Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s A Celebration of Reading Raises Over $1.8 Million

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by Gary Fountain and Daniel Ortiz

THE SCENE: Houston’s Hobby Center for the Performing Arts was the recent setting for a magical evening that celebrated a milestone for one of the city’s most beloved organizations. The 29th annual A Celebration of Reading served a special purpose this year as it celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. The event drew over a thousand of the city’s most notable sociables and philanthropists for an evening that honored the three things most important to the late First Lady and served as a theme for the evening – Faith, Family, and Friends.

THE VIBE: The cocktail-chic crowd began the evening mingling in the foyer of the venue where old friends reacquainted and new friendships were made. Patrons then proceeded to the main theatre inside the Hobby Center for the program. Upon entering the theatre, guests were wowed as they looked at the stage, which featured a replica of the living room inside George H.W. and Barbara Bush’s former residence.

Once patrons took to their seats, the festivities were kicked off with words from Neil and Maria Bush, son and daughter-in-law of Barbara Bush, which was followed by words from several other Bush family members. The evening then continued with conversations with several best-selling and acclaimed authors.

Featured authors included New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson, and Seven-time New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille. The festivities were capped off by Reverend Dr. Russell Jones Levenson Jr. who shared touching memories of President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush during each of their final moments of life.

THE NON-PROFIT: A Celebration of Reading, co-chaired Maria and Neil Bush, raised over $1.8 million for the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. Proceeds raised from the event will benefit local programs via the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation as well as national programs through the Barbara Bush Foundation of Family Literacy



ZACH Theatre’s Red, Hot & Soul Dazzles With Venetian Carnivale Theme

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by Charles Quinn Photography

THE SCENE: Austin’s ZACH Scott Theatre was the setting for one of the Capital City’s most notable spring sociable events. The 300 guests who were fortunate enough to be a part of ZACH Theatre’s Red, Hot & Soul were treated to an unforgettable evening of fundraising which included a revamped format, dazzling performances, an inspiring theme, and fundraising that kept the fun going into throughout the evening.

THE VIBE: The black tie crowd knew they were in for a special evening before they entered the lobby of the Topfer Theatre on the ZACH campus for cocktails. Upon entering, guests were dazzled by a stunning display of masquerade art and floral design created by celebrity florist David Kurio, which made for the perfect, modern step and repeat, where many guests were spotted taking photos to commemorate the evening.

Once inside the lobby of the Topfer Theatre guests sipped on their favorite cocktails while mingling and admiring the Venetian-inspired masks of other patrons The cocktail hour happened against the backdrop of performance artists throughout the lobby that gave the space an extra layer of fun and excitement for the festivities ahead.

In a new twist for this year’s event, the action then moved to the Topfer Theatre stage for the main program. Many jaws dropped as the crowd took their seats on the main stage where they were greeted by aerialists above the stage for additional ambiance of a Venetian Carnivale.

KXAN anchor Jennifer Sanders served as emcee and effortlessly kept the evening going at a brisk, informative pace throughout. Highlights of the program included a delicious multi-course meal, touching tributes, entertaining performances from various members of the ZACH Theater company, and a spirited live auction where winners of packages were greeted with confetti poppers and champagne. The evening was capped off where the fun initially began in the lobby of the Topfer Theater for a lively after-party. Guests were seen dancing the night away, capping off a fabulous evening that those fortunate enough to be a part of will not soon forget.

THE NONPROFIT: The event, co-chaired by Donn Gauger and Maxx Judd, raised funds for ZACH Scott Theatre. Proceeds raised from the event went to fund ZACH Scott Theatre programs. Each year, the ZACH Scott Theatre serves over 125,000 Central Texans which includes over 55,000 children through an engaging mix of programs including camps, classes, performances as well as education and outreach programs



Elizabeth Ann Seton Board Hosts Kentucky Derby Themed 30th Anniversary Gala

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by Ben Porter

THE SCENE: A beautiful night at Austin’s Camp Mabry was the recent setting for one of the Capital City’s most anticipated and well-attended Spring social events. Over 800 sociables, philanthropists, and VIPs came out for Elizabeth Ann Seton Board’s, 30th annual gala. This year’s theme, Off to the Races, featured great food, amazing company, sensational fashion, and dazzling performances which created a magical evening perfectly befitting of a milestone celebration.

THE VIBE: The Kentucky Derby themed event was on full display from the moment guests walked up to the Camp Mabry grounds for the gala al fresco. Revelers were spotted wearing their derby finest including intricate hats and bright spring colors which created a festive, welcoming environment for all who attended. After checking in, partygoers engaged in a lively cocktail hour, where patrons sipped spring cocktails including Mint Juleps, while others could be seen taking photos next to the giant trophy step and repeat installation to commemorate the evening.

The action then moved to the open-aired tent for the main program. While dining on a delectable meal the attendees were treated to words from the organization’s leaders and touching tribute videos showcasing how Ascension/Seton has positively impacted so many families in the Austin community. Next came a spirited live auction with top items including a week away in 30A for 15 guests and a 2024 Kentucky Derby VIP package and was followed by a fund-a-need raise where patrons generously opened their hearts and wallets to support the organization. The night was capped off with live music courtesy of SKYROCKET, which had the crowd dancing the evening away and ensured the fun continued well into the night.

THE NON-PROFIT: The event, co-chaired by Sheridan Butler Binford and Kyndall Johnson, raised over $1.35 million dollars for Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin. Funds raised from Off to the Races will support programs, building and equipment needs for the Marialice Shivers and Dell Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Kathryn Frances Walker Center for Neonatal Intensive Care and Family Support at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin.



Ballet Austin’s Cinderella Themed Fête & fête*ish Dazzle

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by John Pesina

THE SCENE: The JW Marriott in Austin was the setting for a night of great fun and fundraising. During the evening, over 550 of the Capital City’s most notable philanthropists, sociables, and art patrons were on hand to celebrate Ballet Austin’s annual Fête & fête*ish. This year’s Cinderella theme, which celebrated the recent Mother’s Day production of the beloved fairytale, created a magical experience that those fortunate enough to each live their own happily ever after.

THE VIBE: The black-tie crowd felt the magic of the evening the moment they stepped off the escalator and entered the ballroom foyer of the venue. Upon arrival, guests were treated to champagne and the opportunity to pose for a photo in front of a step and repeat to commemorate the evening. Patrons then made their way further into the ballroom foyer for a lively cocktail hour where they were treated to jazz music in the background, courtesy of Parker Jazz Club, as well as the opportunity to spot “little mice” running in unison to add to the magical, storybook theme of the evening. These adorable characters were comprised by the youthful participants of Ballet Austin.

The action then moved to the main ballroom for the main program. As guests took to their seats and began eating their delectable multi-course meals, they were interrupted by a very special guest, Cinderella herself. During the program, Cinderella emcee Cassandra King effortlessly kept the audience engaged as partygoers were treated to words from organization leaders as well as emotional testimonials of how Ballet Austin has positively impacted the Central Texas community. Next came a spirited live auction with the top items including a trip to San Miguel, the opportunity to star as a Mother Ginger in this year’s annual Ballet Austin Nutcracker performances over the holidays, and a luxury kitchen remodel donated by Build 512.

Next came one of the most anticipated moments of the Austin social season. The moment where the ballroom doors to the 350 attendees of Ballet Austin Fête to reveal one an additional 200 patrons at the fête*ish after party that was already in full swing. From there, two audiences combined as one where revelers danced the night away until the clock stuck midnight to the tunes of DJ Cassandra.

THE NON PROFIT: The event raised over $500,000 for Ballet Austin, which is one of the 15 largest classical ballet companies in the United States. Funds raised from this year’s Fête & fête*ish will go towards Ballet Austin programs to fulfill their mission of providing exceptional arts education and artistic programming to Central Texans.



Manos de Cristo Celebrates 35 Years With Dazzling Share The Love Gala Honoring Dr. Tony Pacheco

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by Marc Suarez

THE SCENE: Austin’s Fairmont Hotel was the recent setting for a night of fun and fundraising for a very worthy cause. Over 350 sociables, doctors, and community leaders turned out for Manos de Cristo’s annual gala. The evening featured a series of touching tributes and emotional testimonials, seamlessly blended in with dancing and fun, while creating a night that those fortunate enough to be a part of will not soon forget.

THE VIBE: The evening’s theme, Share The Love, was felt from the very second guests arrived in the foyer outside of the Fairmont ballroom for libations. Here, the cocktail-chic crowd cozied up to the bar to grab their favorite spirits and promptly went to mingle with other guests, all the while perusing an impressive lot of silent auction items as well as the opportunity to take photos at the festive photo booth to commemorate the evening. The action then moved into the ballroom for the main program. Emcees Yvonne Nava and Ron Olivera effortlessly kept the evening flowing at a brisk, fun pace. While guests dined on their multi-course meals that were perfectly paired with award-winning wines from Meierstone Vineyards, they were treated to heartwarming testimonials on how Manos de Cristo has positively impacted the Central Texas community.

Following the testimonials came a spirited live auction that featured top items such as “How do you spell green? Gruene or Verde” which included a stay for 20 guests at a waterfront home in Gruene and a five-night stay for six at a clifftop villa in Virgin Gorda. Next, Austin’s celebrity dentist Dr. Tony Pacheco was honored for his tireless work and donation of time and talent to the organization. The night was capped off with an after-party that featured a casino and live music by The Pictures, which kept the fun going well into the evening.

THE NON-PROFIT: The event, presented by Nicole and Ramzi Al-Rashid, raised over $445,000 for Manos de Cristo. Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the organization provides low-cost dental care and educational opportunities for children and adults. Funds raised from this year’s event will Manos de Cristo’s programs which benefit over 30,000 Central Texans annually.


Museum Unveils New Grounds At Dazzling 60th Anniversary Gala

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by Sloan Breeden Photography


Judy Tate

Simone Wicha, Ross Moody and Elle Moody

THE PURPOSE: It was a stunning spring night at the Blanton Museum of Art where 350 of Texas’ (and the country’s) most notable art patrons and sociables gathered for an unforgettable night of art, fun, and fundraising. The Blanton Museum of Art’s 60th anniversary gala highlighted its storied history with an epic gala and it’s perfectly named theme, A New Landscape, that celebrated the completed transformation of the museum’s New Grounds Initiative that was over a decade in the making.

Carrie Healy and Clayton Maebius

The scene at the Blanton Museum Of Art 2023 gala

THE STYLE: The artful, black-tie crowd was dazzled from the second they walked up to the newly transformed grounds, where patrons were mesmerized by the white petal installation. The refraction of the early evening sun against a permanent installation of three-story tall white petals highlighted the installation. It created a magical glow around the entire space where many could be seen taking images and videos of these exquisite new grounds…and the art that adorns it. The installation, located on the Moody Patio of the Blanton Museum, allows the public to view and take in this space for free.

Suzanne Deal Booth and LeMel Humes

Anthony Grant and Jack Shear

Revelers then explored the grounds both inside and outside the museum for a lively cocktail hour, where after partygoers enjoyed a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne, and mingled as they toasted and celebrated the significant and historical artistic milestone of one of the state’s most beloved and world-class art institutions. Additionally, guests could be seen taking photos on a gorgeous step and repeat to commemorate the night.

Chris Hyams, Emma Hyams and Mazie Hyams

Linda van Bavel and Sarah Butler

Patrons then headed to the beautifully erected tent on the exterior museum grounds for the evening’s main program. The open aired tent allowed for the picture-perfect weather to envelop the space as guests had stunning views of the Texas State Capitol to the south and Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, located on the grounds of the Blanton Museum, to the north. As guests dined on a delectable, multi-course meal, they were treated to words from organization leaders, board members, and prominent supporters of the organization.

Jasmine and Lamarr Houston, Kenyon Adams, Suzanne McFayden & Christian Palominos

Jill Wilkinson and Holly Borham

The festivities continued with a “petals up” auction, that offered a clever spin to the traditional paddles up auction, while serving as a nod to the new installation which raised over $250,000. The evening was capped off with a toast by Blanton Museum Director Simone Wicha, who perfectly summed up the night by saying “I’m really proud of what we are doing together. The journey of the Blanton, from its layered history to today, to where we are going is all built on people…artists and visitors, teachers and students, alumni and residents, alumni and local residents, university partners and business leaders all who keep the museum vibrant and flowing.”

Lara and Bill Perkins

Rob Giardinelli, Kelli Blanton and Lance Avery Morgan

THE PURPOSE: The event raised over $1.3 million for the Blanton Museum of Art. Proceeds raised from the event will help fund exhibitions as well as education and public programs.