Houston Snapshots

“Winter Ball in the Secret Garden” Recognizes CCFA’s “Secret” Disease and Celebrates Its Women of Distinction Honorees

Event Date:  March 25, 2023
Location:  Omni Houston Hotel
Event:  Gala
Beneficiary:  Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation
No. of Attendees:  300
Money Raised:  $530,000
Chairpersons:  Kathy Crosby, Wendy Kovich and Catherine Rowley
Honorees:  Evelyn Leightman, Cameron Mateo Skeete, Tammie Johnson, Rani Puranik, Lisa Sailor, Jordan Seff, Mayte Weitzman, H-E-B and Texas Children’s Hospital
Emcee:  Fran Fawcett Peterson
Décor:  Let It Fly Events
Photography:  Jacob Power

“Winter Ball in the Secret Garden” Recognizes CCFA’s “Secret” Disease and Celebrates Its Women of Distinction Honorees

Omni Houston Hotel welcomed 300 guests to the 36th annual Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Winter Ball. Themed “Winter Ball in the Secret Garden,” by virtue of Crohn’s being a “secret” disease, chairs Kathy Crosby, Wendy Kovich and Catherine Rowley and honorees Cameron Mateo Skeete, H-E-B, Texas Children’s Hospital, Evelyn Leightman, Tammie Johnson, Rani Puranik, Lisa Sailor, Jordan Seff and Mayte Weitzman were delighted with the turnout, as well as the changes made to make this event so memorable.

In years past, there were ten honorees and ambassadors for children and adults. This slimmed-down gala allowed the presentation to move more quickly and guests could enjoy more time with those at their tables and those attending. An interesting side note is that the first Winter Ball was held at the Omni Hotel and after 35 years, it returned to its roots. Director of Catering Georgia Graugnard was there for both galas!

During the cocktail hour and in honor of Ambassador Evelyn Leightman’s favorite drink, “The Ambassador French 75” was designated as the evening’s signature drink. In addition, renowned photography studio Gittings created a private viewing room showcasing over three decades of honoree images for everyone to enjoy.

Houston décor company Let It Fly Events was charged with creating a garden ambiance. It rose to the task, filling the ballroom with floral hues of deep pink, vibrant purple and mixes of orange, yellow and white. Their stunning floral wall allowed invitees an opportunity to have photos taken against a garden-like backdrop.

Long-time ABC newscaster Don Nelson pre-recorded an audience welcome and an introduction of emcee and past Woman of Distinction honoree Fran Fawcett Peterson. In CCFA’s program, he is referred to as the “Voice of God!” Fran greeted all those in attendance and her first order of business was to direct everyone to the back of the ballroom. As the song “I’m Every Woman” played, the past Women of Distinction entered the ballroom. Some of those making their walk around the room included Tracy Faulkner, Leila Perrin, Jerre Williams, Gayla Gardner, Sharon Owens, Sherri Zucker, Cindi Rose, Beth Wolff, Cheryl Byington, Miriam Sera, Diva Garza-Houlette, Heidi Rockecharlie, Mary Ann Wilkins, Nancy Strohmer, Leisa Holland-Nelson Bowman, Marilu Garza, and Susan Osterberg.

The current group of honorees mentioned earlier were presented to thundering applause as their names and valued accomplishments were announced. Each honoree walked the stage to their favorite choice of music. Honoree Lisa Sailor received a standing ovation for her authentic and transparent video sharing her personal experience of having emergency surgery due to intestinal complications: a story all too common among patients with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

After dinner, DJ Harvey spun the sound to get everyone on their dancing feet. By evening’s end, this exciting gala raised over $530,000, with $100,000 of that total, gifted from Jordan and Dylan Seff. Many have commented, “This was one of the best Winter Balls we’ve attended in a very long time!”

Socially present (not previously mentioned):  Honorable Joanne King Herring, Mary Ann and David McKeithan, Susan and Edward Osterberg, Ursaline Hamilton, Harry Faulkner, Steve and Britney Massey, Dr. Charles Johnson, Drs. Alice Mao and Matt Brams, Dr. Wenly Ruan and Sean Hunt, Dr. Binci Abraham, Dr. Richard Kellemeier, Lacey Dalcour, Betty Tutor, Nick Rockecharlie, Dena Rafte and Dr. Robert Brown, Mady and Ken Kades, Linda Bates, Marian Harper and Jennifer and Dr. Rick Kline

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