What: Elijah Rising Gala: A Night of Freedom.
Where: Westin Hotel Memorial City.
The scoop: A glamorous crowd of 600 gathered for a serious cause to support Elijah Rising, a nonprofit working to end sex trafficking, and raise funds to support Kendleton Farms, an 84-acre farm in Fort Bend County where survivors of sex trafficking live, heal, rehabilitate and learn.
The first-ever gala for the organization, chaired by Jacqueline Smooke and Kerry Stovall, raised $260,000. The total was boosted by a silent auction with more than 160 items, including the opportunity to help furnish a room at Kendleton Farms, and a spirited "paddles up" appeal from auctioneer Mark Thomas, who also conducted a live auction for such coveted items as a Masters golf experience, Argentina dove hunt, African safari, Bali vacation, and an Astros baseball signed by Charlie Morton.
Operation Texas Shield founder John Clark; Linda Geffin, the former chief of the Harris County Attorney’s Special Prosecution Unit; Elijah Rising founder Cat French; community activist Jennifer Hohman; and several others addressed the crowd and detailed the widespread problem of sex trafficking in the Houston area along with efforts made by the organization to reduce it.
But the evening ended on a lighter note as guests rocked out to the music of Buzz & the Blue Cats with lead vocals by Gigi Welling-Nitzberg.
Also on hand were several pageant winners who have made fighting sex trafficking part of their platforms. Mingling with the crowd and adding a touch of razzle-dazzle were Mrs. Texas United States Ann Marie Reigrut, Miss Texas United States Shannon Dresser, Miss United Nations Globe Dr. Peta-gay Letbetter, Miss Bollywood Shruthi Bekal, and Miss Houston Hannah Johannes — all in glamorous gowns, tiaras, and sashes.
Who: Also seen in the crowd were 104.1 KRBE's Ryan Chase, who served as master of ceremonies, Harris County Constable Alan Rosen, Houston Police Department vice captain James Dale, Crimestoppers executive director Rania Mankarious, Erica Rose and Charles Sanders, ABC13's Miya Shay, Channel 11 anchor Ron Trevino, Dr. Brittany King, Dr. Ally Daum, Tracy and Harry Faulkner, Jennifer and Mike Larsen, Claudia Sierra, Ashley Petersen, Gayla Bentley, Elijah Rising executive director Micah Gamboa, Elijah Rising director of social enterprise Sam Hernandez, Chelsie Lancaster, and Lina Matar.