Event chair Kristen Jones Colby welcomed guests and thanked them for supporting children in the Dallas community. As guests dined on mixed green chicken salads and chocolate mousse, Beth E. Quill, Texas executive director of CDF, introduced scholarship recipients via video before hearing from the honorees themselves.
We heard heartbreaking stories of how these kids went from dark places to living a life of success — thanks to the CDF college scholarships provided by individuals, organizations and corporate grants. The following students are this year's CDF Beat the Odds scholars:
- Vanessa Alanis, Texas Woman's University student and Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities Scholar
- Janeli L. Hernandez Alvarado, University of Texas at Austin student and Jersey Mike's Scholar
- Rafif Muhsin, University of Texas at Dallas student and Jersey Mike's Scholar
- Tej Dehal, University of Texas at Arlington student and Fossil Scholar
- Laura Morales, Texas A&M student and Fossil Scholar
After moving speeches, Marian Wright Edelman, president of the CDF, recognized event chair and Hail Merry CEO Sarah Chapin. She congratulated all of the scholars and told them, "We stand with you all the time," before 2003 scholar Crystal Johnson shared her current success in dental school.
Then the beautiful and benevolent Pat Smith took the stage as two of her daughters looked on from the crowd. "I want to honor God," she said. "Our God is so amazing, and I can see it through each of our scholars.
"I'm so proud of you all. I broke into tears as I listened to your stories, and I could feel your spirit."
Smith talked about CDF and its efforts to improve the quality of life for all children, and she shared her family's love for supporting the wonderful cause. She thanked Chapin and Lara Ashmore for inspiring her and husband Emmitt to get involved.
Simply put, she said, the key to giving and making a difference is to "open up your heart."