a helping hand
Prominent sports power couple lends a helping hand to deserving families at $525,000 HelpCureHD gala
While the Houston Astros are no doubt the hottest ticket in the Bayou City, but a recent soiree at Minute Maid Park proved just as scorching.
Former Houston sports power couple Allie LaForce, TNT’s popular sports reporter, and Joe Smith, former pitcher for the Astros and Minnesota Twins, were in town to host their annual HelpCureHD Gala at Union Station in Minute Maid Park.
The annual gala, only a few years old here in Houston but gaining buzz and notoriety thanks to the who’s-who of guests who attend, raised a record-breaking $525,000 was raised for the couple’s charity, the HelpCureHD Foundation. Astros owner Jim Crane and his wife Whitney, as well as players Ryan Pressly (and wife, Kat) and Kyle Tucker, and former Astros player Tony Kemp joined a lively crowd of generous sports fans.
The at times emotional evening featured tear-jerking testimonials, videos, and a raucous live auction — with Crane often refusing to be outbid. Auction items included a three-night stay in Napa at the Four Seasons and Crane’s personal seats to a game, located in the Diamond Club, plus a chance for one guest to throw the first pitch. Another package promised two tickets to every home Astros playoff game including the World Series.
Needless to say, energetic auctioneer Johnny Bravo was busy.
Presenting sponsor for the event was OOVA and Fess Parker Wines provided sips. A show-stopping moment came with a raffle for a stunning 22-carat Asscher cut tanzanite gem set in 18-karat white gold with accent diamonds and mandarin garnets, donated by Shaftel Diamonds — giving the gala some extra glow.
As CultureMap has previously reported, the HelpCureHD Foundation is one of the few national nonprofits dedicated to battle the scourge of Huntington’s Disease (HD) and helping potential parents with Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis and In Vitro Fertilization (PGD-IVF) treatments. That process helps doctors screen and bypass HD, meaning a baby born free from its clutches.
Adding to the poignancy, LaForce and Smith greeted grateful families — and toddlers — helped by the foundation.
Still lesser-known that Alzheimer’s Disease, HD is a devastating neurodegenerative condition affecting more than 30,000 Americans each year. It slowly attacks the nerve cells in the brain, causing eruptive mood swings, loss of memory, emotional outbursts, and a litany of other neurological distresses.
For LaForce and Smith, the campaign is personal. Smith’s beloved mother, Lee Smith, passed away in 2020 after a long battle with the disease. As HD is hereditary, Smith himself faces a potential 50-percent chance of inheriting it. He’s chosen not to get tested, and instead, spread awareness and raise crucial funds through events like the gala.
He’s also chosen to focus on his family; miraculously, he and LaForce are expecting a baby boy this fall, and will finally enjoy the gift they’ve helped 18 families — and seven more soon — receive.
“We are incredibly grateful and inspired,” LaForce tells CultureMap. “Our goal every year is to raise more money than the previous year. We believe when people see what we are doing, and meet our HelpCureHD families, they will be supporters for life. Our gala attendees are a combination of dear friends, healthcare professionals, athletes and philanthropists — all of which understand the sense of urgency for our families and what we are trying to do. We couldn't do it without them.”
Seen in the crowd: Whitney and Jim Crane, Adrienne and Jared Crane, Kat and Ryan Pressly, Kyle Tucker, Tony Kemp, Marla and Matt Hurley, Jen and David Grisby, Dr. Erin Furr-Stimming and Chris Stimming, Jo and Jim Furr, Dr. Dottie Roach, Robert Clay and Dana Barton, Adrienne, Danny and Iris Shaftel, Jessica Roupe, Rachel and Jeff Bagwell, Debbie and Rudy Festari, Julia Morales, Iraida and Danny Brown, Dean Putterman, Elizabeth and John Elder, Dr. Sherri Levin, Amanda Boffone, Julie Chen, and Shelley Boyer.