Oh my gosh … Usher and Blake Shelton will rock the AT&T Stadium Friday, February 6, at the Unite Forever Gala, the grand finale after a yearlong of events celebrating the 90th Anniversary of The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. We chatted with Jennifer Sampson, president and CEO of UWMD, about her thoughts on this milestone celebration, the Dallas Cowboys and her biggest wish of the New Year.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED WITH THE UNITED WAY OF METROPOLITAN DALLAS?
As a business school student at Baylor University, I was introduced to the fundamentals of corporate philanthropy and social responsibility. But working at Arthur Andersen — my first job out of college — taught me how to put those fundamentals into action. It was at Andersen where I first learned about the importance of United Way’s role in building stronger communities. And it was an Andersen partner — and good friend J. Scott Wilson — on the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Board of Directors who encouraged me to seriously consider and accept an opportunity with UWMD. After a 10-year career in the audit practice of Andersen in Dallas, I transitioned to UWMD in 2001 as chief financial officer, promoted to COO in 2004 and accepted the chief executive officer appointment in 2011.
WHAT IS THE “NINE FOR 90” PROJECT?
Last year, we held nine days of community service projects called Nine for 90 — the drumbeat of our 90th anniversary — each event focused on one of our three impact areas of education, income or health and each led by a legendary Dallas Cowboys champion — including Darren Woodson, Roger Staubach, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Charlie Waters, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, and Jason Witten.
A CHARITABLE SPORT…
Our partnership with the Cowboys is especially meaningful this year because Charlotte Jones Anderson and Troy Aikman are the co-chairs of our 90th anniversary year, and because 40 years ago the United Way embarked upon a groundbreaking partnership with the NFL. At that time, the idea of a professional sports league partnering with a nonprofit at a national level and having relationships filter down to local teams and players was quite unique. And, as with so many firsts in the world of professional sports — the Dallas Cowboys were on the cutting edge.
THE EARLY YEARS?
The first United Way/NFL PSA aired in the fall of 1974 starring our very own Roger Staubach and seven-year-old Gayla Vaughn, a little girl who was in desperate need of a heart procedure. The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and Children’s Medical Center ensured Gayla received the high-quality medical treatment and care she needed. Over the last four decades many more Dallas Cowboys — more than any other NFL franchise — starred in the national United Way/NFL PSA campaign.
I HEART DALLAS…
I’ve worked in Dallas my entire professional career. I love Dallas! If, in its next 90 years, we have leaders like these, the seemingly impossible is possible. We will be the city that others look to because leadership at every level is woven into the fabric of our community by those who make their lives and careers here.
NEW YEAR’S WISH?
That all of Dallas will join UWMD for the Unite Forever Gala on February 6 — presented by Kimberly-Clark Corporation with Blake Shelton and Usher, our soundtrack of UWMD’s milestone 90th anniversary year. We will rock AT&T Stadium with a blockbuster concert, sponsored and made possible by PepsiCo.
For more details on The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Unite Forever Gala, visit unitedwaydallas.org.