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Free Black Tie Gala Raises More Than $315,000 — The CEO Foundation Turns Heartwrenching Winter Storm Loss Into Something Good For Others

Remembering Colette, Edison and Olivia — and Building a Better Future

BY // 03.07.23

With the goal of getting all the right people in the room, the inaugural CEO Foundation gala, held at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, was invitation-only and no ticket purchase required. Surprisingly, the informational evening raised a remarkable $315,000 courtesy of the auction and contributions.

Not to be confused with corner office honchos, the Houston-based CEO Foundation mission is “promoting opportunities for the next generation of leaders, innovators and change makers.”

Jackie Pham founded the nonprofit in remembrance of her three children — Colette, Edison and Olivia — who lost theirs lives, along with Pham’s mother, in a house fire during winter storm Uri, the Texas deep freeze and power grid failures of 2021. A gas fireplace in her Sugar Land home appeared to be the culprit.

“I tucked my kids into bed and kissed my mom goodnight and headed down to my room,” Pham, a single mom, told CNN. “The next thing I know, I wake up in the hospital without my kids and waited several hours later to find out that I had lost everything.”

As early as last fall, the foundation was planting trees in the Sugar Land community and is already working on facilitating the  reimagining of school libraries beginning with the St. Laurence Catholic School, where Pham’s children attended. Gin Braverman of Gin Design Group is helming these transformations.

The foundation goal Pham says is  “to empower the next generation of leaders, innovators and change makers in memory of my darling angels, Colette, Edison, Olivia.”

Pham was thrilled with initial support with Apache IS, Veritan and the Houston Rockets among others signing on in support. Invaluable to her cause was advice and guidance received from leaders of other nonprofits including the George Foundation, Child Advocates and the Houston Symphony.

Kelly Goff, CEO Foundation founder Jackie Pham, Charlene Sabonghy at the inaugural CEO Foundation gala held at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Kelly Goff, CEO Foundation founder Jackie Pham, Charlene Sabonghy at the inaugural CEO Foundation gala held at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

In unexpected moves of generosity, most of the live auction items were donated back to the foundation’s partner network of leading kid-focused nonprofit organizations. For example, a suite at the Rockets game was auctioned off and then awarded to the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center Kids Committee, which the CEO Foundation serves as titled sponsor. The committee’s young leaders are working to innovate the museum experience for their friends and peers to enjoy.

PC Seen: Apache Industrial Holdings CEO Stephen Hillier, emcee and voice of the Houston Texans Marc Vandermeer, Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business dean Peter Rodriguez, The Lymbar owner and chef David Cordua, Child Advocates of Fort Bend CEO Ruthanne Mefford, Fish Fixe owners Melissa and Chris Harrington, and former Texas Congressman Pete Olson and wife Nancy.

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