More than 400 Dallasites escaped the hustle and bustle of city life Thursday night and headed to a more scenic location to attend “Wings Over the Wetland: Beyond the Surface.” The event benefited the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, which serves as the hub of environmental and social interest for the 3,100 acres of man-made wetland habitat on the Rosewood Seagoville Ranch property located about 20 miles south of downtown Dallas.
Co-chairs Elise M. Saab and Haven Sands Heinrichs welcomed a number of notable figures to the charitable fête, but the evening’s guest of honor was award-winning actress, director, philanthropist and former United Nations ambassador Linda Gray.
“Dallas has really shown me the enormous heart that they have here,” Gray says. “You want to be a part of it.”
Best known for her portrayal of Sue Ellen Ewing in both the original Dallas TV series and the recently canceled TNT reboot, Gray was chosen as the 2014 honorary chair for the event, which raises funds to expand water and wildlife education curriculum and research programs for the Wetland Center. The star has been a fixture on the local philanthropy circuit the last few years — through her support of local charities such as DIFFA, Family Place and Dallas Children’s Theater — so she was a perfect fit for the position.
“I love being involved in things that appeal to my heart,” Gray says. “I’ve been on different environmental boards in [Los Angeles], and I turned my house green long before it was ever thought of. So I’ve always been mindful of conserving and being grateful for what we have.”
Using art as a medium to raise awareness for both water and wildlife conservation, the evening served as an intersection of the arts and sciences. It also conveyed the Wetland Center’s support for including arts education alongside traditional learning — a belief Gray also shares.
“I think that all children should have a creative outlet, and the creative process to go through during their development,” she says. “Without [arts education], that creativity is put away somewhere — it isn’t nurtured — and I feel that children who don’t have those opportunities really miss out.
“So situations and institutions that provide that to children whom otherwise wouldn’t have it are invaluable to the community.”
Gray splits her time between here and Los Angeles, where she has been living since shooting wrapped on season three. Despite TNT’s recent decision to cancel the show — which was shot on location in Dallas— Gray says she intends to remain a part-time Dallas resident and continue to play a role in the local philanthropic community.
“Dallas has really shown me the enormous heart that they have here,” she says. “People here are so generous, and it’s just amazing the things that they do. You want to be a part of it.
“I just talked to our producers today, and we’re thinking we have to find a new home. There are no bad feelings. It’s called show business for a reason, so in this industry, we’re always like, if one door shuts, another opens.
“But we also feel that we’re not finished. We’re not finished with the characters. We’re not finished with the show.”