Two Austin hosts, Monica Peraza and Nina Seely, made the 2018 Salonniėre 100 list, a project that attempts to name America’s best party hosts each year. It’s an intensely researched product of the Salonniėre website, founded and edited by our city’s Carla McDonald.
Also new to the list, which spotlights honorees from 34 cities in 28 states, this year are national celebrities such as movie star Reese Witherspoon, supermodels Cindy Crawford and Heidi Klum and singer-songwriter-actor Solange Knowles. Returning to the list are media mogul Oprah Winfrey, fashion designer Lela Rose and interior designers Ken Fulk, Alessandra Branca and Bunny Williams.
“I am deeply honored to be recognized on this prestigious 2018 Salonniere 100 list of the best party hosts in America, among bold faced names like Reese Witherspoon and my passionate friend Monica Peraza,” says Seely, most recently of the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum with its Umlauf Garden Partyand now a real estate agent. “Whether hosting friends, family or creating a community event, a great party is made possible with incredible guests, and I’m so fortunate to live in a community rich with engaging, passionate and dynamic people.”
Peraza was also pleased.
“I feel incredibly honored to be on the 2018 Salonniere 100 list,” says Peraza, incoming board captain of the Long Center for the Performing Arts and founder of the Hispanic Alliance, which stages the crucial Authentic Mexico benefit at the Long Center each fall. “Not only because I have so much respect for Carla Stanmyre McDonald but also because of the other people on the list, among them Oprah Winfrey and my friend Nina Seely.”
She put in a few words for the upcoming party.
“We have had the privilege of hosting the best chefs of Mexican cuisine, both in Mexico and the United States … and of course the best in Austin, too!” Peraza says. “Eleven chefs prepare dinner every year on Sept. 16. So far over 50 chefs have been part of the Authentic Mexico Gala, including the one and only Diana Kennedy.”
9 Core Values for First Tee
Maybe I should take up golf. Everybody at First Tee of Greater Austin, which teaches character through sport, seems so amiable. And the group’s annual 9 Core Values luncheon not only spotlights its worthy efforts, the brisk ceremony reminds us of our local heroes. (Oh yes, I just remembered my hand-to-eye coordination problem.)
This year at the Hyatt Regency Austin’s large banquet hall, emcee and golf sportscaster Fred Albers introduced Stephen “Steve” F. Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation, who assured the big room that the golfing industry was stable and making strides with women, millennials and people of color. Then came the parade of honorees who embody the values that First Tee tries to imbue on youngsters.
The theme this year was — naturally — the golf community. So the Robert W. Hughes Philanthropic Leadership Award went to the three founders of the local chapter of First Tee — John Ellett, Tom Martin and Jay Watson. Following that lead were others from the local golf world.
Confidence: Paul Family, founders of Golfsmith
Courtesy: Barbara Puett, golf instructor
Honest: Tom Kite, World Golf Hall of Fame
Integrity: Ben Cresnshaw, World Golf Hall of Fame
Judgment: Mike McMahan, rules expert and friend of golf
Perseverance: Mary Arnold, community champion
Respect: Beth Clecker, manager of Morris Williams Golf Course
Now the Academy Award-winning actor, the ESPN analyst and former Longhorns coach and the ACM Award-winning recording artist have set the date for their sixth annual fundraiser that culminates at ACL Live: April 12-13, 2018.
No headliner named yet, but past musical partners have included Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves, Toby Keith, Sheryl Crow and John Mellencamp. Additionally, Camila Alves will bring back your signature fashion show that weekend; past spotlighted designers have included Jason Wu, Veronica Beard, Badgley Mischka, Lela Rose, and Milly.
This addition to the fall entertainment calendar is part of Rodeo Austin’s long-range plan to be a year-round attraction, along with hopes of completely redeveloping the entirely inadequate Expo Center.
Just about every Austin nonprofit of a certain size fields a young leaders group or stages a giving event geared for young backers. Few feel as authentic or as lively as the Big Give from I Live Here I Give Here.
Credit Executive Director Celeste Flores, but also her excellent party team, who put the focus this year squarely on the Patsy Woods Martin Big Giver, Brittany Morrison, of Hospice Austin. Her speech hit every right note about personal investment in a specific charity. (We promise to interview her soon.)
Additionally, the K Friese +Associates Small Nonprofit Award went to Partners in Parenting and the RetailMeNot Nonprofit Award was taken home by Big Medium.
I had an ideal time at the Hotel Van Zandt: Chatted for a long time with two people I know and admire, Erica Saenz and Roxanne Schroeder-Arce; spoke briefly with a dozen other guests; ate three small, salty snacks; and drank one signature cocktail. Never waited in line. Never endured long distractions. Ninety minutes max. The best.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this post switched the nonprofit awards winners.
TEXAS 4000 TRIBUTE GALA
While Hurricane Harvey bore down on Texas, several Austin nonprofits chose to forge ahead with their galas. When I heard that the Texas 4000 Tribute Gala that benefits the cancer fight was not canceled, I responded “I guess if you’ve biked 4,000 miles from Texas to Alaska, a little hurricane is not going to stop you.”
Luckily, the happy warriors at the dinner sent me this report, lightly edited:
“Despite the wind and rain, Texas 4000 for Cancer had its most successful Tribute Gala to date. The funds raised at the JW Marriott, along with what was raised by the riders throughout the year, resulted in over $1 million in fundraising in 2017.
“Suppoerters were determined to not let Hurricane Harvey affect the evening, and one board member even drove round trip from Houston on Friday morning to ensure his auction items made it to the event.
“The 70 riders who biked from Austin to Alaska in the effort to fight cancer were celebrated by the 550 Tribute Gala guests, comprised of alumni, families and supporters.
“Videos portraying the 70-day summer ride reflected the many emotions the riders’ experienced, and shared some of the stories for why they ride.
“The 2017 Texas 4000 riders celebrated throughout the evening as they became Texas 4000 alumni, and the organization inspired others to help put the 15th Texas 4000 team on the road next summer.”
The amazing Jennifer Stevens answered 10 of the most common questions that she receives while organizing Mack, Jack and McConaughey, the giant benefit from buddies Mack Brown, Jack Ingram and Matthew McConaughey, teamed up with spouses SallyBrown, Amy Ingram and Camila Alves McConaughey.
Jennifer Stevens: Jack! Jack recalled attending the Ben-Willie-Darrell event as a kid and texted Mack in the middle of the night to see if he was interested in trying to do something similar. Mack responded immediately (to Jack’s surprise) and said yes and then said ‘I’ll text Matthew’.
How much has it raised and what is the impact beyond the dollars raised?
Over $5 million has been given to children’s education, health and wellness charities over the last four years. More than that, the impact of MJ&M is also seen through the partnerships being created between our beneficiaries and the heightened public awareness of the mission of these incredible organizations.
MJ&M is actually a total of nine events over the course of three days. I tell people it’s the most fun you can have while doing good! And, I tell our guests to rest up, hydrate and get ready!
Nine events in three days? How does that work?
The reason MJ&M is successful is because the guys are personally involved in every detail, there are no egos allowed and every decision is made with a 3-0 vote. We want MJ&M to be an experience, not just an “event.” MJ&M is fun, interesting and engaging at every turn. We want our sponsors and attendees to have an incredible experience and leave wanting to return for more next year. In fact, we were half sold out for this event the day after last year’s!
The Browns, Ingrams and McConaugheys determine who the beneficiaries will be and how the proceeds of the event will be distributed. I keep record of any organizations interested in being included but the ultimate decision is theirs. They are incredibly involved and invested in the mission and success of the organization. We are not interested in granting dollars to just sit in a bank account — we want to see direct impact on kids’ lives with every dollar.
What has been the impact on Dell Children’s Medical Center?
Dell Children’s opened a food allergy research center, which is now one of the leading research centers in the country, and because of MJ&M every school in the Austin school district, serving 82,000 students, has at least four epi-pens for children with severe food allergies.
What has been the impact for the Rise School?
The Rise School opened two new classes in Austin, serving an additional 24 students with special needs; they opened a musical therapy room and they provided more than 15,000 hours of much needed therapy for students. 10 children are able to receive financial assistance to the school.
Cure Duchenne was able to fund a nationwide research project, leading to the discovery of a new gene. Also, they were able to hire the top researcher in the country, and discovered new groundbreaking therapy for boys who have a Dup 2 mutation on their dystrophin gene, taking us one step closer to a cure for those with Duchenne.
What has been the impact on JK Livin Foundation?
The foundation has served over 1,000 students in Austin, teaching them about health and wellness and building self-confidence. They hired 10 new teachers in Austin and have provided after-school wellness education for children.
HeartGift has been able to perform over 20 life-saving heart surgeries on children from around the world. These children live in developing countries, and HeartGift enables them to come to Austin for the much needed, life-saving surgeries.
The Nature Conservancy Lunch is one midday repast that I rarely miss.
Folks from worlds of business, government and conservation gather in a big room each year to hear about measurable results around the state from this nonpartisan, science-based advocacy group.
The Conservancy’s ace in the hole is its leader, Laura Huffman, one of the city’s best public speakers. This day at the JW Marriott, she talked about how the preservation of Hill Country land is now a model for as far away as Africa; how the future of water in the state depends on conservation, not just new supplies; how the Columbia Bottomlands on the Brazos River are faring; how the Conservancy is building a pair of oyster reefs on the coast; and how the group pieced together land through purchase and, more importantly, conservation easements in the Davis Mountains.
During lunch, I sat between Deb Hastings, natural resources advisor to Texas Lt Gov. Dan Patrick, and Kristin Vassallo, director of philanthropy and operations for the Conservancy. You can bet that our chat was noteworthy on many levels.
The marquee act, however, was National Geographic photographer and adventurer Pete McBride. My newsroom neighbor Pam LeBlanc interviewed him later that afternoon — I look forward to that article — but I can report on McBride’s spellbinding public presentation, which began with his work documenting the adventures of others — such as walking the length of the Amazon River, not a comfortable assignment for a man from the arid West.
Then he moved on to his passion project, documented in his book “The Colorado River: Flowing through Conflict.” McBride had gone back to his childhood home near the source of the western Colorado and followed it by boat, atop a paddle board, on foot and in the air. The images, of course, are breathtaking, but more important are the ideas, including a long segment on the river’s dry delta. He was able to document the area in Mexico before, during and after a “pulse,” when water was briefly released from the upstream dams.
As readers of this column know, a buddy and I recently finished tracing 50 Texas rivers from their sources to their mouths. Nothing compared to the scale or stamina of McBride’s project, but as a friend texted me during lunch: “You must be in heaven.” How right he was.
Last week, author and dear friend Michael MacCambridge invited me to an early evening event at the Stark CenterPhysical Culture & Sport, located inside Royal-Memorial Stadium. He told me that news would be broken at this museum and archives, which I very much want to explore more thoroughly.
I walked in to find a couple hundred people milling around a tasty spread. A good two dozen of them turned out to be coworkers from the American-Statesman. So no scoops for me. Other than firing off a few tweets, I could relax and enjoy the company.
In fact, my colleague from the sports department, Kirk Bohls, quickly and elegantly wrote up the event, including a good number of the laugh lines as well as this two-part news: That the University of Texas has established two awards for sportswriters in the name of the legendary Dan Jenkins, also that the TCU graduate’s archives would land at the Stark Center.
Golf greats Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw were among those who spoke tenderly about Jenkins, but no one was funnier or more timely than the man of the hour. I count myself lucky to have heard him speak just this once.
When I joked to Jim Ritts, former commissioner of the LPGA and current director of the Paramount Theatre, that would I walk out without a scoop, he gave me a hot tip that I immediately took to our managing editor, John Bridges, who stood nearby.
As luck would have it, Ritts’ well-meaning tip was premature. The next day, our paper reported that Manchester United and Manchester City would most definitely not be playing an exhibition match at Royal-Memorial this summer. Good try.
We visit the 9 Core Values luncheon for First Tee of Greater Austin for three core reasons.
First, to learn more about First Tee of Greater Austin, which teaches character while training kids to play golf. Since 1997, more then 10 million youths have gone through the original program, which partners with LPGA, the Masters Tournament, PGA of America, the PGA Tour and USGA.
Second, to find out more about the sport, which I don’t play or watch. (I do, however, love golf courses and clubhouses.) On this occasion at the Hyatt Regency Austin’s smaller banquet room, we heard avuncular radio personality Ed Clements he interviewed PGA marketing guru Ty M. Votow from the stage. He talked about bringing the game to the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro and about the upcoming WGC-Dell Match Play. (Great timing for First Tee!)
Third, to honor outstanding Austinites who, according to an outside panel of judges, exemplify the group’s 9 Core Values. It was gratifying, for instance, to applaud Texas Tribune founder Evan Smith for Integrity and Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty for Honesty. This, despite the current public opinion of the media and politicians.
It did not surprise us that Con Mi Madre leader Teresa Granillo would win for Confidence or that Mark Kiester, recently retired from Boys and Girls Clubs of the Austin Area, would be honored for Philanthropic Leadership (not one of the values, but a welcome award nonetheless.
No one would argue that Sharon Watkins, hospitable owner of Chez Zee eatery and cultural backer, doesn’t deserve the Courtesy Award. Much-admired retired Judge Wilford Flowers aptly won the Judgement Award and Gilbert Tuhabonye, who escaped genocide in his native Burundi to found Gilbert’s Gazelles, was lionized for Perseverance. Former neighbor and much-admired musician Darden Smith was recognized for Responsibility.
Now up until this point in the ceremony, all the honorees had been subjects and sources for this column. Some had been profiled in this space. Yet the final two, Darren K. Roberts (Sportsmanship) and Ann Howard (Respect) are still somewhat new to me. I can sense two more profiles in our near future.