Star-Studded UNICEF Gala Dallas Dazzles To Set Fundraising Record Of $1.5 Million

By Jake Gaines     Photography by Rick Kern/Getty Images

THE SETTING: Pre-COVID-19, the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Dallas hosted the annual UNICEF Gala Dallas, where 430 guests were on hand for an evening of fun and, more importantly, fundraising for a very worthy cause. The evening featured VIPs from around the world, including former UNICEF President & CEO Caryl Stern, who is now the executive director of the Walton Family Foundation 

The night’s honorees were former Dallas Maverick champ and UNICEF Germany Ambassador Dirk Nowitzki, along with his wife, Jessica Nowitzki, founders of the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation. They have partnered with UNICEF to create and fund a new mental health training module to better evaluate and treat children in trauma cases, and have developed a monthly mentorship program for families, as well. Former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings presented the Spirit of Compassion Award to the Nowitzkis.

THE STYLE: UNICEF’s adage, For Every Child, was on full throttle during the evening. The festivities began with a cocktail hour where jet setters in for the event mixed with locals to engage in lively conversation before the action began in the ballroom with the main program. After guests dined on a multi-course meal and listened to moving speeches, and a performance by the Texas Boys Choir, followed by a live auction that was full of fantastical items, went underway. The event was capped off by a performance from the band, King Calloway, whose show brought the crowd to their feet. Then, DJ Lucy Wrubel spun for the party-focused crowd. 

THE PURPOSE: The event, co-chaired by Moll Anderson and Jan Miller Rich, with Nancy C. Rogers serving as the honorary co-chair, raised a record-breaking $1.5 million for UNICEF. Advocating for the rights of children around the world to ensure their basic needs are met as well as expanding opportunities so they can reach their full potential is UNICEF’s primary mission.



San Luis Salute Event Wows Crowd  

By Jennifer Roosth   Photography by Gary Fountain and Dave Rossman

THE SETTING: Before COVID-19, the 24th annual San Luis Salute, hosted by the Tilman Fertitta family of Houston, was once again lauded with praise as almost 2000 revelers from across the country gathered for this year’s Mardi Gras! Galveston celebration. From the VIP pre-party on the boardwalk by Fertitta’s yacht to the stilt walkers, silver Elan dancers, and dueling DJs, the guests experienced a jaw-dropping night they will never forget at the Galveston Island Convention Center.

THE STYLE:  Gala designer Richard Flowers of the Events Co. brought the effervescence of a Scandinavian-inspired Royal Ice Garden to life for  partygoers who while marveling at the icy cool décor (including an ice tunnel entrance and life-sized ice sculptures of Nordic Vikings), sipped cocktails from a lavish ice bar and enjoyed Nordic Grogg―alcohol-infused sorbets perfectly frozen at -321ºF. The highlight of the night was when the Grammy® Award-winning duo, The Chainsmokers, took the stage for a 75-minute performance. The global superstars performed a variety of their platinum and multi-platinum smash hits during the stellar show, packing the black and white checkered dance floor.

The San Luis Salute Duchess Royal Court included Maddy Barlow, Arabella Benevidas, Samantha Bennett, Bailey Black, Natalie Crowder, Ally Day, Allison Denman, Jenna Faulkner, Mackenzie Finklea, Bella Garofalo, Abby Grant, Kathryn Hamilton, Madelyn Hilyard, Mandy Hutchings, Kate Kemple, Laura Kobs, Holly Kurisky, Frannie Kusnerik, Olivia McGuire, Haley Patterson, Heather Patterson, Nicole Shanks, Hannah Sukkar, and Annie Titterington.

THE PURPOSE: The gala evening honored Professor and Director Dr. Jeff Temple, of the newly launched Center for Violence Prevention at The University of Texas Medical Branch, and benefitted the UTMB at Galveston.



The Society Of Martha Washington Colonial Pageant And Ball Dazzles

By Jake Gaines      Photography By Rodolfo Guzman and Mediazilla

THE SETTING:  Before COVID-19, the most memorable event in South Texas this year happened in Laredo. Cocktails were poured, champagne was popped, and hors d’oeuvres were passed as 1500 of Laredo’s denizens arrived en masse. The Society of Martha Washington celebrated its 80th annual Colonial Pageant and Ball, a decades-old tradition that continues to thrive and grow more popular every year. Since its founding, the organization’s pageant participants have honored individuals whose leadership led to the birth of our great nation and whose sacrifices ultimately secured the freedoms that are enjoyed today.

THE STYLE:  This nationally renowned presentation was an opportunity to witness a wonderful display of American patriotism, while also appreciating the beautiful gowns donned by our lovely debutants, as they took their individual steps and graceful bow towards independence and self-reliance. Historically, the individuals selected to portray George and Martha Washington represent the citizens of their community, while the debutantes and the escorts exemplify poise, leadership and respect within their schools. This year was certainly no exception, as the 2020 Martha Dandridge Washington was portrayed by Julia Elizabeth Jones Rubio and George Washington by Jose Marcelino Rubio, Jr. in this nationally renowned presentation.

The debutantes were Annie Marie Volpe, escorted by Juan “Braulio” Carranza IV, Sofia Christina Gutierrez, escorted by Joseph Marcel Anthony Notzon, Riley Claire Peterson, escorted by Sebastian Palomo, Analise Fernanda Zuniga, escorted by Nicholas Alexander Van Steenberg, Sofia Cristina Ramirez Gonzalez, escorted by Marcelo Alejandro Garza, Carmona Raquel Amadita Puig, escorted by Ricardo Francisco Mendez, Anali Elizabeth Palacios, escorted by Patricio Mounetou, Daniella Elise Morales, escorted by Richard E. Haynes III, Audrey Estelle Herbig, escorted by Ryan Montgomery Moore, and Sara Cristina Salido, escorted by Mateo Reyes III.  The debutante granddaughters included Peyton Monroe Levy, escorted by Spence Thomas Baldwin, Kelsie Elizabeth Westmoreland, escorted by Ernesto Carlos Knosel, Ana Victoria Lopez, escorted by Claudio Alejandro Villarreal, Laura Cecilia Lopez, escorted by Nolan Vallone, Shelby Taylor Schultz, escorted by Sebastian Rolf Nixon, and Juliana Andrea Czar, escorted by Davis Bunk 

THE PURPOSE:  This spectacular event was spearheaded by the 2020 President of the Society of Martha Washington, Kristina Kimberlee Laurel Hale. Hale follows in the footsteps of her great aunt Lillian Withoff Volpe, who was a 1939 charter member and president of the Society in 1966,  and her mother, Lorraine Withoff Laurel, who was its president in 2001 and portrayed Martha Dandridge Washington in 2004. 



San Antonio Gardenia Club Luncheon Celebrates With Oscars® Theme


By Jake Gaines       Photography by Greg Harrison

THE SETTING: Pre-COVID-19, Red Carpet At The Oscars served as the fashionable theme that inspired a recent event to support the San Antonio Gardenia Club. The fundraising luncheon and style show featured Julian Gold models in fashions they paraded down the catwalk, inspiring the guests for their future stylish looks.

THE STYLE: The San Antonio Country Club was the setting for the event, where guests were transported back to a time of Old Hollywood glamour amongst extraordinary floral decorations befitting the organization’s name. The luncheon attendees walked the red carpet surrounded by golden Oscar® statuettes, while being entertained by the likes of vintage celebrity impersonators such as Marilyn Monroe, amongst others. Upon entering the venue, they merrily toasted one another with champagne and popcorn. Then, the film-worthy song and dance routine by Melissa Gonzalez dazzled, as she channeled her inner Judy Garland, while being serenaded by students from the Woodlawn Theatre Academy captivated all in attendance.

THE PURPOSE: The proceeds of the annual fundraiser raises funds for local fine arts students. This year’s annual luncheon was chaired by Sharron Batchelor and Christy Tidwell, with Carroll Dorsey Walker serving as the president of the organization. The San Antonio Gardenia Club was founded in 1960, with the mission of providing fine arts scholarships to deserving students who graduate from Bexar County high schools, enabling young scholars to continue their education at local colleges. The club also participates in the annual Battle of Flowers Texas Cavalier River Parade, the Annual Holiday River Parade, and the King William Parade.



World Affairs Council Event Lifts City’s International Profile

By Jake Gaines       Photography by Dos Kiwis Studios

THE SETTING: Before COVID-19, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts was the setting for the World Affairs Council of San Antonio’s 2020 International Citizen of the Year Award dinner. The event honored the Morgan’s Wonderland park’s Gordon Hartman for helping lift San Antonio’s international profile. Morgan’s Wonderland is the first-of-its-kind amusement park that is designed specifically for children with special needs and their families. The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation pursues his family’s dream of helping children and adults with special needs. His daughter Morgan, born with cognitive and physical challenges, was the source of inspiration. Over the past decade, Hartman has been recognized for his innovative designs and ingenuity in opening multiple non-profit fully-accessible theme parks for special-needs individuals.

THE STYLE: The keynote speaker for the gathering was Ambassador Roman Popadiuk, who had served as the first U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine under President George H.W. Bush. Former Ambassador Popadiuk is an expert on U.S.-Ukrainian relations and other national security issues. He is a retired career member of the Senior Foreign Service, and  was executive director of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation at Texas A&M University. He currently serves as president of the Diplomacy Center Foundation. The event featured an interview with the Ambassador by Dr. Paul D’Anieri,  University of California Riverside professor and expert on Ukraine.

THE PURPOSE: This is the 35th year the organization has hosted the annual event. Founded in 1982, the World Affairs Council of San Antonio’s mission is to promote public understanding of world affairs and United States foreign policy and to enhance the ability of the community and future leaders to participate as global citizens. The Council accomplishes its mission by presenting programs such as the Distinguished Speaker Series, Global Issues Luncheons, Diplomat Salons, the Marshall Memorial Fellows, Young Professional events, and youth engagement outreach. A not-for-profit and non-partisan organization, it is a member of the World Affairs Councils of America.



Center For Child Protection’s PlayBingo Raises Funds

By Rob Giardinelli         Photography by Christina Murphy and Haley Plotkin

THE SETTING: Pre-COVID-19, Austin’s JW Marriott Hotel was the setting for one of Austin’s most anticipated annual events. Over 1,200 of the Capital City’s most influential female voices gathered at the PlayBingo ladies luncheon for an unforgettable afternoon of fun and fundraising…with a few dazzling prizes thrown in for good measure.

THE STYLE: The welcoming spirit of the event was felt the second guests stepped off of the escalators and into the ballroom foyer, where one could find the crowd delightfully swept up in the spirit of the occasion. While perusing over 140 silent auctions, one could spot quite a few cohesive looks, which was done by design. Most of the tables of 10 dressed thematically in complementary ensembles of white, black, and pastel colors, with several sporting feathers, which gave the event an added punch of fun. The festivities continued in the grand ballroom of the JW Marriott for the main event–bingo. As the games were played, several winners claimed their prizes, capping off the afternoon with a final award, which was a raffle ticket for a car courtesy of Mercedes Benz of Austin.

THE PURPOSE: PlayBingo, put on by the Friends of Christopher Guild, raised over $885,000 for the Center for Child Protection, which is a nationally accredited children’s advocacy center offering services such as forensic interviews, counseling, and medical exams to children who have witnessed violent crimes or are suspected victims of physical or sexual abuse. For the first time ever, the PlayBingo Ladies Luncheon is going virtual. Join them on October 24 for a fabulous afternoon benefiting the Center for Child Protection. Individual and House Party tickets start at $150 and are available, until sold out, through October 1. For more information, visit