CultureMap Exclusive

No wives, no gala: Astros explain cancellation of Women's Center fundraiser, pledge $18 million for kids

No wives, no gala: Houston Astros try to explain canceling fundraiser

News_Astros Wives Gala_Minute Maid Park
The Astros Wives "Black Ties and Baseball Caps" galas did better when the team was winning. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com

A sharpening of philanthropic focus, the decline in the number of Houston Astro wives and a poor donation ratio were responsible for the team's decision to no longer hold the "Black Tie and Baseball Caps" gala that had been a fundraising cornerstone of the Houston Area Women's Center for more than two decades.  The explanation comes from Meg Vaillancourt, Astros senior vice president of community relations, who told CultureMap the logic behind a change which has caused a brouhaha.

KHOU Channel 11 broke the story Monday on the "cancellation" of the Astro Wives gala that last year earned only around $250,000 for the non-profit, despite published proceeds of $450,000.

"There was no event canceled because there was no event planned because the wives group no longer had any wives in it," Vaillancourt said. "This change is not at all a reflection on the value of the Women's Center. We really respect and appreciate everything that the Women's Center does."

The Women's Center was informed in February that the Astro Wives' gala would be no more.

Two other points were key in the decision according to Vaillancourt, who is also executive director of the Astros Foundation. In her first year with the team, Vallaincourt, who led the Red Sox Foundation to becoming the largest baseball team charity in the country, was given the task of creating a strategic focus for foundation efforts.

"We are staying focused on helping at-risk children . . . teaching them life skills," she said. That course is through key charitable programs, including Community Leaders, the Astros Urban Youth Academy and the Astros RBI Program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities).

Astros owner Jim Crane, she added, has committed to raise $18 million for the foundation, thereby making a bigger difference in the community than the $4 million raised over 23 years through the "Black Ties and Baseball Gala."

A further consideration, Vaillancourt said, was the amount of funds raised compared to funds donated to the Women's Center.

"A substantial amount of the money raised went to the paid consultant who ran the event and to the expenses of producing the event," Vallaincourt said. "Really, it's best practice in charity to have 70 percent of the money go to the charity and this clearly was not the case."