One star shone brightest at the 2017 St. Jude Evening Under the Stars party, and her name is Mabry Landstreet. Dressed in a gold poufy princess dress, the little girl melted all 1,100 hearts inside an Omni Dallas Hotel ballroom on November 4 when she sang "The No More Chemo Song" joyfully from stage. As a former cancer patient at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, she knows the song well because she got to sing it with her caregivers before she went home.
Another shining star of the night, Megan Coleman, also brought tears with her heart-wrenching story of her 21-month-old son, Bennett, who, sadly, did not get to sing that song.
Their emotional presentations no doubt prompted the crowd to give generously. The event raised a stunning $1.68 million for St. Jude, which this year celebrates the 60th year of its founding by entertainer Danny Thomas. The night's events, emceed by TV sports personality Scott Murray, began with a videotaped welcome by Thomas' daughter, actress Marlo Thomas. She reiterated St. Jude's mission to save every child from cancer and to eliminate the financial burden of treatment for families.
After bidding in a silent auction that filled an entire lobby, the patrons, dressed in their best evening and Western chic, sat down to dinner. Guests, including Lawrence and Katy Sevier Bock, Dr. Brian and Chrissy Rudman, Dr. Michael and Robin Duffy, Matt and Keetha Hanlin, Jeff and Janna Matthews, Regina Bruce, and Abra and Robert Garrett, dined on chipotle-braised short rib and roasted sea bass, loaded grit cakes, bundles of vegetables, and flourless chocolate cake, all accompanied by MAN Vineyards wines from South Africa.
Bidding got fierce in a live auction conducted by auctioneer Letitia Frye. A progressive dinner led by Dallas chef Richard Chamberlain fetched $5,000; a 7-Eleven Slurpee truck for 250 went for $10,000. A stay at the luxurious Pura Vida resort in Costa Rica was so coveted that, at $21,000, a second one was offered at the same price. A surprise auction item came in the way of a chance to be Mark Cuban's guest on the set of the show Shark Tank; it scored a winning bid of $23,000.
Then Frye led the room in a rousing "Give to Live" campaign, challenging patrons to contribute at intervals of $10,000 and below by raising their bid numbers. More than 70 people gave at the $1,000 level, which was matched dollar-for-dollar by Orangetheory Fitness. After $269,000 had been raised, a generous couple announced they would match it, bringing the final "Give to Live" total to more than half a million dollars.
Revelers then kept the good vibes going on the dance floor, enjoying the live music of Ice House Band.
Event chairs Holly and Doug Brooks summed up the night's mission in the program book, writing, "Your generosity allows our skilled doctors and researchers to reach higher as the search for new treatments for some of the most aggressive forms of childhood cancer. With every gift, you've helped us save more children and restore hope for families everywhere."