Houston Snapshots

HPFFA Charitable Foundation’s “Red Hot Gala” was a Flaming Success

Event Date:  November 14, 2020
Location:  Royal Sonesta Hotel
Event:  Gala
No. of Attendees:  210
Money Raised:  $410,000+
Beneficiary:  Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA)
Honorary Chairs:  Kelley and Stephen Lubanko
Chairpersons:  Elizabeth and Alan Stein
Honorees:  Hallie Vanderhider and Renee & Alan Helfman
Photography:  Daniel Ortiz and Catchlight Group

HPFFA Charitable Foundation’s “Red Hot” Gala Was a Flaming Success

More than 210 of Houston’s finest safely gathered at Royal Sonesta Hotel to celebrate the third annual HPFFA Charitable Foundation’s “Red Hot Gala,” which once again was a “flaming” success. After a quick temperature check at the ballroom entrance, guests were secured with face masks, face shields and hand sanitizer, and the doors to the ballroom were opened!  Welcoming guests was The Local 341 President Patrick M. “Marty” Lancton.

Chairpersons Elizabeth & Alan Stein (chairing for the third year), along with Honorary Chairs Kelley and Stephen Lubanko, honorees Hallie Vanderhider and Renée & Alan Helfman, sponsors and guests helped raise an amazing $410,000, which is still climbing. These much-needed funds will fulfill requests for new equipment and training.

Event producers Lenny Matuszewski and Tamara Bonar brought the “Red Hot” show to life. Some of their many highlights from the evening program were: The Houston Firefighters Pipes and Drums along with the Honor Guard, which opened the evening and brought the audience to their feet; Houston Firefighter Joe Rice then wowed the crowd with his a capella rendition of the National Anthem; and The Firefighter Calendar Men made hearts stop as they walked the runway with heavy equipment in hand and ended with them removing their t-shirts and tossing them into the waiting crowd.

Speaking eloquently and from the heart, Honorary Chairs Kelley and Stephen Lubanko shared their family’s personal experiences with firefighters in an emotional video detailing Stephen’s near-death experience and Kelley’s parents’ loss of their home—all due to fire. Stephen was reunited with the firefighters that saved him. It became an impassioned moment for everyone in the room.

So much has been accomplished over the last three years because of the continued support from our community. Along with honorees previously mentioned, this event also recognized five additional supporters who have lifted the foundation many times, over the last three years. Receiving bows and presented with plaques in their honor (which will be mounted on fire stations across Houston) are: Janet & Tom Behanick, Benjamin Berg, Troy Blakeney, Joanna & Brad Marks and Bobbie Nau.

This year has been both somber and difficult in many ways for the Houston Firefighters. The pandemic coupled with the Line of Duty deaths of Senior Captain Kevin Leago, Captain Leroy Lucio, Firefighter/Paramedic Jerry Pacheco, HFD Arson Investigator Lemuel (DJ) Bruce, Captain Tommy Searcy and Firefighter Kenneth Stavinoha were heartbreaking and tragic.

This “Red Hot Gala,” while exciting, fun and “blazingly” memorable, also became a bright spot. It gave guests a platform to recognize and honor those who have left and to comfort their families, but to also reflect on possibilities for the future. “Helmets Off” to all those involved in creating such a special evening.

Socially present: Bobbie Nau, DeeDee & Wallis Marsh, Joanna & Brad Marks, Robin & Alex Brennan-Martin, Kelly & John Weizierl, Dee & James Darby, Janet & Tom Behanick, Denise Monteleone, Benjamin Berg, Emily & Tug Hanley, Shelby Hodge & Shafik Rifaat, Gaye Lynn & Stuart Zarrow, Tori & Ed Decora, Cindy & Thomas RobertsPatti & Don Murphy, Abigail & Chris Venegas, Carol & Bill Lawler, Erin Powers, Fred Stow & Dixie Meynier, Dan d’Armond, Maryann Tinney and Gary Shaw, Troy Blakeney, Councilmember Mike Knox, Rep. Mary-Ann Perez and more.

For more information on this organization, please visit them at HPFFA website.

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