In two decades of covering Houston charity benefits, I've never seen a more impassioned group than that gathered at River Oaks Country Club Thursday night in support of Friends for Life, the no-kill animal shelter in the Heights.
They cheered and applauded as executive director Salise Shuttlesworth declared Friends for Life "a shelter that will become a model for the entire nation" and as State Sen. John Whitmire described it as the "most compassionate, most effective no-kill animal shelter in the country. People will come to Houston to witness this shelter."
In the end, all 300 in the ballroom went wild, jumping from their seats and cheering as David Sutherland made the top $105,000 bid on the George Rodrigue Blue Dog painting.
Much of the excitement was generated by knowledge of the June 2 opening of the Don Sanders Adoption Center, which will provide safe shelter for even more animals than are already served in the Heights. Sanders, Friends for Life supporter from its founding in 2002, served as honorary chair of the gala that was chaired by Lynda Transier.
The handsome Stephen Lewis served as able auctioneer with the help of Milo Hamilton, who took the night off from the Astros playing field to assist in the fundraising.
Among the room full of animal lovers were Michelle Mantour, Karen Hartnett and George Gayle, Chris Sanders, Fulton Davenport, Kristi Schiller, Nancy Allen, Linda and Alexander Rogers, Lacy Baird, Liz Gorman, Carolyn Gardiner, Sanders Keller, Pam Springer, Cindy and Dennis Laviage and Pam and Peter Jones.