Lynn Wyatt makes a rare champagne toast for photographers at the 2018 Trees of Hope gala ©Al Torres Photography Inc.
Tilman Fertitta at his Catch Steak restaurant in Manhattan's meatpacking district contributes $1 million to relief of his workers following Hurricane Laura.
In this year fraught with the ubiquitous ramifications of COVID-19, it might seem a challenge to focus on things for which to be thankful. Our families, our friends and our health (Mother Nature willing) are surely at the forefront on this Thanksgiving. In an effort to encourage the spirit of this holiday, PaperCity asked three Houston icons — Lynn Wyatt, Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Tilman Fertitta — to share what they are most thankful for.
“I’m just so thankful for my family,” she begins. But adds quickly that that’s not what she wants to talk about.
Rather La Wyatt goes back to the late 1990s when she had a serious health scare with cancer, a deadly tumor. She received the diagnosis on the day that she was hosting a lavish dinner party for movie moguls and diplomats at her villa in the South of France. She carried on with the glamorous evening and by midnight was on a flight back to the Texas Medical Center and a successful surgery.
Three months later, she recalls, she was regularly asking God “What do you want me to do?” in gratitude for her lasting bill of good health. The answer came in the form of a request from Star of Hope which serves Houston’s homeless. The shelter needed 30 turkeys for Thanksgiving. Wyatt gave them 60, the additional 30 for Christmas, but not before she visited the shelter.
“I was so impressed with what they were doing that I immediately signed on to help,” she said. The philanthropic diva and her husband, Oscar Wyatt, thus began a decades-long relationship with Star of Hope.
In 1996 Trees of Hope, established as a fundraiser by Carloss Morris in 1990, pivoted from a tree festival to a black-tie gala and Lynn Wyatt was the first chair and has been honorary chair every year since then. Since its founding, Trees of Hope has raised more than $10.5 million for the homeless shelter.
And this gift of good health that led to her relationship with Star of Hope is what Wyatt says she is truly most thankful for.
Mayor Sylvester Turner
“This year, I am thankful for my health and my daughter’s health. I am grateful that Houstonians have once again demonstrated their compassion by looking out for each other and the most vulnerable in our city,” the Mayor emails. “I am touched by the food and turkey giveaways, which are critically important when so many individuals have lost jobs as a result of the pandemic.
“I am thankful that Houstonians are resilient. I ask them to keep doing their part to stop the virus from spreading, so we can keep our businesses and schools open.
“Most of all, I am thankful for the sense of optimism. I know that tomorrow will be better than today, as my mom would always tell me.”
“I love the holiday season, and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. I enjoy the smell of turkey and all the side dishes baking in the oven and spending time with my loved ones.
“This year, Thanksgiving Day will look and feel different because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I will spend some time feeding the less fortunate at the annual Super Feast, which will be a socially distanced drive-thru this year. Later, I will return home to have lunch with my daughter, Ashley. We will not have a large gathering because the CDC says it is not safe.
“This Thanksgiving, perhaps more than any before, I am so thankful for the health of my family and friends. Times such as these make us realize the importance of family ties which are so important to me.”