Star-studded Dallas gala honors heroes who rescue the future for kids
Real heroes wear capes and cocktail dresses, prom dresses and tuxedos with pocket squares. Heroes of all stripes and sequins appeared on the red carpet for the seventh year of Unlikely Heroes Recognition of Heroes Awards Dinner & Charity Benefit on October 26th at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas.
Unlikely Heroes is a non-profit organization that rescues and restores victims of slavery worldwide. The gala has grown to be one of the most-attended events in Dallas, bringing together national celebrities from television, music, pop culture and sports with big-hearted Dallas philanthropists and business leaders.
More than 400 supporters gathered at the Ritz-Carlton for an evening that began with a sip of cocktails and a bid for fabulous silent auction items. After a few red carpet poses, guests filled the ballroom to enjoy a multi-course dinner, along with joyous conversation and hearty speeches that got them on their feet several times.
Notable guests in attendance included a TV personality Melissa Rycroft Strickland and her husband, Tye Strickland, Actress Jessica Oyelowo, Singer / songwriter Shane Stevens, “Chewbacca Mom” Candace Payne, Radio host Kellie Rasberry, Dallas Lifestyle Guru Steve Kemble, WWEs Cathy Kelleyand NFL star Shaun Alexander and his wife, Val.
Cassadee PopeThe winner of The Voice started the evening with a selection from her new album. The guests were then warmly welcomed by the hosts of the evening, the comedian Anjelah Johnson (with a silver cloak that flowed to the floor) and Real Housewives of Dallas star LeeAnne Locken. Their funny joke on stage throughout the evening kept the mood light and happy.
Multiple presentations – from Unlikely Heroes CEO and Founder Erica Greve;; executive Director Ladle Sherpy;; and survival guide and lawyer Rebecca Bender – – highlighted the important work Unlikely Heroes is doing in saving children and restoring their lives for success to come. Greve spoke passionately about a young woman who studied medicine at Baylor University as a child.
Bender (himself once a victim of human trafficking) stressed that young people need to know that they are not defined by what has happened to them in the past. She spoke of her personal journey to regain her life and use her experiences to develop Elevate Academy – a unique online program that provides students with opportunities for healing, recovery, mentoring, professional training, life coaching, empowerment and leadership development.
Greve announced the integration of the Elevate Academy into the daily work of Unlikely Heroes. In addition to the nationwide expansion of the program, local chapters of Elevate Extended will be released in spring 2020.
Then it was time to recognize the heroes who made the work of the organization possible. Hero Awards were given to Shaun and Val Alexandersitting on the board; Janet Jensen, Sgt. Thomas Peterson, Dr. Vanessa Mouth, Erik Gray, and Jeri Moomaw for their tireless work in promoting global human rights and their efforts to stop human trafficking. Joanna Czech, Brian and Annie Zvonecek, Gary and Janet Greve, and Natalie Backman Spirova received Legacy Awards for her continued support for Unlikely Heroes.
Guests had the opportunity to help personally by raising their “paddles” to an amount that felt right to them. A generous patron pledged an astonishing $ 100,000; another, $ 55,000. Those who could give at the $ 5,000 level had to be founding members of the newly formed Heroes Club. But even those who raised their hands for a $ 100 donation helped the organization raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in just a few minutes. The fundraising part ended with a spirited “Last Man Standing” competition for the chance to take a selfie with all the stars present that evening.
After a celebratory champagne toast, the crowd surrounded the stage for a highly anticipated show by the evening entertainer. Grammy nominated pop symbol Taylor Dayne (who hasn’t aged a minute since topping the charts in the late 1980s) played an energetic string of her hits, including “Love Will Lead You Back,” “Prove Your Love,” and “Tell It To My” Heart. “
Guests sang and danced along until it was time to pick up auction items, grab a fabulous bucket bag, and head outside to the valet or the rattlesnake bar to continue the festive night.
Unlikely Heroes has saved hundreds of children since 2011, and their journey to freedom begins at one of their six restoration homes around the world. Unlikely Heroes teams are on-site in the United States, Mexico, Thailand, and the Philippines, providing restorative care, safe housing, education, life skills, medical care, counseling, stability, and love to each child they care for.