We knew we were in for a treat when the intricate invitation arrived for the Baylor Health Care System Foundation's "Beyond Excellence" event at the Wyly Theater. Had we known there would be sexy blue lighting and truffled mac and cheese at the buffet, we would have worn higher heels and a looser dress.
After cocktails and dinner, attendees — including Gillian and Mark Breidenbach, Rene Randall, Anne Davidson, Cynthia and Forrest Miller, Margaret Crow, Michael Crow, and Susie and Leo Corrigan — were called into the theater for what we expected to be a standard stream of business-like speeches. But when we sat down in front the glowing stage, we realized this was no ordinary affair
Smoke crept out from beneath the stage floor as two performers came out singing "The Prayer" — a jaw-dropping start to what followed.
Although we heard from many people who helped shape Baylor as an institution — including Leonard Riggs Jr., former chairman of the board; Joel T. Allison, president and CEO of the Baylor Health Care System; Rowland K. Robinson, president of the Baylor Health Care System Foundation; and Erle Nye, chairman of the board — the most powerful moments of the presentation came from the stories of three individuals.
Three actors introduced Larry Walker, a heart attack survivor; James Chippendale, a leukemia survivor; and Adele Brown, a liver transplant survivor. In an on-screen presentation, the trio shared their stories, from initial diagnoses to treatment at Baylor hospitals.
In between their testimonials we listened to nurses, doctors, patients and students, all of whom have been greatly impacted by Baylor Health Care System Foundation, the nonprofit organization that raises and manages funds to support Baylor Health Care System and its charitable affiliates. The event was a moving theatrical production, with real people and real stories. (We even heard from a source there was a dress rehearsal.)
Before the dessert reception, Walker, Chippendale and Brown came out, with loved ones by their sides. Their heartfelt thanks to the Baylor Health Care System resonated with all of us.
And just when guests thought the main event had come to an end, Nye shared the current initiative to raise $250 million in the 2015 campaign.
He said that Baylor is already two-thirds of the way toward reaching that goal, and he reminded guests that "excellence is perishable." Nye credited Baylor's amazing success to deep-pocketed donors like T. Boone Pickens, Annette and Harold Simmons, and many more local philanthropists in attendance.