Could it be Cyndi Lauper’s jaw-dropping soprano notes at the astounding age of 68? Perhaps the image of noted and universally loved Houston philanthropist Laura Ward working the ballroom in sneakers?
Or, was it the announcement that Ward’s venerable Houston Children’s Charity Gala raised a record-breaking $2.8 million for local underprivileged, abused, and disabled children? (For some perspective, that’s considerably more than the operating budget for local myriad nonprofits.)
Yes, let’s go with the latter as the pivotal moment — as the 24th annual Houston Children’s Charity Gala’s nearly $3 million haul is nothing short of historic for a city already famous for its charity.
Some 600 supporters packed the grand ballroom at The Post Oak Hotel went cocktail and totally ’80s — ditching their black tie and ball gowns in favor of on-theme Wall Street/Gordon Gecko, Miami Vice, all-denim, and even Boy George (April Salazar!) looks. Gala chairs Frances and Tony Buzbee were a vision in their own attire (Tony’s shimmering jacket made quite the statement).
Emcee Gina Gaston welcomed guests and the Rev. Mary Gracely, of One Spirit Interfaith Community, who offered the invocation.
A comical moment came when Houston Children’s Charity president and CEO, the aforementioned Ward (the personal powerhouse behind the organization’s quarter century of caring) honored 2020 gala chair Hallie Vanderhider and called her to the stage. The always-humble Vanderhider waved and quickly made her way off the stage, charmingly declining to address the crowd.
Big board auction items included diamonds, designer handbags, shopping excursions, furs, and dining experiences with baseball royalty, art, trips to Argentina, Colorado, the Buzbee Ranch in Montana, and much more.
Another buzzy item was a gift chip from Tenenbaum Jewelers to be scanned for a chance to win gift bags.
Snappy auctioneer Vikki Vines revved up the excitement with the chance to bid on a 2022 BMW 4 Series Convertible donated by BMW of West Houston and Momentum BMW Southwest. (Winner Michael Hoctor sped off with that ride.)
More good news: After five vans were donated during the pre-event underwriter party, the charity ultimately secured a total of 22 new vans for the children.
And oh, Cyndi Lauper and her effortless She Bop. Bringing the house down with classics such as “Time After Time,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” and “True Colors,” she paused for inspiring speeches, salutes, and to invite April Salazar’s beaming (and totally shocked) mother onstage for a photo.
In all, a stellar night for a worthy nonprofit. Cheers to Ward and her work: No doubt, she will ensure — time after time — that needy Houston kids will enjoy a better life.
Rad guests included: Paige Fertitta, Margaret Alkek Williams, Maria Moncada Alaoui and Omar Alaoui, Tommy Kuranoff and Veronica Nemeth, Rachel and Jeff Bagwell, Lisa and David Atkins, Gary and Amy Becker, Dr. Susan Blaney, Dan D’Armond, Grant Guthrie, Dr. Jorge and April Salazar, John Johnson, Melissa Juneau, Gary and Marcie Justice, DeeDee and Wallis Marsh, Edna Meyer-Nelson, Bob and Debbie Ogle, Amy and Rob Pierce, Kristina and Paul Somerville, Carol and Tom Sawyer, Morris and Toni Smith, Robin Young Ellis, Constable Alan Rosen, Mario Elie, Dr. Lois Moore, Melanie Lawson and John Guess, Art and Patti Rascon, Dr. Laura Murillo and Rick Noriega, Trini Mendenhall, Rod and Amy Ryan, Brian and Norelle Becker, Shelby Hodge and Shafik Rifaat, Ramy and Rania Mankarious, Robert Horry, Jim and Paulina McGrath.