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Beloved Oil Tycoon’s Family Turns Legends Night Into a $1.25 Million Win For Texas Children’s — Lester Smith’s Legacy Lives On

Following Up a Record Breaking Night In Grand Fashion

BY // 05.16.24
photography Jenny Antill/Texas Children's Hospital

In some ways Texas Children’s Hospital’s An Evening With Legends” gala, chaired by the late Lester Smith’s family, evoked a feeling of nostalgia for this was the second time that the family together had committed to harnessing serious money for the Houston hospital.

The gala at the Post Oak Hotel raised $1.25 million continuing the philanthropic legacy of the beloved oil tycoon. The funds are earmarked for Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center.

Sue Smith, Jim Eberly, Shelly & Brian Hendry 3 (Photo by Jenny Antill/Texas Children's Hospital)
Sue Smith, Jim Eberly, Shelly & Brian Hendry at Texas Children’s Hospital’s ‘An Evening with Legends’ (Photo by Jenny Antill/Texas Children’s Hospital)

In 2018, Lester and Sue Smith were joined by his children and their spouses — Shelly and Brian Hendry and Limor and Stuart Smith — in chairing the Texas Children’s Legacy of Motown” gala that set a Lone Star State record for money raised in a single-night fundraiser. That’d be $83 million, including the $50 million that the Smiths committed themselves.

This 2024 gala featured “legends” composer David Foster and songbird Katharine McPhee in a musical presentation that wowed the gathering of 700. Adding to the entertainment, Texas Children’s Cancer Center patient and aspiring Broadway star Layla Bourghese sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” accompanied by Foster, inspiring a standing ovation.

Dr. Susan Blaney, Dr. Asha Virani, Farid Virani & Debbie Sukin (Photo by Jenny Antill/Texas Children's Hospital)
Dr. Susan Blaney, Dr. Asha Virani, Farid Virani, Debbie Sukin at Texas Children’s Hospital’s ‘An Evening with Legends’ (Photo by Jenny Antill/Texas Children’s Hospital)

For the evening, the hotel ballroom was enriched with the ambience of a swanky piano bar. Decor by Blooming Gallery.

Texas Children’s president Debbie Sukin served as master of ceremonies. She and Dr. Susan Blaney, director of the cancer and hematology center, shared insights on the valuable clinical research initiatives underway at the nation’s largest children’s cancer center.

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In a joint statement made in 2018 with the opening of the Texas Children’s Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower, made possible by the couple’s $50 million gift, the philanthropic duo noted: “Giving to others is our guiding philosophy.

Brittany Franklin, Frances & Tony Buzbee (Photo by Jenny Antill/Texas Children's Hospital)
Brittany Franklin, Frances & Tony Buzbee at Texas Children’s Hospital’s ‘An Evening with Legends’ (Photo by Jenny Antill/Texas Children’s Hospital)

“There is nothing more precious than a child, and we hope this gift will help support the incomparable patient care for which the hospital is known. It is truly our honor to leave a legacy of support for generations to come at Texas Children’s.”

PC Seen: Glenda and Russell Gordy, Carolyn and Jake Sabat, Jan Duncan, Jenny Ekins, Cyvia Wolff, Maria and Neil Bush, Frances and Tony Buzbee, Asha and Farid Virani, Lauren and Adam Alan, Donna and Norman Lewis, Ann Ayre, Steven Arnold, Sean McCoy, Brittany Franklin, Dr. Laura Shekerdemian, Ralph Weber, and Cathy and Joe Cleary.

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