Chair Kimberly Schlegel Whitman Joins Honorary Chairs Roger Staubach & Troy Aikman and cancer patients, survivors, and celebrities for a fashion show, dinner, and dancing to raise funds for pediatric oncology research and treatment
Reese Lewis, 6, and Aliza Sheikh, 10, both of Plano, are featured models in theChildren’s Cancer Fund Gala “An Evening in the Garden,” where hope blooms in an enchanted garden filled with miraculous stories of survival, on Friday, April 26, 2019, at the Hilton Anatole Dallas. The event begins with a silent auction and VIP reception at 6 p.m. followed by the dinner and program at 7 p.m. Chair Kimberly Schlegel Whitman joins longtime Honorary Co-Chairs Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman to kick off the evening. The event is expected to raise more than $1 million to support pediatric cancer research and treatment programs at Children's Health and UT Southwestern. Staubach, who has been involved all 31 years, and Aikman, now in his 22nd year, join other celebrities and sponsors as runway escorts for 25 featured pediatric cancer patients, ages 4-16, who model fashions by Dillard’s for the annual fashion show, produced by RSC Show Productions. Upon arrival, guests will be transported into a lush garden setting, complete with a floral swing and a gift card tree – all designed and created by GRO Events and Design. The evening will conclude with dancing and entertainment, provided by DJ Souljah and a violin accompanist.
In January of 2017, Reese Lewis was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), cancer of the blood and bone marrow. ALL is one of the most common types of childhood cancers. Lewis is now cancer free, takes a daily chemo pill, and visits the clinic once a month for a higher dose of chemo. Her treatment will end in May 2019.
“We took Reese to the ER after she had been running a high fever for about four or five days straight,” said Morgan Lewis, her mom. “The ER doctors informed us that she needed an immediate blood transfusion and must be taken immediately to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. She was diagnosed the next day, and we stayed in the hospital for a month receiving treatment. In April, we returned to the hospital due to an unknown virus. She did not hit remission in the first six weeks as expected, but we got the wonderful news that she had after four months, and our hospital stays have stopped!”
Reese Lewis is in kindergarten at Prince of Peace Christian School. She enjoys playing with her friends, going to the pool, listening to music, and riding her bike. When she grows up, she would like to be a veterinarian. She loves princess movies and hopes she can travel to Disney World someday to see all the characters.
“I’m excited to be in the fashion show at the Gala to wear fancy new clothes and meet lots of new people,” said Lewis.
In April of 2012, Aliza Sheikh, like Reese Lewis, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Sheikh finished her treatment July of 2014. She is now in remission and visits her doctor every six months.
“Our family’s life changed forever on April 18, 2012,” said Asma Patel, Sheikh’s mother. “Just the day before my daughter went to Montessori in the morning and played outside with the neighborhood kids that in the afternoon. We had an appointment with her pediatrician for a checkup because her appetite had decreased significantly, and she had started taking afternoon naps. When we got the call from the doctor explaining that her bloodwork was pointing toward ALL, all I could think of was leukemia? That’s cancer…my 3-year-old baby.”
After a bone marrow biopsy, Sheikh was diagnosed with risk B cell ALL. She was given a blood and platelet transfusion the next day and prepped for mediport placement surgery.
“This routine surgery landed her in the ICU due to a collapsed lung during extubation,” added Patel. “It was surreal. It was a long and tough race, but we are so lucky she did not experience many side effects and her body responded well to treatment.”
Aliza Sheikh is in the 5th Grade at Haun Elementary. She enjoys knitting, building Lego sets, reading and Harry Potter movies. When she grows up, she would like to be a biomedical engineer. One day she would like to travel to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower.
“I’m ready to be a part of the Gala to help find a cure for cancer,” said Aliza Sheikh. “It will be fun to get all dressed up and be a part of such an amazing cause!”
The gala, which is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser for pediatric cancer, is sponsored by CBS 11 and features Karen Borta as mistress of ceremonies. Since 1982 Children’s Cancer Fund has donated over $10 million to the childhood cancer cause.
“The Children’s Cancer Fund Gala brings together kids who have been through such hard times, from chemo to radiation,” said Jennifer Arthur, executive director, Children’s Cancer Fund. “No matter where they are in treatment – day one or year 12 – we are celebrating their lives and letting them know they are not alone in this fight. The commitments of our supporters on this special night give us hope of a day when childhood cancer will no longer exist.”
Gala Chair Kimberly Schlegel Whitman has served as a lifestyle contributor to the TODAY Show on NBC and editor-at-large of Southern Living Magazine since 2011. She is the author of eight books on entertaining, including her latest, Parties Around a Punch Bowl. Whitman is also a mother of two children and an active member of the Dallas community. Presently, she is the chair of the NorthPark Ambassador Program, where she is working to raise awareness for Dwell with Dignity. Along with her husband, Justin, she co-chaired the North Texas Food Bank’s Food 4 Kids program for two years and served on the board. She is a member of The Sweetheart Ball, the New Friends New Life Advisory Board, and the MTV RE:DEFINE Advisory Committee, of which she is a past chair. This spring Whitman is honorary chair of the DWD Thrift Studio Event. Additionally, she is a 2018 and 2019 Crystal Charity Ball Ten Best Dressed Honoree, a recipient of the American Heart Association Volunteer of the Year Award and a co-recipient of the Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award, sharing the honor with her mother, Myrna Schlegel.
“After meeting these children at the hospital, I was amazed to see not only their strength and resilience, but also such joy on each of their faces – in the midst of their incredibly hard battles,” said Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, Gala chair. “No child or family deserves what comes with a cancer diagnosis. Children’s Cancer Fund is making an impact, and I’m thrilled to help through the Gala. I consider each of these special children my new friends in life, and I’m looking forward to supporting them in their fight.”
Children’s Cancer Fund was founded 36 years ago by a coalition of parents whose children were receiving cancer therapy at Children’s Medical Center. The organizers have since been joined by community leaders, dedicated volunteers, and health professionals in their fundraising efforts. CCF is one of the nation’s leading fundraising groups in supporting local research toward treatment and prevention of childhood cancers. Among the programs supported by Children’s Cancer Fund are the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Fellowship Program at Children's Health and the Children's Cancer Fund Comprehensive Center for Research in Pediatric Oncology and Hematology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, which is gaining a national reputation for its work in eradicating childhood cancer. In 2002, Children’s Cancer Fund initiated funding for a full-time Child Life Specialist at the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Children’s Medical Center to assist the outpatient team. The primary goal of the Child Life Specialist is to make each of the 80-90 daily outpatients’ visits a more positive experience. This position is funded annually by CCF, helping to ease the emotional strain of ongoing treatments, some lasting several years.
“The children have looked forward to this night all year,” added Arthur. “They spend the day getting runway ready and reuniting with their friends backstage, and when the spotlight comes on, you will see some of the happiest smiles. The grand finale, which features CCF models from the past 30 years, is one of the most incredible moments of the evening. These stories of survival are a testimony to the impact CCF is making in our community.”
Sponsors to date include: $75,000: Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers; $50,000: Sewell Automotive Companies; Texas de Brazil; $25,000: Children’s Health; Jennifer Stroud Foundation; Marianne and Roger Staubach; $15,000: Lana and Barry Andrews with Natalie and Mike McGuire; $10,000:Deborah and John Ahmed; Capa and Troy Aikman; Charles Bailey; Lisa and Clay Cooley; Headington Companies; James and Edna Hallsey Family Limited Partnership; Tracy and Ben Lange; McCullough Foundation; Holly and Barry Pennett, Myrna and Robert Schlegel; $5,000: Wasan and Kasim Alfalahi; Allie Beth Allman; BB&T; Lindy and Brad Berkley; CB Choi Family Foundation; Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth H. Cooper; Juanika and Monta Ellis; Gralapp Family; Greenberg Traurig, LLP/Bina Palnitkar; Hawk + Sloane; Hillcrest Five Group; J.W. Logistics, LLC; KPMG LLP; Mandy & Bill Dillard Charitable Foundation/Amanda and Charlie Shufeldt; Lori and Lee Mikles; Stephanie and Hunt Neurohr; Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki; Elizabeth and Kevin Phillips; S2 Capital; Betty and Brian Schultz; and Lisa and Steve Serra.
In-kind sponsors include: Auberge in Aspen; American Airlines; bell’INVITO; Buxton Marine; Dallas Swat; Dennis Basso; Dillard’s; Drakeley Magic; Jason Evans; Fleetwood Hicks; Gene and Jerry Jones Family Foundation; Glad Tower Live Productions; GovPlanet; GRO Floral & Event Design; Harper’s Bazaar; Hayden’s Help and Air Flow Solutions; Hilton Anatole; The Joule Hotel; Juliska; Kelmari Jewelry; Kendra Scott; Martin Brower; Matthew McConaughey and JK Living Foundation; Matthew Trent; Stacy and Mark McKay; Myra Meier and The Plaza Hotel; Nici and David Muzzo; Nomad Productions; NorthPark Center; Outfront Media; Patty Foppen Photography; Raising Cane’s; Ritchie Bros.; The Ritz-Carlton Santa Barbara; Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers; Jennifer and Walker Royall; RSC Productions; RSOUL Royal Productions; Salon Pompeo; Samuel Lynne Galleries; Sewell Automotive Companies; Society Bakery; Sprinkles and Candace Nelson; Stanley Korshak; Stuart Wietzman; and Villy Custom.
Media sponsors are CBS11/TXA21 and PaperCity magazine.
Visit the girls’ personal fundraising pages: www.childrenscancerfund.com/reeselewis
Gala tickets are $300. Contact Children’s Cancer Fund at 972-664-1450 or visit www.ChildrensCancerFund.com/gala for reservations and more information.
Children’s Cancer Fund (CCF), founded in 1982, champions kids in their fight against cancer through strategic investments in research and care in North Texas. Since its inception, CCF has awarded almost $10 million in grants, and the organization received the 2014 Outstanding Foundation Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The group seeks to partially relieve the burden of obtaining and administering funds for pediatric cancer research and treatment at Children’s Health and for selected research at UT Southwestern Medical Center, both nationally recognized programs for the investigation and treatment of childhood cancer. The Children’s Cancer Fund office is located at 4201 Spring Valley Road, Suite 370, Dallas, TX 75244. For more information, please contact Children’s Cancer Fund at 972-664-1450 or visit www.ChildrensCancerFund.com