Society / The Seen

A Knuckle Ball Battles Brain Aneurysms in Houston

This Field of Dreams is Driven by an Important Mission

BY // 04.22.19
photography Nikki Rosenberg

The good news is that the fellow who departed the Joe Niekro Foundation Knuckle Ball on a stretcher is perfectly fine. The odd news is that this was the second consecutive year that someone attending the annual gala left on an EMS stretcher.

All in all, it was a reminder of how health issues — particularly a brain aneurysm — can come seemingly out of left field.

The late Houston Astros pitcher, for whom the foundation is named, died of a brain aneurysm in 2006 at age 61. His daughter, Natalie Niekro, created the foundation which is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and sponsors fundraisers across the country. Funds are dedicated to research and education dealing with brain aneurysms, AVM and hemorrhagic stroke.

The prevalence of the condition was well noted on this evening at the Ballroom at Bayou Place. Emcee Deborah Duncan, KHOU Channel 11 personality, shared her personal experience with a brain aneurysm rupture. Chair Tricia Bonilla Harrison and her son, Max Harrison, shared her story of a challenging brain aneurysm, while chair Mark Sullivan lost this father, Dr. John (Peter) Sullivan, to a brain aneurysm in 2014.

Far from maudlin, the evening was a celebration of those who have overcome these health challenges. Via video Geraldo Rivera, a personal friend of Tricia Bonilla Harrison, welcomed the 300 guests and saluted the foundation for its good works. The “Field of Dreams” themed event raised close to $300,000.

A special feature of the evening was the Patient’s Choice Award presentations applauding Dr. Gavin Britz of Houston Methodist, Dr. Mark Dannenbaum of the Memorial Hermann Neuroscience Institute, and Dr. Jeremiah Johnson of Baylor College of Medicine/Baylor St. Luke’s.

Following dinner and the live auction of such must-have items as a painting by Taft McWhorter, a Steak 48 culinary bash and jewelry by Mariquita Masterson, the energy kicked up a notch with the dance tunes of popular party band Skyrocket.

PC Seen: Jean Sullivan, Gregg Harrison, Elaine and Marvy Finger, Lizzie and Dee Sullivan, Dixie DeLuca, Libbie Masterson, Ceron and Todd Fiscus, Diane Lokey Farb, Stuart Rosenberg, Tiffany and Charles Masterson, Kathy and Harry Masterson, Kathryn and Jeff Smith, Oliver Badgio, Judge Ruby Sondock, Dr. Franklin Rose, Larry Dierker, Olga and Tony Bonilla and Nancy and Duke Bonilla.

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