Event Date: November 7, 2021
Location: Hilton Americas-Houston
No. of Attendees: 500
Money Raised: $1,035,000
Beneficiary: Crime Stoppers of Houston
Chairpersons: Amy & Neil Leibman, Genny & John McIntyre and Sheridan & John Eddie Williams
Honoree: Dave Ward
Emcee: Shelby Hodge
Photography: CatchLight Group
Crime Stoppers’ “Leading the Way to a Safer Houston” Gala—A Plea that Public Safety Should Play No Part in Partisan Politics
Rarely does a gathering of any kind happen, where all guests feel included and not divided in some way. Crime Stoppers of Houston’s “Leading the Way to a Safer Houston” Annual Gala was definitely one of these events. At every stage of this inspiring, yet sometimes somber gala, guests were reminded that public safety is not a partisan idea and we are all part of the same quilt.
Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Chairs Amy & Neil Leibman, Genny & John McIntyre, and Sheridan & John Eddie Williams, whose deeply held beliefs regarding safety brought together more than 500 generous supporters, (which included courageous victims of crime, devoted community advocates, elected officials and law enforcement from across Texas) a record-setting $1,035,000 was raised towards crime prevention programs, including a new Safe Community Research Center launching in 2022, as well as critically needed victim services. This extraordinarily moving evening honored the innocent lives lost to senseless violence in the Greater Houston area, with many personal stories shared about becoming victims of crime. Sheridan and John Eddie Williams revealed that he was a victim of crime years ago and was robbed and shot for his Rolex.
Emcee Shelby Hodge welcomed guests and surprised everyone with a video message from a very special friend in Austin—Matthew McConaughey, followed by the introduction of the chairpersons and Crime Stoppers of Houston CEO Rania Mankarious.
Mankarious remarked, “What happened leading up to this gala is an example of a community fed up with crime and in typical Houston fashion—is literally doing something about it. Crime Stoppers has been standing up and showing up since its inception 41 years ago. There were moments when we did so quietly and moments when we were anything but; current times require the latter. And for the sake of all who call Houston home, we will only continue.”
After dinner, ABC13 Anchor Emeritus Dave Ward was honored for his 40 years of service to Crime Stoppers and the community, which included tributes from former President George W. Bush, and the late Barbara Bush (a tribute taped in 2015). Dave was escorted to the stage by several members of Harris County Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard and received a (what seemed like a lifetime) standing ovation. Dave was the first person in Houston—and luckily one with a high profile on television—to promote Crime Stoppers. He convinced the management at Channel 13 to run reenactments of crimes that had been committed so that people would call in and report what they might know about a certain offense. The rest is history … and 41 amazing years of it!
Rania touched on the biggest crime problem plaguing our city—the ramifications of felony bond reform—with a call for the community to come together to find solutions, which segued into one of the most poignant segments of the gala—a “Fireside Chat” with surviving family members of crime victims. The on-stage conversation was led by Rania and Crime Stoppers Director of Victim Services Andy Kahan, who guided Paul Castro, Theresa Seck, and Chuck Cook to courageously share their stories of how the loss of their loved ones has affected their families’ lives. The presentation concluded with a video in memory of the 149 people allegedly killed by defendants released on multiple felony bonds, felony pr bonds, and/or bond forfeiture. Victim families in the room stood as their loved ones’ photo was shown.
Socially present (not previously mentioned): Hallie Vanderhider, Jim & Carole Walter Looke, Brigitte & Bashar Kalai, Cherie & Jim Flores, Justin Vickrey, Lindsay and Scott Aronstein, David Dewhurst, Gary Petersen, Johnny Carrabba, Jeff and Rachel Bagwell, Tena Faust, Tama Lundquist, Melanie and Mace Meeks, Dylan and Jordan Seff, Charlotte and Bobby Orr, Jill and Charlie Talisman, Ron Franklin, Patricia King-Ritter, Fred Lausen, Laura Ward, Edna Meyer-Nelson, Christine Johnson, Duncan Stewart, Don Faust, Cora Robinson, Michelle and Mike Heinz, Mayor Sylvester Turner, District Attorney Kim Ogg, Senator Joan Huffman, Senator John Whitmire and Constable Alan Rosen.