The Bush family’s legacy of volunteerism and community service shined brightly Saturday night at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Black Tie Ball honoring Maria and Neil Bush. The elegant evening was punctuated by emotional off-script moments and a moving concert by folk singer Jewel, who shared her life experiences before a crowd of 600 guests at the Omni Houston Hotel.
Drawing from President George H.W. Bush’s 1988 Points of Light speech, the lavender-hued ballroom was decorated with crystal chandeliers and center pieces catching and reflecting light, a theme referred to throughout the evening.
Ball chairs Mona and Arty Howard expressed gratitude to the Bush’s for their commitment to community service and especially to BBBS.
“Right now we have 2,000 kids in the program and I want us to double that to 4,000," said Pierce Bush.
“Thank you for embracing the legacy and carrying it on,” Arty Howard said. “I hope we all can find a way to be a point of light.”
The baton has been passed to Neil Bush’s son, Pierce Bush, who left his career in private equity in 2012 and came on board as the vice president for development at BBBS. He joined the BBBS mentoring program in 2009 and become a “Big” to Jaylen, through the mentoring program.
With his voice cracking and tears in his eyes, Pierce Bush introduced his father and step-mother, while announcing his growth plans for the program.
“Right now we have 2,000 kids in the program and I want us to double that to 4,000 and we really need to do even more than that,” he said. “You and Maria are carrying on my grandfather’s legacy and if there was a Stepmom of the Year award, Maria would win it.”
Pierce’s touching remarks weren’t lost on his father, who was also emotional, saying as a parent you want your children to find “joy, passion and purpose,” and he was pleased because Pierce had found all three.
The evening wasn’t all tissue-filled though. A video featured Neil’s brother, President George W. Bush, who thanked his brother for his service, giving him a “shout-out” and saying, “I love you man.”
Neil Bush also tickled the crowd with a tongue-in-cheek story about telling his family about the gala honor.
“I called George and told him about the honor and he said, 'I know. I got a call a month ago asking me to come.' So, I called my brother Jeb, and he said he got that call too, but you know, he may be running for president. So then I called my mom and she told me she knew all about that event,” Bush said.
In addition to a silent auction, the evening featured a live auction with hot items including The Ultimate Ralph Lauren Fashion Week Experience, an exclusive meet and greet with Jewel and a soccer painting by Betirri, exemplifying the connection between art, sports and the mentoring strength of the BBBS program.
“There’s a tradition in professional soccer where a player goes onto the field before the game with a little kid. The kids are inspired by their favorite soccer players and the soccer players are mentors to them,” Betirri said.
Jewel and her husband World Champion Bull-Rider Ty Murray, were recently named Texas State Honorary Chairs for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Saturday’s gala marked the second time Jewel has performed for the organization.
Earlier in the evening Jewel took pictures with VIP guests and reappeared onstage at 10 p.m. infusing even more emotion to the evening with an a cappella version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Dressed in a green and black A-line dress, her pair pulled back in a high pony and flanked by two guitars, the singer was chatty and open, sharing stories because in her words, “that’s what folk singers do.”
Applauding the evening were supporters KTRK Channel 13's Melanie Lawson, Kerri and Dominic Amorosa, Valerie and Tracy Dieterich, Lindsey and Brian Thomas and Jennifer and Ossie Okeke.