A sold-out crowd recently gathered for the 9th annual North Texas Wine Opener (NTWO) benefiting the Northeast Texas Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF).
Event co-chairs Eric and Jill Welke revealed the total at Flower Mound’s Decanter Wine Bar and Restaurant with a toast: “Cheers to the amazing community devoted to the CF cause, and our North Texas neighbors impacted by the disease. We have an incredible team of sponsors and volunteers. We have established ourselves as the most successful Wine Opener event in the country. We have hope for a cure in our lifetimes!”
The stories of a survivor beating the odds, and a friendship torn apart by CF played out in the event night video http://www.cfwineopener.org/media.html, produced by Michael Barton of Barton Productions-Southlake, and presented by Ty Farley of The AV Team. Both Colin and Kayla inherited the genetic disease of cystic fibrosis, and the video highlighted medical advances that have been made, thanks to fundraisers like the NTWO.
Honored guests included: Michael and Sissy Benedetto, and their 26-year-old daughter Kacey; Mike and Lucia Bone, in-laws to 33-year-old David Rapp; Chris Grizzle, mother of 9-year-old Cooper; Bob and Nita Jones, parents of 14-year-old Matthew; Tammy Schoultz, sister of 37-year-old Wendy; Julie and Gary Zwahr, parents of 11-year-old Zachary; and Drs. John and Dara Dallas and their family and friends honoring the life of Madison (Maddie) Marie Therese Dallas. These families and individuals have hope that advances in drug therapy and treatment options will extend the life expectancy for someone with CF beyond its current 37.
Royal Affairs Ballroom, generously provided by owners Joe and Chris Strange, Scott and Christi Strange, and Corey and Amy Strange, hosted the Derby-themed NTWO. Guests savored Morris Salerno’s artfully prepared three-course seated dinner, featuring menu favorites from The Grotto and a main course provided by AdvancePierre Foods, paired with the award-winning wines of Newton Vineyard.
Event co-chair Eric Welke recognized the sponsors, volunteers, and ticket holders that have enabled the NTWO to net over $2 million for the CFF since the event’s inception in 2004, keeping expenses below 5 percent.
The evening ended with an exciting live auction featuring a Notre Dame game ticket package, and trips to Argentina, San Francisco, Park City and Breckenridge. Skilled auctioneer Boyd Earp from GDP Auctioneer Services upped the bids for the ever-popular gourmet pizza party provided by Patrick and Christy Robbins, which to date has raised $100,000 for CF research.
Joe & Chris Strange have attended every single North Texas Wine Opener, and plan to secure their tickets early for the final 2014 event when tickets go on sale in late Fall 2013. “I love that this grassroots cause, and an event started for a little girl in Flower Mound, has achieved so much, with such a loyal group of volunteers. We plan to celebrate the end of an era next year with new and old friends who sacrifice their time, gifts and talents to help make a difference.”
New friends like featured speaker Colin Hill, who was the lead singer for Stereo Fuse, toured with the band Creed, and had a top 20 Billboard single (Everything http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HjQr8kHPLY). The retired rock star, accompanied by his wife Diane, was decked out in a plaid sport coat for the Derby-themed event.
“I was diagnosed in 1975 when I was three years old,” says 41-year-old Colin Hill. My dad went to the library and looked up CF, and was quite stunned. The life expectancy back then was eight years. Now, there is really no limit. I’m 41. I made it this far.”
Colin managed to tour and perform until his lung function deteriorated to 30 percent around his 40th birthday. The breakthrough medication he now takes—Kalydeco—has stabilized his condition, and helps approximately 4 percent of people living with CF. Without insurance, the CF drug costs approximately $25,000 a month.
Colin performed “Like I Do,” written for and dedicated to those with CF, and followed it with a heartfelt message to NTWO attendees: “I just want people to realize that there is hope, and that money raised helps with all the research, and gives people with CF a future. I am standing here because of the donations, the auctions, the effort and work you guys are willing to participate in. I just have one thing to say: We can change the letters of CF to Cure Found with your help.”
To find out how to contribute to the North Texas Wine Opener and the CFF, visit www.cfwineopener.org. For more information on 2014 sponsorship opportunities, call the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Northeast Texas at 214-871-2222, visit www.cfwineopener.org or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cfwineopener.