Joe Niekro Foundation’s Knuckle Ball Scores Big

By Jake Gaines          Photography by Nikki Rosenberg and Quy Tran Photography

THE SETTING: The Houston Knuckle Ball: Field of Dreams annual gala was recently held at The Ballroom at Bayou Place, in support of brain aneurysm, AVM and hemorrhagic stroke research and awareness, and patient education named in honor of 22-year MLB alum and former Houston Astros knuckleballer, Joe Niekro.

THE STYLE: KHOU-TV personality and brain aneurysm survivor, Deborah Duncan, served as the evening’s emcee, while sharing her personal experience and life altering brain aneurysm rupture to the packed event venue. Kirk Wehby, the COO of the event’s presenting sponsor SMITH, helped kick-off the VIP reception by giving a welcome toast to guests and supporters, followed by a tear-jerking invocation from Kirk’s 13 year old son, Luc Wehby, an AVM survivor. To help ignite the evening festivities, Geraldo Rivera, a personal friend of Tricia Bonilla Harrison, gave welcoming video remarks and brought attention to the mission behind the Joe Niekro Foundation. The evening culminated with a spirited live auction officiated by Johny Bravo, followed by a packed dancefloor as the Austin-based band Skyrocket performed, underwritten and supported by Diane Lokey Farb.

THE PURPOSE: This year’s event, chaired by Tricia Bonilla Harrison and Mark D. Sullivan, who both have a personal connection to brain aneurysms, raised nearly $300,000. The auction was a spectacular success and featured original art items, a Steak 48 culinary group experience, exquisite jewelry by Mariquita Masterson, and rare finds in sports memorabilia. Proceeds from this year’s event go toward the advancement and expansion of the foundation’s Patient Services and Education Program, as well as the establishment of a localized clinical research grant for applicants in the Houston area.