Kenny Goss, Joyce Goss, and Jessica Nowitski (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Co-chairs Kara Goss and Jennifer Karol (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Soledad O'Brien and Ken Lambrecht, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Lael Brodsky, Rachel Lee-Hovnanian, Lera Lee (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Darren Walker (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Wendy Davis and Ron Kirk (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Regan Fearon, Lizzie Routman (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Lindsay Billingsly, Lucy Burns (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Cynthia Wallace (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Lee & Amy Fikes (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Rabbi David Stern (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Colin Allred, Shannon Wynne (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Margot Perot, Suzanne Perot McGee (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
Cecilia & Garrett Boone (Photo by Kristina Bowman)
I pen this as Dallas has pulled up drawbridges and limited activity due to COVID-19. One of the last fundraisers held before the mass of postponements and cancellations was the annual Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas luncheon, this year chaired by the passionate and stylish powerhouse duo Kara Goss and Jennifer Karol.
My involvement with this incredible charity began last year when my dearest friend, former Bomb girl Ann Hobson, chaired the 2019 luncheon. Sitting on her volunteer committee, I learned so much more about the organization, despite having been aware of Planned Parenthood since my teenage years.
Planned Parenthood serves tens of thousands of Texas residents annually. The healthcare that they provide includes contraception (including long-acting, reversible contraceptives such as IUDs); sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment; HIV testing; annual exams; breast and cervical cancer screenings; gender-affirming hormone therapy; and safe, legal abortion. Before my involvement last year, I had no idea that they are an organization that serves transgender people and patients on the spectrum of gender identity and expression. Numerous barriers prohibit many transgender Texans from receiving the healthcare they deserve, and Planned Parenthood is committed to eliminating those challenges.
When another of my closest friends, Jennifer Karol, asked me to join her committee, I said, “Yes — and let me know what I can do to ensure your success.” During the 12 months leading up to the luncheon, I watched the impassioned and committed work that she and co-chair Goss did to raise funds and awareness.
The night prior to the luncheon, a patron party was held at The Joule hotel downtown to applaud the soon-to-be-honored awards recipients and to introduce sponsors to Soledad O’Brien, the fundraiser’s keynote speaker. Headington Companies generously underwrote the evening, which was a true celebration for all who gathered.
From the chic makeshift mirrored stage, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Ken Lambrecht presented awards to Suzanne Perot McGee (the Gertrude Shelburne Humanitarian Award) and social justice activist Cynthia Wallace (the Volunteer of the Year Award); both were lauded again at the following day’s luncheon.
Jeny Bania, from the Headington team, remarked to the well-heeled crowd, “We share a spirit of commonality with you. We invest in the long term of our visions; we recognize that being a pioneer comes with its obstacles; and we are willing to reinvent ourselves in changing times while maintaining focus on why we are here.” After some applause and clinking of wine glasses, she went on to say, “We are proud to stand with Planned Parenthood, because beyond being a service organization to so many in our community, you are a rights organization—and that voice feels most important today.”
The annual luncheon is generally held at the Hilton Anatole, since it has one of the few spaces large enough to accommodate a crowd this size. This event happened just prior to the flood of postponements and cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic. The large group of supporters and donors who joined together with patients, advocates, and elected officials to raise funds were aware of the virus (this was March 6, before any measures had gone into effect regarding closures and self-isolating) but still decided to come together in solidarity. I heard time and again from passionate advocates including Marguerite Hoffman, Kristen Cole, Selwyn Razor, Jessica Nowitzki, Matrice Ellis-Kirk, and Muffin Lemak that they couldn’t stay home and not be there to show allegiance to Planned Parenthood. Honestly, this event — which was celebrating its 30th anniversary — has always drawn a who’s who of those in Dallas who believe in women’s rights and healthcare.
I was honored to be included at Zoe Bonnette‘s table that day. She, like many others in the room, had made a conscious effort to invite as many men as possible to show that this is not strictly a woman’s fight. With that in mind, I sat between Zoe and dashing interior designer Doniphan Moore (who made my list for 2019 Best Dressed). Before walking into the ballroom, guests were invited to shoot a short video in support of Planned Parenthood, and I saw lots of men in line, including Faisal Halum, Gonzalo Bueno and husband Michael McCray, and Robert Hallam.
The chairs came to the stage, both in chic power suits, to much applause. From the podium, Goss shared, “Almost 30 years ago, I walked through the doors of a Planned Parenthood Health Center as a patient. Throughout my time as a patient, I was given the exceptional care and education I needed to make the best choices I could for myself. Making Planned Parenthood my medical home for nearly 10 years gave me control over my future. It set me on a path that made it possible for me to return as a supporter and advocate today.”
Karol went on to comment on the challenges that many face locally. “Dallas County has some of the most challenging healthcare barriers and outcomes in a state that already ranks among the lowest in healthcare access and resources,” she said. “Teen pregnancy, lack of health insurance, and STI rates are all public health issues people in our community must confront without the resources they need. It’s not complicated or even political to understand that without access to basic healthcare, people cannot thrive. Planned Parenthood changes lives.”
Later that afternoon, a group of us, including Reed Robertson, Wendy and Bill Payne, and Deborah Scott, toasted Goss and Karol at Park House. As I joined up with Alvise Orsini and Ann Hobson (to chat about another fundraising initiative — more on that later), everyone was drinking rosé and skinny margaritas when the text came in that the two had raised close to $1.5 million for the cause.