaired the event. Thanks to the picnic co-chairs and generous donors, the evening raised close to $350,000 for Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s (BBP) support and operating expenses, allowing the non-profit organization to continue revitalizing, maintaining, and activating Buffalo Bayou. Nancy and Rich Kinder, not in attendance, were also recognized for their generous contributions towards BBP and the enhancement of Buffalo Bayou. During the opening remarks, Mayor Sylvester Turner praised BBP and awarded Anne Olson a proclamation of Anne Olson Day. The proclamation celebrated Olson’s 25th anniversary as BBP president and recognized her visionary leadership of Buffalo Bayou Partnership and commitment to making Houston a greener and greater city.



14TH Annual Center for Child Protection’s Dancing With The Stars Goes Virtual

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by Jeff Loftin, Haley Plotkin and MJ Routh

THE SETTING: Residences around Austin recently hosted small, socially safe gatherings in support of one of the cities most highly anticipated annual events. The Center for Child Protection took the 14th annual Dancing with the Stars gala online. The virtual event had over a thousand viewers, from Austin and beyond, glued to their screens for a night of dancing and fundraising. It proved that the show must go on, and in this case, the dance must go on, because the needs of our communities remain as urgent and important as ever.


THE STYLE: The small gatherings featured supporters wearing their favorite cocktail attire, while others opted to stay at home for a date night while dressed in their finest black-tie ensembles. As guests took to their screens for the evening’s program, they enjoyed the proceedings, which flowed with ease, thanks to emcees Glenn Ball and Holly Mills Gardner. Donors also received a welcome kit from the Center that featured ingredients for the event’s signature cocktail, The Tequila Tango, to help folks find their groove. Video instructions on how to mix them were provided by Society Texas’ own Lance Avery Morgan and Rob Giardinelli.


Patrons were then treated to eleven spectacular routines where viewers watched each duo Rip it Up on the dance floor, Vogue a pose, have Sweet Dreams of this Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and head out to the Wild Wild West. Each routine featured color commentary from celebrity judges Gary Little, JR Martinez, and Venus Strawn. Between dance takes, there was a live auction item, the highlight of which was Project Graduation, where donors had the opportunity to sponsor an event that allows for teens exiting the foster care system to begin their adult lives. The festivities were capped off by declaring the winners of the 2020 Dancing with the Stars, Julie Jumonville and Travis Herman, followed by an after-party featuring the tunes of DJ Hexum.


THE PURPOSE: The event, co-chaired by Tracey Marshall and Jenny Mason, raised over $685,000 for the Center for Child Protection. The Center is a nationally accredited children’s advocacy center. In 2019, it provided forensic interviews, medical exams, counseling, and interventions to help begin the healing process from trauma for nearly 3,000 abused children.



The Kindness Campaign Hosts An Evening Of Giving With Friends

By Rob Giardinelli      Photography by Ben Porter

THE SETTING: Recently, The Kindness Campaign’s Friends-Giving event provided the opportunity for social VIP’s and philanthropists around Austin the ability to purchase a Gala-In-A-Box in celebration of the holiday season, which allowed many in Texas’ capital city to give in a safe, socially distant way. The festivities were capped off with a five-star spread at a private residence in Austin featuring The Kindness Campaign’s founder, Andra Liemandt.


THE STYLE: The Austin-chic crowd adorned their favorite ensembles for the alfresco dinner held within the local social distance guidelines. Tables of four were set underneath single open-air tents that created the illusion of an extended family table, allowing families of four the opportunity to celebrate among others safely.


To make sure guests were safely able to enjoy the full extent of the evening, each tent featured a customized bar cart featuring whiskey, tequila, wine, and champagne. The intimacy of the evening was perfectly accented by the décor, which featured a soft color palette and warm lighting, which perfectly accompanied the cool yet comfortable Texas air.


After dinner, guests enjoyed additional socializing at one of the several plush and luxurious outdoor living rooms on the grounds, again for safe socializing. Fireplaces were placed between every other seating area that kept all guests warm and ensured the fun would safely go well into the night, capping off a magical evening guests will not soon forget.


THE PURPOSE: The event raised funds for The Kindness Campaign, which seeks to improve outcomes for young people by improving emotional health through the teaching of a positive self-image, empathy, emotional awareness, and community. This year, The Kindness Campaign donated a meal to a family in need for each Gala-In-A-Box purchased in support of the organization.



Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association’s Charitable Foundation Gala

By Jennifer Roosth      Photography by Catchlight Group

THE SETTING: The latest Red Hot gala was not only a bright spot in the midst of a tough year, but also was a flaming success.  With social distancing and after initial temperature checks by the Houston Firefighter Cadets, over 200 guests donned masks, face shields, and hand sanitizer to attend a seamlessly magical event produced by Lenny Matuszewski and Tamara Bonar. The Houston Fire Fighters Pipes and Drums, along with the Honor Guard, opened the evening and brought the audience to their feet as Houston Firefighter Joe Rice sang the national anthem acapella. Additionally, no firefighter event would be complete without Houston’s own firefighter calendar models walking the runway.

THE STYLE: The evening was a moment to gather together, celebrate, and comfort one another. Although this year’s event was less than 50% capacity of previous years, the community not only stepped out but also stepped up. “Our goal was to include every possible protective element we could and more,” noted co-chair Elizabeth Stein. Over 200 guests helped raise $410,000 for new equipment and training through the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Charitable Foundation.

THE PURPOSE: The Local 341 President Patrick M. “Marty” Lancton, event chairs Elizabeth and Alan Stein, and the Charitable Foundation’s decision to remain a live event took a great deal of consideration and additional planning. This year’s honorary co-chairs, Kelley and Stephen Lubanko, shared their family’s personal experiences with firefighters in a heartwarming video. The evening also honored community advocate Hallie Vanderhider and corporate advocates Renee and Alan Helfman, Five stellar community supporters were honored on plaques at fire stations across Houston: Janet and Tom Behanick, Benjamin Berg, Troy Blakeney, Joanna and Brad Marks, and Bobbie Nau.



Witte Museum Celebrates Game Dinner’s 50th Anniversary

By Jake Gaines     Photography by Robin Jerstad

THE SETTING: The 50th Annual Witte Game Dinner raised nearly $1.1 million to support the Museum’s recovery fund, including $100,000 in field trip funding. The iconic event was held outside on the Witte’s eight-acre campus in the Zachry Family Acequia Garden, as well as on porches throughout Texas. A seamless, physically distanced atmosphere was mapped out, going above and beyond the successful safety protocols put in place by the CDC, State Health Department, and the City of San Antonio’s safety guidelines. The annual Witte Game Dinner draws around 1,200 people, but the adaptive approach limited the number to 450 people on campus, with nearly 500 more online. Since re-opening in May, the Witte Museum has been a beacon of safety, putting protection protocols front and center. The Witte Game Dinner celebration was re-imagined to operate with the community’s best interest at heart, with both onsite and online experiences.


THE STYLE: With its theme, Back to Our Roots, the night symbolized an authentic South Texas ranch experience under the stars, complete with wild game, campfires, and live music. Rick Cavender emceed the evening, which featured an array of wild game cuisine created by the RK Group, auctions, and a performance by Robert Earl Keen. The 2020 Witte Game Dinner Texas Heritage Award recipient was Rosemary Kowalski and the RK Group for their more than 50-year history with the Witte.


THE PURPOSE: The event chairs, Meredith and Mike Howard, and their committee planned the successful gala. The Game Dinner is the museum’s largest fundraiser, providing educational programs, operations, and exhibitions for 50 years. The effects of COVID-19 made this year’s event crucial to ensure the funding needed for approximately 350,000 school-aged children and families to experience all the Witte has to offer, physically and virtually. The Meredith & Mike Howard Family Foundation, the Kowalski Family, Mary West and Richard Traylor, and Valero co-presented, while XPEL was the Valet & Protection sponsor.