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