The 2018 Mercury One M1 Ball was a big, glittery affair with even bigger heart.
Event chairs D’Andra Simmons-Lock and Jeremy Lock (of Real Housewives of Dallas fame) brought together internationally recognized supporters and patrons — along with local friends and leaders in the arts, social, and business communities — for a powerful night of fundraising, and plenty of fun on the side.
The seven-year-old nonprofit Mercury One provides aid and funding for disaster relief, humanitarian and veterans initiatives, education, and rescuing and rebuilding the lives of persecuted religious minorities all over the world. M1 Ball is its biggest fundraising event of the year.
The evening's hosts, Mercury One founder Glenn Beck and his wife, Tania, welcomed 380 guests to the Mercury Studios in Irving on a chilly fall night. The evening started with a VIP reception inside the working radio and TV studio at Stage 2. The main event took place at Stage 19, named after Orson Welles’ Sound Stage at Universal.
As guests entered the biggest TV and movie studio in daily production between New York and Hollywood, they were greeted with the larger-than-life robots from the 2013 movie Man In The Moon and perused other cool movie memorabilia, such as a bench from Forrest Gump. Mercury was the studio-home of such films as RoboCop, JFK, Silkwood, Born on the 4th of July, and Problem Child — and TV shows Walker, Texas Ranger and Barney.
While they perused silent auction items, guests sipped on signature Sheela-Ritas, starring local Sheela Tequila; and Farm to Bar Gin & Tonics, with Roxor Artisan Gin, tonic, and beet-carrot juice.
The night's program started in a most official way: with the presentation of the colors by Boy Scouts of America, Longhorn Council. Then Jennifer Nickerson sang a rousing National Anthem, and Falma Rufus sang a moving prayer of invocation.
Mistress of ceremonies Sara Gonzales of TheBlaze TV introduced Mercury One’s executive director Suzanne Bock Grishman, who welcomed the crowd and thanked honorary chairs Francie Moody-Dahlberg and her husband, Kevin Dahlberg; honorary chairs emeritus Gena and Chuck Norris, Gina and Ken Betts, and the Vinyard Family; as well as Dee Simmons, the underwriting chair.
Guests dined on a sumptuous meal prepared by F2M Hospitality's executive chef John Coleman: mixed greens salad with pomegranate seeds, goat cheese, candied pecans, and honey thyme vinaigrette; short ribs and shrimp with cheddar grits, French green beans, and Ponchartrain sauce; and a delectable individual s'mores pie for dessert. (In a rare but welcome move at a big gala, an acorn squash-entree was published on the menu as a vegetarian alternative.)
It was hard to concentrate on the meal, though, as each speaker who took the stage gave riveting remarks. Especially memorable were the stories told by D'Andra Simmons-Lock and husband, Jeremy. They both communicated such passion for their personal work through Mercury One that they brought tears to the eyes of many.
For example, the couple traveled with the organization to Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq to comfort and assist persecuted refugees supported by the organization. They met with political and religious leaders, and they helped a former Isis captive, on the verge of suicide, get the care she needed.
"[Mercury One volunteers] are praying with people, they're there to help people, and that's what they do," Simmons-Lock said, her voice quivering with emotion, on stage. "They feed people, they clothe people, they serve people. It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter what religion, what race, what you believe — they don't care, they're there to help you. That's why I stand for this organization."
Lock, who gave boots-on-the-ground aid to those in need during Hurricane Florence, said that not since his retirement from the Air Force in 2013 had he felt the sense of purpose and camaraderie than with the organization.
"You learn as you grow up through the military to be better, to better yourself, to surround yourself with great people," he said. "There's a cause out there greater than you. After I retired from the military ... I lost my sense of purpose until I surrounded myself with the great people [of Mercury One]."
Taking the stage next, Beck shared some statistics, the most staggering of which was that Mercury One has helped rescue and relocate almost 15,000 refugees in 2018. He also announced that in February 2019, a total immersion experience called “12 Score & Three Years Ago” would address slavery and abolition in America and beyond, to be held at Mercury Studios throughout Black History Month.
After a spirited live auction of many one-of-a-kind items, including rare historical documents, conducted by auctioneer Wendy Lambert, the winner of the raffle prize — a 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 — was drawn.
Guests who wanted to continue the evening enjoyed famed country performers Mark Collie and Darryl Worley perform an acoustic set and then danced to tunes spun by DJ Jennifer Miller at an after-party.
Spotted in the crowed supporting the charity and having a great time were event producer Hamilton Sneed, Tim Brennan, Tiffany Brennan, Natalie O’Hanna, Michael Holmes, Jeffy Fisher, Joy Villa, Chris Cruz, Andrew Heaten, Dawn Simpson, Travis Simpson, Ryan Mulvehill, Alena Mulvehill, Ben Gallagher, John Pellegrino, Paul Vinyard, Charla Vinyard, and Michael Grishman.
Total funds raised from the evening will be revealed soon, the organization says.