Event Date: April 22, 2023
Location: Crystal Ballroom at Rice
No. in attendance: 470
Money Raised: $950,000
Honorary Chair: Sherri Zucker
Chairpersons: April and Dr. Jorge Salazar
Honorees: Penny & Paul Loyd, Bob Unanue-Goya Foods/Goya Cares and Edward Finger
Presenting Sponsor: Harry Winston
Photography: Quy Tran and Larry Fagala
A Ten-Carat Evening for KNOWAutism’s Diamond Gala
How does one create a successful gala? The recipe consists of one pound of a great cause to celebrate; One quart of a smart, savvy and well-connected Honorary Chair; Two cups of great and active chairpersons; Three pints of generous and kind honorees; a gallon of big-hearted sponsors and supporters; and a gourmet evening filled with fun at every turn. The combination of these ingredients is a “sure-fire” way to ensure a prosperous event, and those lending their guidance, finance, sweat, and love towards this charity couldn’t be prouder at the total dollars raised at KNOWAutism Diamond Gala—which exceeded $950,000—making it the largest in the organization’s ten-year history.
Presenting sponsor Harry Winston and its General Manager Petra Martinez, Founders Tammy and Wayne Nguyen, Honorary Chair Sherri Zucker, Chairpersons April & Dr. Jorge Salazar and Humanitarian Honorees Penny & Paul Loyd, Corporate Honorees Bob Unanue/Goya Foods/Goya Cares and Frontline Hero Honoree Edward Finger were overjoyed with the turnout and even more thrilled with the friends who came to support them and share in their joy.
Prominent television personality Deborah Duncan opened the program by singing her a capella rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and introduced Sherri Zucker, who joined Deborah in executing the festivities.
Kirksey Gregg Productions was charged with the ballroom décor. Using “Diamonds” as his muse, Kirksey and his team placed sparkling white fabric atop the tables and positioned mirrors underneath floral bowls filled with all-white roses, lilies, orchids and hydrangeas, and with diamonds gently placed inside the flowers. Crystal candelabras, gold-rimmed glass chargers of varying sizes, and diamond strewn across mirrors completed the look. The three dazzling, horizontal sponsor tables in front of the stage were completely mirrored from stem to stern!
Auctioneers Johnny “Bravo” Holloway and Toya McLeod expertly handled the auction duties. Some of the fantastic live items up for bid included an 18K White Gold timepiece with brilliant cut diamonds, donated by the Presenting Sponsor and aptly called “The Harry Winston Avenue C Mini Special Edition Watch,” a two-year lease on an electric BMW courtesy of BMW Houston, a Hermes Birken Bag, an Offshore Fishing Experience, a Hunting & Fishing Experience on 4,600 acres in Cody, Wyoming (this sold twice!), a baseball clinic with Roger Clemens, and a golfing package with him as well. In addition, a custom piece of prized art composed of recycled paper, puzzles, and jewels was donated by celebrated artist Grant Manier, who is on the spectrum and has recently signed a deal with Coca-Cola. During “Paddles Up,” bottles of tequila with 24K gold flakes suspended within were donated by Polo Gutierrez. The bottle’s base is affixed with an L-E-D light, causing the bottle to glow. Thirty of these rare bottles were sold at $1,000 each, increasing the overall charitable donation.
The “brotherly” entertainment brought guests to the floor with a performance by The Brown Brothers, prominent YouTubers, previous contestants on “America’s Got Talent,” and both on the spectrum but extremely high functioning.
As evidenced by the ballroom filled with happy faces and the organization’s treasury increased by almost a million dollars, this event was undoubtedly a ten-carat evening!
Socially present (not previously mentioned): James and Niki Lassiter, Maria Moncada Alaoui and Omar Alaoui, Dr. Bruce & Marian McClendon, Monty Meave, Suan and Reed Tinsley, Kelly Anzilotti, Clay Ardoin, Michelle Bohreer, Remington Bruce, Chris Cardenas, Dr. Peter Chang and The Honorable Theresa Chang, Dina and Mike Connolly, Dr. Lucky Chopra, Chuck Coon and Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Cooper, Dr. Marion Dana, Reza and Sarah Ebrahimi, Suzanne Ebrahimi, Scott Evans and Jeff Henry, Varda and Jess Fields, Elaine Finger, Angela and Nima Ghedami, Hugo Guerrero, Polo Gutierrez, Cheryl Haseeb, Carol and Steve Henderson, Mike Ho, Craig and Stephanie Howard, Matt Hulse, Jill and Dunham Jewett, Kelsey Keller, Kat Kerns, Sammi Khaleeq, Dr. Sippi and Ajay Khurana, Tommy Kuranoff, Debra Law, Dr. Alice Mao and Dr. Matthew Brams, David Moncada, Perri Palmero and Philip Motamedi, Yuni and Paul Paufiques, John Pearson, Dean Putterman, Juan and Nancy Quintanilla, Anna and John Reger, Victoria Riffle, Heidi and Nick Rockecharlie, Dr. Archana Sadhu and Mike Dinius, Will Shappley, Miya Shay, Taylor Imel Toombs, Jane Wagner, Laura Ward, Mayte and Javier Weitzman, David Marshall and Melanie Dinh and Linda and Ted Wu