While the 17th annual "Spirit of Spring" luncheon benefiting the Children's Assessment Center was a delightful gathering at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, the talk by former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur was nothing less than gut-wrenching.
Many among the record crowd of 550 practically held their breath and fought back tears as the 77-year-old told of being sexaully abused by her father from age 4 to 18. Her powerful story of triumph over abuse earned her a standing ovation from the stunned audience. Van Derbur has spent much of her adult life raising national awareness of sexual abuse and its long-term effect.
Before the mood changed from upbeat to deadly serious, luncheon chairs Kelley Lubanko and Kelli Weinzierl welcomed guests that helped raise a record $430,000 for programs focused on the healing of child victims of sexual abuse.
The event, emceed by Dominique Sachse, honored Texas Children's Hospital CEO Mark Wallace and spotlighted the hospital's collaboration with CAC in providing medical services to abused children. Participating in the program were CAC executive director Elaine Stolte and Stephen Lewis who served as auctioneer of a sparkling diamond ring contributed by Chopard in River Oaks District.
Neiman Marcus provided a colorful interlude during lunch with a show of fashions by Milly and introduction of the designer, Michelle Smith. A pop-up shop in the hotel lobby was there to answer the instant gratification needs of fashionistas.
CAC supporters included Ericka Bagwell, Tena Lundquist Faust, Megan Sutton-Reed, Amy Snoots, John Weinzierl, Diane Caplan, Randa Weiner, Ellie Francisco, Michelle Watson, and Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson.