lunching for a cause
TV's Leeza Gibbons charms and empowers visionary women at Dallas luncheon
What: Juliette Fowler Communities 2021 Visionary Women Luncheon
Where: Omni Dallas Hotel
The 411: A sea of purple, the official color of the Alzheimer’s movement, filled the Omni Dallas ballroom for the Juliette Fowler Communities Visionary Women Luncheon on November 18 (postponed all the way from May 2020).
The annual luncheon, which featured legendary TV presenter Leeza Gibbons and the Visionary Women Award recipient AWARE, was chaired by Michelle Feavel, with Mary and Roland Bandy serving as honorary chairs.
Over a delectable lunch starring pecan-crusted chicken, board chairman Ben Brooks presented awards to three recipients: Miranda Sullivan, the Juliette Fowler Faith and Service Award; Deloitte, the Erika McKenzie Volunteer Award; and AWARE, which is a leader in Alzheimer's care and research.
The highlight of the event was an onstage interview of Gibbons by NBC 5 anchor-reporter Bianca Castro. Gibbons, who's known best for hosting "Entertainment Tonight" and her eponymous talk show, began her reporting career in Dallas and considers Texas her adopted home state.
In keeping with the theme of the luncheon — That's My Why — Gibbons shared why she wrote her 2009 book, Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health and Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss, about her family's personal struggle with Alzheimer’s disease after her mother's diagnosis.
“My mother was so courageous in her journey." Gibbons said. "She was a strong Southern woman who drank sweet, iced tea, said yes ma’am and mixed bourbon with her Coke, and she was my biggest supporter.”
When Gibbons told her mother she didn’t know what to do when she was diagnosed, it was her mom who told her, “You have spent your life telling stories. Go tell this.”
“That’s my why,” said Gibbons. “If you don’t reveal it, you can’t heal it. I started a foundation to help families like mine.”
In an anecdote equal parts humorous and "teachable," Gibbons called her experience on Dancing with the Stars one of the “dumbest things” she ever did. The day she was supposed to dance the mambo was her shared birthday with her mom, who was in a skilled nursing home at that time.
“When the announcer on the show said, ‘Dancing the mambo – Leeza Gibbons and her partner Tony Dovolani,' I wanted to throw up and it still gives me post traumatic stress,” said Gibbons. “But I decided to dance and celebrate my mother and families who feel like they don’t have anything to dance for. I’m a control enthusiast, but you can’t lead on the dance floor. You must wait for the music and for your partner to move, and then you react and respond. This experience taught me to focus on what is left and not what is lost. Dancing with the Stars gave me a better appreciation for living in the present.”
Luncheon proceeds benefit Fowler’s One Heart Fund to support residents’ greatest needs; for more information, visit the website.
Who: Nicole Gann, Andrea Cedillos, Allison Frizzo, Jennifer Ewald, Natalie Morin, Lea McCracken, Grace Koch, Addison Gardner, Gary Walsh, Brittny Allred, Michelle McDow, Elizabeth Wilkerson, Todd Truitt, Kathleen Kirby, Lexi Moore, Emily Seifert, John McGill, Kellie Rasberry, Mark Hopper, Kyong Kim, Chanthini Connor, Barbara Gunnin, Carol Summers-Clark, Barbara Bradfield, Martha Heimberg, Jolie Humphrey, and Karisti Julia.