Recently the Dallas Women’s Foundation held its 31st annual luncheon presented by U.S. Trust at the Hilton Anatole. Which means that 1,200 of the city’s most engaged women were all in the same place, at the same time, to support the same mission: investing in women and girls and empowering women’s philanthropy to build a better world.
Many of the women in that room purchase a seat for the luncheon year over year, not just to support DWF, but also to be together. To share stories. To be inspired.
And inspired they were — first by the fundraising totals that kept ticking up as the luncheon progressed, because attendees were encouraged to donate via text message, and they did.
On the screen behind the stage were the names of those real-time donors, and it was thrilling to see the numbers rise. With those donations, sponsor dollars, and ticket sales, the tally reached $1.2 million.
When something needs getting done, just ask women to do it.
The inspiration continued with keynote speaker Candy Chang, whom DWF president and CEO Roslyn Dawson Thompson called a “rare and wonderful person” in her introduction. Chang is best known for the Before I Die project, which took on a life of its own when she wrote the words “Before I die I want to _______” on a chalkboard wall on an abandoned building in New Orleans after losing someone she loved.
Her neighbors came out to write down their hopes, dreams, and fears, and when the wall filled up, they would wash it down and do it all over again. Eventually that house became a home again when someone bought the property, but Before I Die is so much bigger than that first wall in New Orleans.
In addition to the website, there are 500 Before I Die walls in countries around the world, including Iran, Iraq, South Korea, Chile, and Mexico, in addition to other U.S. cities. Chang shared messages from some of those walls, which ranged from the funny (“Before I die, I want to be a stripper and a nun at the same time!”) to the heartbreaking (“Before I die, I want to be accepted by my parents”).
“Contemplating death helps us focus on what’s really meaningful in our life,” Chang said, who added that the walls are a “big, honest mess.”
She also thanked those in attendance, as she herself relies on funds and grants to continue her work. “I’m one of the girls that your support helps,” she said.
Before I Die has inspired a Confessions project in Las Vegas — “Your name is tattooed on my ass,” “I eat too much cheese,” and “I still love her two girlfriends and five years later” are among the messages — as well as an interactive mural in Philadelphia.
“Our public spaces can take a profound role in helping us understand beauty and pain,” Chang said.
DWF did a remix of Chang’s Before I Die project, with cards that read, “A better world is _______.” Everyone was asked to fill them out and contribute to the installation that had been started by women and girls impacted by DWF, which was on display at the hotel ballroom entrance.
To continue the ripple effect of hope and healing, those cards will end up in places across the city like NorthPark Center and Stewpot Alliance.
Founded in 1985, the Dallas Women’s Foundation is the largest regional women’s fund in the world. Built on the belief that when you invest in a woman, there is a ripple effect that benefits her family, her community, and her world, DWF has granted more than $32 million to help create opportunities and solve issues for women and girls.