Dallas Cowboys quarterback greats Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Tony Romo and other celebrities light up the runway with 25 children, raising funds to cure pediatric cancer
Over 1,000 guests, including 80 pediatric cancer patients (25 featured models and CCF fashion show alumni), survivors and their families, celebrities, sponsors, and supporters, filled the Hilton Anatole, on Friday, April 26, for the most successful Children’s Cancer Fund Gala on record. The 31st annual fundraising gala, “An Evening in the Garden,” raised more than $1.4 million to support pediatric cancer research and treatment programs at Children’s Health and UT Southwestern – surpassing fundraising goals for the third year in a row. Since 1982 Children’s Cancer Fund has donated over $10 million to the childhood cancer cause.
The gala, which transported guests into an enchanted garden created by Gro Events and Design, began with remarks from longtime Children’s Cancer Fund Gala Honorary Co-Chairs Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman as well as Gala Chair Kimberly Schlegel Whitman.
“This is the second year in a row that Children’s Cancer Fund has not had to say goodbye to any child who has participated in this event in a memorial video,” said Roger Staubach. “This is a true testimony to the advancements of treatments that CCF is funding. Pediatric cancer research is making a difference.”
“We are always hopeful that this will be the last year – that we will no longer need to raise funds to cure pediatric cancer,” said Honorary Co-Chair Troy Aikman. “We wouldn’t be here without your support.” Aikman continued, “Roger is a hero to everyone – he was to me and to so many in this room, but the heroes tonight are these kids. If you’re a parent and this doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, then you’re not alive.”
As Gala Chair Kimberly Schlegel Whitman took the podium, she thanked Aikman and Staubach for the many years they have given to Children’s Cancer Fund as honorary co-chairs. “Roger has been involved 31 years and Troy for 22, which speaks volumes not only about the worthiness of the work that Children’s Cancer Fund does, but to the character of these gentlemen who have had a huge impact on the organization and the children they connect with.”
Additionally, she highlighted the work of Children’s Dr. Patrick Leavey for this year’s Call for the Cure, Applying Artificial Intelligence to Find a Cure. “Utilizing artificial intelligence, Dr. Leavey can see what tumors are doing and how he can cure them – cutting-edge research happening right here in Dallas,” added Whitman. This year’s Call for the Cure raised a record-breaking $339,350.
Following the opening remarks, children ages 5 to 17, matched with celebrity escorts, lit up the runway in their fashions provided by Dillard’s for a star-studded fashion show, coordinated by RSC Show Productions.
In addition to Staubach, Aikman and Romo, the 31st Annual Fashion Show presented an all-star lineup of celebrity escorts including Josh Abbott, lead singer Josh Abbott Band; Avery Jai, founder and artistic director of Don’t Ask Why; Melissa Brown, actress and stunt artist; Gary Brown, producer, Marvel’s Agents of Shield; Erin Cummings, actress from LA; Monta Ellis, professional basketball player; Michael Finley, retired professional basketball player, current film producer, and Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Dallas Mavericks; Joely Fisher, actress and singer from LA; Miss Texas America Madison Fuller; Jimmy Maurer, FC Dallas Soccer player; Scott Murray, broadcast journalist, KLIF radio, Chairman/CEO of Murray Media; Roshi Muns, founder of Society Bakery; Geena Ngaaje, Dallas Hip Hop Dance Fest; K’hanh Nguyen, Dallas-based fashion designer; Marty Turco, former NHL goaltender and president of Dallas Stars Foundation; Pink Heals Firefighters; Dallas Fire Station #19; Batman, Queen Elsa; Spiderman, Wonder Woman.
Backstage was a flurry of activity of kids, clowns, magicians, and fun and autographs with celebrities along with primping for the show with makeup, nails, and hairstyles by longtime Children’s Cancer Fund supporter Salon Pompeo.
During the evening, Scott Murray interviewed kids and escorts backstage, which was projected on video screens in the ballroom. In an interview with Candice and Tony Romo, Tony commented, “We are here for these kids. When you see these kids going through this, and especially if you’re a father, you just want to hug them and do what you can to make a difference. I can’t imagine having one of my kids going through this.” Candice added, “This is such a special night for these kids – a night out, away from the hospital. Everyone has a story – someone in their lives who’s been affected by cancer. If we want to help and make a difference, we can give – big or small.”
Dak Prescott, who was unable to attend this year provided a video tribute. “I’m sorry I cannot make it tonight. The Children’s Cancer Fund Gala is always such a special night – one of my favorite nights of the year. I wanted to make sure I told all the beautiful kids tonight how much you inspire me and every one of us. Keep fighting the good fight, and I know you have faith to finish your fight against cancer. To all of you in the room, thank you for your support so we can end this terrible disease together. Have a great night, and I’ll see you next year!”
Vanessa Lachey also sent a video tribute. “I am so bummed that my husband Nick and I won’t be able to join you tonight at the gala. I had a sneak peek of some of the kids tonight, and they are shining from inside out – it’s such a beautiful thing to see. I want to thank you from the bottom of my husband’s and my hearts for being so kind and generous and reaching deep into your hearts for Children’s Cancer Fund. Have a great time.”
Gala attendees also included Capa Aikman, Moll Anderson, Millie and Ken Cooper, Bella and Chase Cooley, Brent Christopher, Tiffany and Tyler Clutts, Tina and Collin Craig, Holly and Stubbs Davis, Meredith Land-Moore and Alexander Moore, Jessica Nowitzki, Jamie and Melbourne O’Banion, Bina Palnitkar Patel and Nimesh Patel, Candice and Tony Romo, Nancy Rogers, Jennifer and Walker Royall, Myrna and Robert Schlegel, Marianne Staubach, Hillery and Michael Stack, and Kacy and Carter Tolleson.
Emcee Karen Borta of CBS 11 kept the evening on track introducing the young models and special guests as they hit the runway. Entertainment was provided by DJSouljah and a violin accompanist.
Live auction items included: Spend a day with the Dallas SWAT Team: go behind the scenes to see the SWAT Team’s tactical expertise; Dallas Cowboys Exclusive Experience: Fly with the Dallas Cowboys on their private charter to an away game; Sewell for All Seasons: Luxury car every 3 months for a year; World of Watersports: Hit the lake with this top-of-the-line 2019 Nautique Ski Boat; Military Humvee: Own a military grade Humvee, restored to pristine condition and ready for your ranch; CCF Custom Harley Davidson: Cruise the highway on this custom-made Harley honoring cancer survivors; Mountain Escape: a 6-night stay at a cabin in the woods in Pagosa Springs, Colorado; Viva la Mexico: Enjoy a getaway to this exquisite Cabo Casita; Watch Ellen LIVE!: Two tickets to a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and a VIP tour of Warner Bros. Studio; Anguilla Beach Escape: 7-night stay in a gorgeous beachfront home in Anguilla.
The silent auction included everything from luxury art, exquisite dining packages, autographed sports memorabilia, designer handbags to exclusive vacations. Matthew McConaughey, who unable to attend, supported the silent auction with several signed items including an autographed copy of the Dallas Buyers Club script, t-shirts, hats, and more.
Sponsors included: $75,000: Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers; $50,000: Sewell Automotive Companies; Texas de Brazil; $25,000: Children’s Health; Jennifer Stroud Foundation; Marianne and Roger Staubach; $15,000: Lana and Barry Andrews with Natalie and Mike McGuire; $10,000:Deborah and John Ahmed; Capa and Troy Aikman; Charles Bailey; Lisa and Clay Cooley; Headington Companies; James and Edna Hallsey Family Limited Partnership; Tracy and Ben Lange; McCullough Foundation; Holly and Barry Pennett, Myrna and Robert Schlegel; $5,000: Wasan and Kasim Alfalahi; Allie Beth Allman; BB&T; Lindy and Brad Berkley; CB Choi Family Foundation; Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth H. Cooper; Juanika and Monta Ellis; Gralapp Family; Greenberg Traurig, LLP/Bina Palnitkar; Hawk + Sloane; Hillcrest Five Group; J.W. Logistics, LLC; KPMG LLP; Mandy & Bill Dillard Charitable Foundation/Amanda and Charlie Shufeldt; Lori and Lee Mikles; Stephanie and Hunt Neurohr; Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki; Elizabeth and Kevin Phillips; S2 Capital; Betty and Brian Schultz; and Lisa and Steve Serra.
In-kind sponsors included: Auberge in Aspen; American Airlines; bell’INVITO; Buxton Marine; Dallas Swat; Dennis Basso; Dillard’s; Drakeley Magic; Flora Kim Dermatology; Jason Evans; Fleetwood Hicks; Gene and Jerry Jones Family Foundation; Glad Tower Live Productions; GovPlanet; GRO Floral & Event Design; Harper’s Bazaar; Hayden’s Help and Air Flow Solutions; Hilton Anatole; The Joule Hotel; Juliska; Kelmari Jewelry; Kendra Scott; Martin Brower; Matthew McConaughey and JK Living Foundation; Matthew Trent; Jennifer McRorey, Artist; Stacy and Mark McKay; Myra Meier and The Plaza Hotel; Nici and David Muzzo; Nomad Productions; NorthPark Center; Outfront Media; Patty Foppen Photography; Raising Cane’s; Ritchie Bros.; The Ritz-Carlton Santa Barbara; Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers; Jennifer and Walker Royall; RSC Productions; RSOUL Royal Productions; Salon Pompeo; Samuel Lynne Galleries; Sewell Automotive Companies; Society Bakery; Sprinkles and Candace Nelson; Stanley Korshak; Stuart Wietzman; Tasty Clean, and Villy Custom.
Guests dined on roasted beets and greens, pan seared filet, and fruit and petal panna cotta.
The media sponsors were CBS11/TXA21 and PaperCity magazine.
Proceeds from the Gala go to Children’s Cancer Fund to support pediatric cancer research and treatment programs at Children's Health and UT Southwestern. Additionally, CCF funds Child Life Specialists at Children’s who are by the sides of children and their families providing education and support, emotional and physical, from diagnosis through treatment. Visit www.childrenscancerfund.com
Children’s Cancer Fund (CCF), founded in 1982, champions kids in their fight against cancer through strategic investments in research and care in North Texas. Since its inception, CCF has awarded almost $10 million in grants, and the organization received the 2014 Outstanding Foundation Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The group seeks to partially relieve the burden of obtaining and administering funds for pediatric cancer research and treatment at Children’s Health and for selected research at UT Southwestern Medical Center, both nationally recognized programs for the investigation and treatment of childhood cancer. The Children’s Cancer Fund office is located at 4201 Spring Valley Road, Suite 370, Dallas, TX 75244. For more information, please contact Children’s Cancer Fund at 972-664-1450 or visit www.ChildrensCancerFund.com
(Photos by Kristina Bowman)