North Texas Wine Opener dedicates evening to 14-year-old CF victim

One family’s grief and a community’s determination to continue the ongoing fight fueled an evening dedicated to finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.

At a race-themed event this May, a sold-out crowd gathered for the 8th annual North Texas Wine Opener (NTWO) with the singular purpose of raising the maximum amount possible for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF). Event co-chairs Eric and Jill Welke will reveal the total raised at a check presentation in June.

Ed and Jan Kukol adopted the wildly successful event after reading about it in the newspaper five years ago. The Kukols are now instrumental in the event’s success and the goal of keeping expenses at or under 5 percent. Ed Kukol and Moet Hennessey generously provided the evening’s wine from Newton Vineyard, a well-known Napa Valley winery situated high on Spring Mountain.

“While I support many events and good causes, we like to hang our hat on this incredible fundraiser because of the people we’ve met,” says Ed Kukol, a top sponsor and auction contributor. “Over the years, you become attached to the families living with CF, and forge friendships that will last a lifetime.”

The Kukols hope to add tomorrows to the lifetimes of those impacted by CF. Madison (Maddie) Marie Therese Dallas’ life ended far too soon when the Nolan Catholic High School honor student died of complications from her disease this past October. The 8th Annual NTWO was dedicated to her memory; her parents Drs. John and Dara Dallas and their family and friends represented Maddie at the event.

Maddie’s cousin Jorde and his wife Jacqueline (JJ) Scott welcomed their baby daughter Sloan on February 14. Their story was featured in the event night video, produced by Michael Barton of Barton Productions-Southlake and presented by Ty Farley of AV Team. Both Maddie and Sloan inherited the genetic disease, and the story that unfolded on the video highlighted the advances that have been made thanks to fundraisers like the NTWO. 

Honored guests also included: Michael and Sissy Benedetto, parents of 25-year-old Kacey; Bob and Nita Jones, parents of 13-year-old Matthew; Brett and Chris Grizzle, parents of 8-year-old Cooper; Julie and Gary Zwahr, parents to 10-year-old Zachary; 46-year-old Todd Vowels; and 34-year-old Selwa Mitchell. Allison Villalobos, 23-years-old and Kacey Benedetto, 25-years-old, were unable to attend as they were hospitalized the night of the event. These families and individuals live daily with the terrifying fact that CF carries with it a life expectancy of just 37.

For the “Raise for the 65 Roses” theme, Royal Affairs Ballroom (generously provided by owners Joe and Chris Strange, Scott and Christi Strange, and Corey and Amy Strange) featured performance cars and custom hot rods from the Pack Automotive Museum as well as authentic race gear from 2012 Honorary Chair Kevin Harvick, driver of #33 NASCAR Nationwide Series Fast Fixin’ Chevrolet.

Event co-chair Eric Welke recognized the sponsors, volunteers and ticket holders that have enabled the NTWO to net over $1.4 million for the CFF since the event’s inception in 2004. In a nod to You Might be a Redneck jokes, Welke pointed out that guests might be involved with the Wine Opener if:  “…as a volunteer you received 2000+ emails from [his wife] Jill … paid $20 for a cup of lemonade … or counted your blessings because your child doesn’t have CF.”

Guests savored Morris Salerno’s artfully prepared three-course seated dinner, featuring menu favorites from The Grotto, paired with the award-winning wines of Newton Vineyards.

The evening ended with an exciting live auction featuring a VIP NASCAR experience, California wine country and Park City, Utah trips and a wine fridge filled with “65 rosés,” in keeping with the “65 Roses” theme associated with CF. Skilled auctioneer Boyd Earp from GDP Auctioneer Services upped the bids for the ever-popular gourmet pizza party provided by Patrick and Christy Robbins.

Rich and Sue Kash, who have attended the event for the last several years, summed up the night by saying: “It was one of the best Wine Openers to date. There was such an air of generosity here tonight. We are proud to be among such a giving group of people who are fighting for such a worthy cause.”

To find out how to contribute to the North Texas Wine Opener and the CFF, visit


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