Worlds colliding

Battling Ebola amid the Houston glamour prompts mega billionaire Paul Allen to issue a $3.2 million challenge

Battling Ebola amid glamour prompts mega billionaire to issue challeng

19 Robert and Janice McNair, from left, and Hannah and Cal McNair at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Honorees Bob and Janice McNair, left, with co-chairs Hannah and Cal McNair. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
7 Stephen Lewis, from left, with Alicia and Lance Smith at the UNICEF Gala October 201
Auctioneer Stephen Lewis, left, with co-chairs Alicia and Lance Smith. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
2 Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
1 Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Karin Hofer at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Karin Hofer. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
36 Ashley and Alex Blair at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Ashley and Alex Blair. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
37 Melissa and Mike Mithoff, from left, with Cindy Rose at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Melissa and Michael Mithoff, left, with Cindi Rose. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
33 Deborah Duncan, left, and Mehrnac Gill at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Deborah Duncan, left, and Mehrnaz Gill. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
15 Pershant and Nidhika Mehta at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Pershant and Nidhika Mehta. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
32 Sally Qasch, from left, Yamileh Salomon and Jalee Salee at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Sally Qasch, from left, Yamileh Salomon and Jalee Salee. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
30 David Wuthrich, from left, Thecla Harper and David Chambers at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
David Wuthrich, left, Thecla Harper and David Chambers. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
29 Donae and Rob Chramosta at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Donae and Rob Chramosta. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
27 Chree Boydstun and Joel Kalmin at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Chree Boydstun and Joel Kalmin. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
26 Crystin Pactor, left, and Roz Pactor at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Crystin Pactor, left, and Roz Pactor. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
10 Shelby Kibodeaux, left, and Bruce Padilla at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Shelby Kibodeaux, left, and Bruce Padilla. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
35 David Fink and Diane Nguyen at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
Artist David Fink and Diane Nguyen. Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
19 Robert and Janice McNair, from left, and Hannah and Cal McNair at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
7 Stephen Lewis, from left, with Alicia and Lance Smith at the UNICEF Gala October 201
2 Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
1 Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Karin Hofer at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
36 Ashley and Alex Blair at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
37 Melissa and Mike Mithoff, from left, with Cindy Rose at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
33 Deborah Duncan, left, and Mehrnac Gill at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
15 Pershant and Nidhika Mehta at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
32 Sally Qasch, from left, Yamileh Salomon and Jalee Salee at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
30 David Wuthrich, from left, Thecla Harper and David Chambers at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
29 Donae and Rob Chramosta at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
27 Chree Boydstun and Joel Kalmin at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
26 Crystin Pactor, left, and Roz Pactor at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
10 Shelby Kibodeaux, left, and Bruce Padilla at the UNICEF Gala October 2014
35 David Fink and Diane Nguyen at the UNICEF Gala October 2014

On the very night that the World Health Organization announced that the Ebola outbreak could escalate to 10,000 new cases per week by December, a well-heeled group gathered in Wortham Theater Center's Grand Foyer for a posh black-tie dinner raising funds for UNICEF's fight against the deadly disease.

Despite the glamour (thousands of radiant orchids, for example) and the lightheartedness of the night (musical entertainment), the annual gala had a very serious undertone. That was best expressed by UNICEF senior vice president of development Barron Segar, who noted, "UNICEF is on the front lines in the fight against Ebola." Donation cards offered opportunities to contribute funds for protective wear for health care workers, chlorine for sanitation, Ebola clinic beds and the like.

Most importantly on the fundraising front, Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder, had made a challenge grant, matching all proceeds raised on the evening up to $3.2 million.  

Most importantly on the fundraising front, Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder, had made a challenge grant, matching all proceeds raised on the evening up to $3.2 million. The evening raised $700,000 and with matching funds means $1.4 million for UNICEF.

Key to the success of the soirée were gala chairs Penny and Paul Loyd, Hannah and Cal McNair, Alicia and Lance Smith and Tiffany and Rick Smith and honorary chair Beth Madison. Headliners of the lengthy post-dinner program in Cullen Theater were the evening's honorees, Janice and Bob McNair, recipients of the inaugural Margaret Alkek Williams Humanitarian Award, presented by the award's namesake.

Longer than an hour, the program for the UNICEF Audrey Hepburn Society Ball tested the patience of attendees, many of whom departed before the honors could be presented. Performances by a choir and by two soloists, plus a live auction and speeches had many guests twitching in their seats.

Additional program participants included honorary chair Sean Hepburn Ferrer; emcee Marc Vandermeer, voice of the Houston Texans; auctioneer Stephen Lewis; UNICEF southwest regional board chair Ann Holmes and UNICEF southwest regional director Monica Williams.

Sitting down to dinner by Tony's catering and later assembling in the Cullen Theater was a coterie of VIPS including Mica Mosbacher, Bill King, Caroline and Perryn Leech, Jane and Dean Gladden, Christina and Mark Hanson, Diana and Chase Untermeyer, Deborah Duncan, Lucinda and Javier Loya, Tara and David Wuthrich, Lily and Charles Foster, Kim and Dan Moody, Phoebe Tudor and Anne and Noble Carl.