WESTBANK PHILANTHROPY

Ice Ball helps Big Brothers, Sisters

Gala boosts ‘Littles’ fund for scholarships.

By HollyJackson Contributing Writer

Record-breaking attendance and fundraising were landmark achievements of the recent Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ 11th annual Ice Ball.

A “big couple” to little brother Thomas for four years, West-bank residents Connie and Bill Nelson chaired the event for the second time. A sellout with 750 philanthropic partygoers at the Hyatt, the signature fundraiser was themed “An evening that makes a lifetime of difference.”

Full Spectrum Ice Sculptures had carved a backdrop for costumed photos and a wet-bar for cocktails sponsored by Deep Eddy Vodka. A seated dinner showcased short ribs.

The All Nights band played Motown, soul and funk music. Guests tried their luck at a raffle and heads/tails game for Southwest Airlines tickets, which was won by three women in a tie-breaking standoff onstage.

The silent auction featured autographed memorabilia of a Nolan Ryan baseball, Tim McGraw guitar and King Ranch hunt. Westbank items included a dinner at Jack Allen’s Kitchen, party from Nothing Bundt Cakes and ring from West Bank Jewelers.

For the fifth time, Gayle Stallings led the live auction, assisted by previous and current “Bigs” as bid spotters who were introduced down the catwalk. The top-selling packages were a Bali vacation bought for $17,000, two Cabo San Lucas trips sold for $14,500 each and a Colorado excursion for $10,000.

The fundraiser grossed $600,000 toward supporting local “Littles.” Funds have increased 300 percent in the last three years.

“It was the biggest, boldest, brightest Ice Ball yet,” Connie Nelson said. “More kids will be helped because of tonight.”

KXAN-TV meteorologist David Yeomans again served as emcee. Recognition was given to the Walton-Allen family, whose five children have been mentored for 19 years.

Since 1971, Big Brothers Big Sisters has matched at-risk youth, ages 6-16 mostly from single-parent homes, with one-to-one adult mentors. These volunteers assist the mentees by achieving measurable outcomes. Last year, 98 percent of the 1,000 “Littles” stayed in school, improved their grades and avoided early parenting. However, 600 youngsters who are mostly boys are on a six-month wait list.

Eligible youth are given up to $2,000 in scholarships for higher education. This year, the Central Texas agency awarded $800,000 to 275 “Littles” via the Promising Futures Scholarship, the first of its kind among 350 chapters countrywide. Since 1986, the local chapter has promised $5 million in scholarships to 2,500 students. This nonprofit has been ranked in the top 5 percent nationally for program quality. For further information, visit www.bigmentoring.org.

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