For as much as a year, Planned Parenthood gala chairs Kathryn Rabinow and her daughter, Sarah Rabinow Pesikoff, have been working to take the annual fundraiser beyond the political arena, to transform what could have been a long night of speechifying and paddle raising into a delightful fundraising cash cow.
Their success could hardly have been greater.
In an auspicious spin on the evening's theme, "For a Million Women, For a Million Reasons," the gala raised $1.3 million. The 400 guests in the ballroom at the Hilton Americas-Houston welcomed the news with huge applause. "We are showing that people care about Planned Parenthood, that they want to support the health care services of Planned Parenthood," Rabinow said.
" People come to Planned Parenthood because they trust us and know that they are getting accurate and high-quality health care."
Houstonians came from all corners in support of the evening. "Louisa Sarofim took this painting from her living room wall for the live auction," Rabinow told the gathering of the Jim Dine watercolor offered on the Big Board. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Gary Tinterow contributed a stay at his Hudson River Valley home. Rabinow and her husband, Richard Rabinow, added a six-night stay in their London apartment to the tempting offerings.
Republican State Rep. Sarah Davis and husband Kent Adams were guests at Rabinow's table. Major donors included Sara and Bill Morgan (who split the sheets politically) and Bobbie Nau, who typically — but not always — supports Republican candidates.
"This is not a partisan project," noted Rabinow. "They know that by supporting women, they are supporting families and the structure of families."
Planned Parenthood CEO Melaney Linton, said, "Most women who come to Planned Parenthood don't get any other health care . . . People come to Planned Parenthood because they trust us and know that they are getting accurate and high-quality health care."
Keeping the mood light, the cocktail reception was sprinkled with magicians who pulled magic tricks on unsuspecting guests and the night's brief entertainment featured an illusionist who suspended a guest in mid-air. The Richard Brown Orchestra provided dance tunes that kept the crowd on its feet following dinner.
The impressive turnout included Mayor Annise Parker and Kathy Hubbard, Gracie Cavnar, Nancy McGregor and Neal Manne, Ginni and Richard Mithoff, Anne and Dr. John Mendelsohn, Anne Graubart, David Pesikoff, Doe and Henry Florsheim, Kathy and John Orton, Melanie Gray and Mark Wawro, Ann Kinder and Nancy Willerson.