Big Bucks Galas
Multi-million dollar galas: Oil drop can't stop Houston fundraisers from raking in big bucks
Nothing could be greater proof of the Houston economy's decreasing dependency on the price of oil than the big ka-ching that some two dozen charities enjoyed this spring thanks to fundraising events that scored a million dollars or more.
Predictions on charity fundraisers were dire last summer and fall as oil prices tanked. But while some non-profits certainly felt the sting, these over-the-top events kept the green generously flowing.
We'll begin our recount at the top of the ladder with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's "Conversation with a Living Legend." Although the fundraiser was held at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the whopping $5.2 million raised is earmarked for the Houston cancer center's Moon Shots Program. That gem of an event in April featured former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell interviewed by veteran CBS newsman Bob Schieffer. CBS This Morning co-anchor Norah O'Donnell emceed the event that drew 650 guests from across the country.
As chairs of the Memorial Hermann Foundation Circle of Life Gala, the Houston Rockets helped rake in $3.3 million.
With the Houston Rockets on a fast pace to win the regional championships, their prowess on the court was matched by their fundraising strength. As chairs of the Memorial Hermann Foundation Circle of Life Gala, the team and owner Leslie Alexander helped rake in $3.3 million. And, yes, Dwight Howard and James Harden donned tuxedos for the party.
Not far behind in fundraising was the Cattle Baron's Ball, chaired by Becky Joy and JoLynelle Farina. That swinging western night hit the jackpot with proceeds of more than $3 million for the American Cancer Society.
Several fundraisers attained or even crossed the $2 million mark. Cristo Rey Jesuit raised a record $2.6 million with chairs Mary Tere and Ricardo Perusquia and Beth and Schuyler Tilney organizing the event held in honor of the late Father TJ Martinez, much-beloved school founder. The Celebration of Reading, benefiting literacy programs in Houston, hit the $2.5 million mark with Maria and Neil Bush chairing and with the star power of former President George W. Bush, J.J. Watt and event founder Barbara Bush.
Pratham USA, which provides aid to children in need in India, easily attained the $2 million milestone under the guidance of chairs Beth Madison, Harriet Latimer and Lillie Robertson. Likewise, the American Heart Association Heart Ball topped out at $2 million with Brenda and Marc Watts at the helm as chairs.
In years past, reaching $1 million was considered remarkable. In the spring of 2015, it seemed you needed to surpass that figure to reach the fundraising elite.
In years past, reaching $1 million was considered remarkable. In the spring of 2015, it seemed you needed to surpass that figure to reach the fundraising elite. The Houston Symphony Ball, starring Huey Lewis & the News and chaired by Sherry and Jim Smith and Lisa and Jerry Simon, brought in $1.57 million.
Soaring past the six zeroes were the KIPP Houston Public Schools 21st annual dinner at $1.5 million, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation at $1.4 million, Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund dinner at close to $1.4 million, Houston Grand Opera Ball at $1.3 million, the Holocaust Museum Houston Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award Dinner at $1.3 million, Asia Society Texas Center Tiger Ball nudging $1.3 million and Texas Children's Cancer Center at $1.2 million. Add the University of St. Thomas Mardi Gras Ball which hit the $1.1 million mark.
The list of million dollar babies is considerable with special kudos going to Space Center Houston which on its first dip into fundraising waters topped $1 million, no small feat that was made possible in part by the largesse of chairs Alice and Keith Mosing and the pocketbook power of major sponsors Jacobs, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Applause, applause for Neighborhood Centers which raised $1 million at its annual Heart of Gold luncheon, an event honoring generous philanthropists Sue and Lester Smith.
Also bringing in $1 million from their annual dinners and galas were the Alley Gala, Casa de Esperanza, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Montgomery County American Heart Association Heart Ball, the Houston Ballet Ball and the Junior League Charity Ball.