Houston’s Million Dollar Gala Fever — 20 Parties Break that Barrier this Social Season: It’s the Gilded Age of FundraisingBY Shelby Hodge // 06.22.17
The Gatlin Brothers sing with Janice and Bob McNair at the $4 million Super Bowl gala.
Birthday cakes celebrate Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital's 30th anniversary, a $3.2 million night.
Neil & Maria Bush, Barbara Bush, President George W. Bush at $2.2 million event.
Cattle Baron's chairs Cindi Colvin, Denise Leisten, Tammy Norman.
Houston Grand Opera Ball chairs Zane & Brady Carruth bring in $1.75 million.
Seated: Peter & Ann Flour; Standing: Debbie & Jack Moore, Janiece Longoria & Steve Lasher at the $2.2 million Heart Ball.
Pratham Gala guests Pooja Vettical, Mini V, Simran Kapoor, Sandhay Ayyar
Vivek & Ishwaria Subbiah at Asia Society Texas Center's Tiger Ball
Houston Symphony Ball chairs Christina & Mark Hanson
Houston Ballet Ball chairs Anne & Albert Chao, Honoree Ann Trammell
Seven Acres gala chairs Stanley & Marsha Stein, Julie & Michael Kaplan.
Memorial Hermann Circle of Life chairs Bill & Diane Campbell and Elizabeth & Will Galtney.
Oh, how Houstonians love to party, particularly when there is a worthy cause beneath the facade of glitz and glamour. Reviewing the galas and less formal affairs of this just-ended social season, we find at least 20 events that hit or surpassed the million dollar milestone.
If you are keeping score, and maybe we are, the leader in the field of charitable fundraising was the Super Bowl “Luminaries of the Game” gala which brought in $4 million for Touchdown Houston, the host committee’s charitable giving program.
Only one rung below on the ladder of mega-fundraising was Memorial Hermann Health System’s “Circle of Life” gala. Under the stewardship of Diane and Bill Campbell and Elizabeth and Will Galtney, the evening raised $3.1 million, thanks in part to the honorees, the ever-philanthropic H-E-B and Houston CEO Scott McLelland.
No black tie was necessary for two in the next level of top tier fundraisers. Both the American Cancer Society‘s “Cattle Baron’s Ball” (think giddy up glamour) and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s “Celebration of Reading” (business attire) topped $2.2 million. Applause, applause for Cattle Baron’s chairs Cindi Colvin, Denise Leisten and Tammy Norman and Celebration chairs Maria and Neil Bush with a little assist from former President George W. Bush.
The American Heart Association’s “Heart Ball” was in that heady fundraising company as well with Dr. Robert Robbins, then Texas Medical Center CEO, leading the charge to $2.2 million in proceeds, all in a sea of red gowns and tuxes.
Clocking in at more than $1 million in proceeds were the Museum of Fine Arts Houston Latin American Experience Gala & Auction at $1.9 million, the Houston Grand Opera Ball at $1.75 million, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation gala at $1.6 million, the Houston Symphony Ball at $1.6 million, KIPP Houston Public Schools dinner at $1.55 million, Cristo Rey Jesuit “Over the Moon” gala at $1.5 million, the Pratham Gala at $1.4 million, the Holocaust Museum Houston Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award dinner at $1.25 million, DePelchin Children’s Center gala at $1.2 million, Texas Children’s Cancer Center Living Legends dinner at $1.2 million, Asia Society Texas Center’s “Tiger Ball” at $1.1 million and the Lone Star Flight Museum gala at $1.1 million.
Among those joining the seven-figure club were the Seven Acres Jewish Senior Care Center gala, the Winter Ball, the Houston Ballet Ball, and the Casa Esperanza dinner.
The pressure is on for chairs of events in the 2017/18 social season to out-perform their predecessors. No small challenge when the stakes are this high.