Justin Verlander, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, Joe Smith, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly (Dave Rossman Photo)
Amy Cole, Kate Upton (Dave Rossman Photo)
Allie LaForce & Joe Smith (Dave Rossman Photo)
Whitney Crane, Justin Verlander (Jacob Power Photo)
Carlos Correa & Daniella Rodriguez (Dave Rossman Photo)
Reagan Howard & Alex Bregman (Jacob Power Photo)
Kara & Lance McCullers Jr. serve as honorary chairs for the Pet Set 'Fierce and Fabulous' gala.(Jacob Power Photo)
Brittany Perry & Jake Marisnick (Jacob Power Photo)
Ashley & Collin McHugh (Jacob Power Photo)
Kara McCullers, Daniella Rodriguez (Jacob Power Photo)
Charlise & George Springer (Jacob Power Photo)
Jennifer Allison, Melissa Juneau (Jacob Power Photo)
Ryan Pressly & Kat Rogers (Jacob Power Photo)
Lance McCullers, Carlos Correa (Jacob Power Photo)
Rachel & Jeff Bagwell (Jacob Power Photo)
Chris & Dr. Erin Furr Stimming, Allie LaForce & Joe Smith, Jo & Jim Furr (Jacob Power Photo)
Rudy & Debbie Festari, Reid Ryan (Jacob Power Photo)
Josh & Jett Reddick (Dave Rossman Photo)
Kelley Lubanko, Shelley Reeves, Donna Lewis
The solemnity and tears that defined the early moments of the HelpCureHD luncheon, chaired by Astros pitcher Joe Smith and his wife, TNT sports reporter Allie LaForce, gave way to exuberant cheers and jubilation as the throng, led by pitcher Justin Verlander, emptied their pockets in support of a cause that strikes at the heart of the popular duo.
By the time celebrity auctioneer Johnny Bravo had completed his task, the event at River Oaks Country Club had raised $265,000 for the nonprofit founded by LaForce and Smith, whose mother is suffering from Huntington’s Disease (the HD in HelpCureHD),
Even before the serious fundraising began, LaForce told the gathering of more than 200, “The love in this room makes us feel more loved than in any city we’ve been in.” That love was shared throughout the Astros as most of team and their glamorous wives/girlfriends were in attendance.
LaForce’s thoughts were echoed later when Smith told the gathering, “This is the best team I’ve ever been on. You talk about philanthropy. This organization, you guys. We’ve got charities, great causes and it’s really good to see players, athletes, young superstars stepping up and trying to make a difference in whatever they are passionate about.
“We have some other really unbelievable charities throughout our team so if you guys see something on social media, agree to attend their events too, because everybody on the team is trying to do something with their platform. And I applaud you guys for that.”
Verlander with wife Kate Upton at his side was the first to raise his bid card when Bravo began the appeal with a $25,000 start. The contributions continued with Astros manager A.J. Hinch, players Lance McCullers Jr., Carlos Correa and more joining in the spirited raise. The enthusiasm mushroomed as the money poured in. Highlight of the fundraising was the bidding battle for two field level suits for the remainder of the Astros regular season home games and playoff and possible World Series home games, too. What started with a minimum bid of $5,000 quickly soared to $15,000 with two bidders securing the package, the Astros having donated the fan dream twice.
All of that came after a presentation by Bill Johnston, front office member of the San Diego Padres and a pioneer in the fight against Huntington’s Disease. An emotional video followed his wife’s battle with Huntington’s, which caused her death in April. Praising Smith and LaForce, he noted, “What these two are accomplishing here can end this disease.”
An equally heart-wrenching video focusing on Smith’s mother’s battle followed. A somber mood settled over the ballroom as the handsome pitcher and others shed streams of tears. Only the skills of LaForce as emcee and Bravo as comedic auctioneer lifted the spirits.
HelpCureHD is committed to aiding those suffering with the disease and helping eliminate Huntington’s, which is passed genetically from generation to generation. The disease can be defeated one family at a time through pre-implantation genetic diagnoses in vitro fertilization.
Astros and their ladies in the room: Whitney Crane, Daniella Rodriguez, Alex Bregman and Reagan Howard, Charlise and George Springer, Jett and Josh Reddick, Kara McCullers, Ryan Pressly and Kat Rogers, Amy Cole, Ashley and Collin McHugh, Stephanie and Brad Peacock, Jake Marisnick, Caroline and Will Harris, Michael Brantley, and Rachel and Jeff Bagwell, plus Astros Foundation executive director Twila Carter.
PC Seen: Honorary chairs Elizabeth and John Elder, Jo and Jim Furr, and Dr. Erin Furr Stimming and Chris Stimming, plus Debbie and Rudy Festari, Melissa Juneau, Donna Lewis, Shelley Reeves, Theresa and James Bruno, Stephanie Fleck and Jennifer Allison.