Keeping a Vital Charity Going Through Coronavirus — Laura Ward’s Difference Making Mission
All the Ways Houston Children's Charity HelpsBY Shelby Hodge // 12.21.20
Toyota Center could be a more exciting place next season.
Houston Children's Charity CEO Laura Ward and Houston Rockets CEO Thad Brown celebrate the Toys for Tots partnership. (Instagram photo)
Houston Children's Charity takes over Toyota Center for distribution of Christmas toys to 12,000 children. (Instagram photo)
Dave & Laura Ward Houston Children's Charity CEO (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
For much of last week, Laura Ward‘s Instagram account was afire with images of volunteers packing Christmas gifts for the 12,000 children who over the weekend received them at Toyota Center. And that was only a smidgen of what Houston Children’s Charity, which she heads, does throughout the year.
As CEO of the nonprofit that she and a handful of generous Houstonians founded in 1996, Ward is on a daily mission to aid area youngsters in need. As she says, “Houston Children’s Charity never forgets its mission even in a pandemic.” And even with its all important fundraising gala, which was scheduled for March 26, 2020 canceled, the good deeds go on.
At this time of giving, we thought it would be interesting to review how much good the charity has done in 2020, despite COVID-19. The numbers are impressive.
Through HCC’s Chariots for Children program, 15 families were awarded wheelchair accessible vans, costing $36,000 each. Those made possible by a host of charity supporters including Amy and Gary Becker and Jana and Richard Fant, both couples through their individual foundations; Edna Meyer-Nelson; Suzanne Klein; and a host of companies.
Through the much-admired A Better Night’s Sleep program, HCC by year’s end will have distributed 1,000 beds complete with mattress, foundation, bed frame, a set of sheets, a blanket and a pillow. In November, 250 of those beds were donated in partnership with Texas Mattress Makers. That program and others were a direct result of Ward’s due diligence visits to homes to assess true need.
She found untenable sleeping situations ranging from infants snuggled in dresser drawers to trios of toddlers sleeping side-by-side on a single twin-size mattress to grade schoolers huddled into refrigerator boxes turned makeshift cots.
In August, the Back to School program went into high gear distributing 3,000 backpacks filled with school supplies. The HCC Closet has reopened, full safety protocols in place. Here, HCC clients can shop free of charge from among the 2,500 pieces of new clothing donated by Macy’s Galleria and Macy’s Memorial City.
Last week, the Houston Rockets allowed HCC to take over Toyota Center for the charity’s annual Toys for Tots toy distribution. The drive-thru distribution allowed families to stay in their cars while HCC volunteers loaded the goodies into the trunks.
“We are so thankful for the Fertitta Family, the Houston Rockets, and Toys for Tots for coming together to provide Christmas Cheer for 12,000 underprivileged children,” Ward says.
“My favorite part of the job is when all of our efforts culminate on a distribution day. The kids come with their parents, and they are so excited. They jump up and down like most kids do when you take them to a candy store.”
With cancelation of that March gala, Ward and gala chair the munificent Hallie Vanderhider hit the phones encouraging table sponsors to fulfill their commitments even without the party. They also managed to sell a few auction items. You might call it a COVID-19 miracle as they netted $1.2 million.
The 24th annual Houston Children’s Charity gala is scheduled for April 16, 2021, with Frances Moody and Tony Buzbee chairing.