“Secret Garden” Charity Ball raises $850,000 for Junior League, serves Whataburger at after-party

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You’ve got to hand it to the Junior League of Houston. Those women know how to embrace a theme and run with it.

At the hand of this year’s chairman, Mary Lee Hackedorn Wilkens, last weekend’s 72nd annual Charity Ball transported guests to a “Secret Garden” on not just one, but two occasions. Friday and Saturday nights’ back-to-back fundraisers raised nearly $850,000 towards the non-profit’s mission to foster a lifetime of service for it’s 5,000-plus members. Between 2019-2020, the League will contribute approximately $2 million in volunteer hours and financial support to 35 local projects.

But what’s interesting is how the League manages to consistently make its event fun. And personal. And really photogenic.

Case in point, most of the sold-out, 600-strong crowd dressed with the evenings’ motif in mind. Despite the February event dates (what is winter?), floral ballgowns filled the League’s Briar Oaks ballroom. Arrivals were greeted by a sea of three-dimensional blooms embroidered onto tulle skirts in and around the storied venue.

Gala-goers entered under a canopy of greenery created by Bramble & Bee. Post check-in, attendees could either perch on wooden swings in the garden, order a cold one in a tented biergarten, or pluck a fresh bouquet from the Lanson B. Jones & Co. flower cart. Swift + Company provided the rest of the heavy décor lifting.

For those in the market for serious bling, there was also Tenenbaum Jeweler’s Buccellati Blossom Bar, which featured gardenia bracelets and daisy earrings of the sterling silver and 18-carat gold variety. Rachel Regan, incoming chairman of Charity Ball 2021, received a butterfly engraved cuff as a surprise gift from her husband, Tom Regan. With Valentine’s Day within striking distance, it proved a smart and thoughtful play.

Community partner chairman Amanda Boffone and her husband Terry Boffone embraced the Ball’s celebratory spirit, too. The couple treated their seat-mates to a magnum of Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque. You know, the champagne bottle covered in white anemones?

It was just right amount of liquid courage that Bethany Buchanan needed before she kicked off the League’s 12-minute song and dance show. She temporarily swapped her tropical PatBo gown for a flower crown-adorned stage look to perform Kasey Musgrave’s “High Horse.”

The impressive, all-volunteer production led by Dylan Godwin and Logan Keslar included vocalists, dancers, a pianist and cellist.

Amanda Boffone later shared that League members had also arranged the table centerpieces. Chef Michael Smith tied it all together by placing edible pansies atop individual molten chocolate cakes for dessert.

But the party didn’t stop there. After dinner, revelers retreated to the Tea Room-turned-late-night-lounge for Whataburger’s honey butter chicken biscuits and a set by DJ London.

Rumor has it, the flood of FOMO-inducing social media posts from Friday night led to a surge of after-party ticket purchases on Saturday.

And so it bears repeating: These women know what they’re doing.

Source: February 11, 2020, Houston Chronicle, Amber Elliott