It's a big year, numbers-wise, for Emmitt Smith. At the beginning of May, the football legend was not only gearing up to turn the big 5-0 but also hosted the 10th annual Emmitt Smith Celebrity Invitational gala with his wife, Pat Smith. The event celebrates years of service, philanthropy, and positive community impact for Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities in North Texas, and is followed the next day by a celebrity golf tournament.
This year, event chairs Mahisha and John Dellinger invited a glitzy, sports-heavy crowd to walk the red carpet at the Omni Frisco at The Star, pausing first for cocktails and to browse the silent auction items (plenty of sports memorabilia, of course) before heading into the dining room.
Host and Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts welcomed the crowd, which included such sports icons, entertainment luminaries, and local notables as Eric Dickerson, Eddie George, the new Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris, Torii Hunter, Christopher "Kid" Reid of Kid 'N Play, John Rocker, Melissa Rycroft Strickland, Bruce Smith, Joe Torry, Everson Walls, Dawn and Jon Mellon, Mike Ruley, Cheryl "Action" Jackson, Donna Richardson, Claudia and Tony Habeeb, and Joyce and Jerry Morrison.
Each year, the highlights of the evening's program are the awards bestowed upon community leaders who are leveraging their platforms to support others. The Roger Staubach Award recognizes sports and/or entertainment professionals who positively impact the lives of children by living courageously and creating opportunities for today's youth. This is the only award to be named in Staubach's honor other than the one established at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy.
Roger Staubach, who along with his wife, Marianne, was an honorary chair for the event, personally presented this year's honor to Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki in acknowledgment of the amazing work they have done through The Dirk Nowitzki Foundation, which lifts up children who are affected by illness, poverty, abuse, and neglect and directs them on a path to success.
The Changemaker Award was given to LaTorsha and LaDainian Tomlinson for their efforts to enhance the lives of deserving families through education, social and culture awareness, and positive self-esteem through their organization, Team America. Team America aims to provide an environment where we are not forced to choose sides, but instead motivated to stand together and determine the best way forward — emphasizing inclusion for all.
Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities also recognized long-term donors and friends who have stood by them since the beginning with the All Star Partner Award: Dee Lincoln, David and Tina Craig, and Lamonte Thomas.
In addition to the exciting live auction, a major highlight was when Toyota surprised a deserving family that had just received scholarships from Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities with a brand-new car.
All told, the evening raised $1.1 million for the charitable group, which supports more than 150 charities in North Texas, including 10,000 DISD students and families through the annual back-to-school program. Pat and Emmitt Smith personally mentor a group of high-potential, high-performing, underserved students from the Dallas area through their signature program, TEAM 22. In order to nurture their growth into confident young leaders, the Smiths host unique educational experiences, send them to leadership camp, pair them with mentors, and require that they give back through community service.