Terminal Moms Dream Big at Gilley’s Dallas
On April 30, 2016, Ally’s Wish hosted its Second Annual Boots & Blessings Gala at Gilley’s Dallas. With the combined efforts of honorary chair Tricia Sims and gala chair Laura Downing, the country chic affair garnered funds to grant wishes for young mothers battling terminal illnesses in North Texas and across the country.
(Top slideshow photo: Heather Bryan, Melissa Cary, founders; Laura Downing, event chair; Tricia Sims, Honorary Chair; Missy Phipps, Holly Reed, founders.)
By 6:30 p.m. the NBC5 news truck was stationed outside the venue, anxiously awaiting the arrival of special guest and current Ally’s Wish mom, Tanya Norris of Keller, Texas. Her battle against Glioblastoma Multiforme, more commonly known as brain cancer, made headlines just days before the gala. NBC5’s Chris Jose reported live from Gilley’s Dallas, capturing Tanya’s night out on the town and sharing her experience with viewers. Norris said she hopes her story will shine a light on this very rare and highly aggressive cancer, especially during the month of May which is Brain Tumor Awareness Month.
The doors opened at 7 p.m., and host committee members Cathy and Tommy Vieth, Tom Irwin, Kersten Rettig, and Scott and Kunthear Douglas donned their best getups — some sporting boots and jeans while others flashed boots and bling.
The Breckenridge Band, whose notoriety includes performances for five U.S. presidents and superstars like Martina McBride, Willie Nelson and Charlie Pride, sang country hits from George Strait to Blake Shelton for more than 300 guests.
With drinks in hand, courtesy of Candy’s Signature Cocktails and Community Beer Company, guests vied for more than 150 items at the silent auction tables. The Blushington touch-up station ensured all the ladies looked flawless before photographer Bob Manzano flashed his camera.
By 7:45 p.m. emcee and The Real Housewives of Dallas star LeeAnne Locken used her best negotiating skills to peel bidders away from the silent auction tables, in exchange for the dinner tables.
Guests noshed on a grand Texas BBQ buffet, complete with apple cobbler and vanilla ice cream as Ally’s Wish founders Missy Phipps, Melissa Cary, Holly Reed and Heather Bryan shared the history and mission of their 2-year-old organization which has raised more than $150,000 and granted 17 wishes to date.
Honorary chair Tricia Sims and gala chair Laura Downing thanked sponsors and spoke of their passion for the nonprofit. There was not a dry eye in the room while Pat and Larry Conner, parents of the late Allyson Hendrickson for whom Ally’s Wish is named, gave a compelling account of Allyson’s seven year battle with ovarian cancer, her unyielding faith and devoted love of her family. “Her battle was for one thing and one thing only, and that was to spend as much time as possible with her three sons,” Pat said. She shared a story about Allyson’s youngest son on a night after her passing, telling his grandmother, “I just can’t stop missing her. She loved me with her whole heart.”
Allyson’s wish was the first granted – to have her blog, “My Three Sons,” published into a book titled “Three Little Cowboys,” so her family may cherish her words for a lifetime.
Applause ensued as Locken addressed the crowd, “I bet you’re reaching for those tissues now, aren’t you? We’re about to start the live auction so remember to raise your hand high, just like you’re in church!”
The bidding wars began as Charla Goodwin Janecka boasted unforgettable experiences like the Best of Dallas Restaurants including Uchi, Mercat Bistro and Gemma and a night out with NFL Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett and his wife Janet at Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House.
Special guests Russell Spencer, husband of the late Terran Spencer, an Ally’s Wish recipient and Tanya Norris shared their gratitude for the founders and thanked all who make these wishes a reality. Terran’s lifetime love of dolphins inspired her to dream big, and her wish to visit Hawaii with her family was granted in 2014. This summer, Tanya will travel to Nashville, Tenn. with her husband Brian and 10-year-old daughter to visit one of Music City’s most iconic landmarks, the Grand Ole Opry.
In a matter of minutes, gala goers donated more than $30,000 during the live auction and “Fund A
Wish,” ensuring that five of the current nine wish requests from mothers spanning New York, Chicago, Colorado, Texas and more would be fulfilled.
As the program came to a close, country singer/songwriter Britnee Kellogg had the crowd on their feet with hits by Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town and Miranda Lambert. After a night of donating and dancing, party-goers grabbed their party-favors provided by Sugaire™ Organic Cotton Candy and headed to the valet line.
For more information about Ally’s Wish visit www.allyswish.org.
About Ally’s Wish
Ally’s Wish, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in North Texas devoted to granting a last “wish” to terminally ill young mothers so that families may create a memory that lasts a lifetime. Founded in 2014 in honor of Allyson Hendrickson, wishes are granted in the form of services, gifts, transportation, lodging, or any other wish the mother may have. For more information visit www.allyswish.org.
Photos by Bob Manzano. Press release courtesy Ally’s Wish nonprofit organization.