Two toddlers on the same Flower Mound street were diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 2002. What began as driveway discussions among neighbors has led to a fundraiser that has netted over $2 million toward a cure, and the creation of an event that is the most successful of its kind – and the only all-volunteer run event – for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF). The North Texas Wine Opener returns in 2014 for its 10th and final gala event.
Cory Strange, one of the neighbors and friend of the families devastated by this genetic disease, recalls the early days of the grassroots movement, and can’t believe how far the Wine Opener has come. “It’s really about neighbors, and what we can do when we work together for good.”
Cory and his wife Amy Strange, along with nearly 75 friends of the North Texas Wine Opener benefiting the CFF, reunited at John and Carol Carter’s winter wonderland to set fundraising efforts in motion for the April 12, 2014 event. The Kick-Off party raised over $2,270 in donations, and brought in auction items such as a Thanksgiving dinner from Swirl Bakery; a chef’s dinner from Flower Mound’s Twelve Stones; a wild boar hunt; and top-tier bottles for the ever-popular wine pull.
Guests enjoyed a buffet dinner catered by the new Savory Bistro in Bartonville, watched a video created by Barton Productions recapping the 2013 event, and then found inspiration in the stories of sponsors, volunteers and CF families who shared why they became involved with the North Texas Wine Opener.
“In 1987, my cousin passed away from CF at the age of 18,” said Dolores Skarjune, sponsor, United American Insurance. “We eventually moved next door to the Andersens [whose daughter Megan was diagnosed at 18 months]. We’ve been involved with the North Texas Wine Opener all of these years, and have only missed one. The one thing I want is to see a day when no one ever has to lose someone to CF.”
Recapping milestone moments, the Welkes reminded the group of how far they’ve come to raise $2 million. As of December 2013, the North Texas Wine Opener has financial commitments of $63,000 — nearly the amount that was raised the entire inaugural year.
“Think about it –$2 million!” says Bob Jones, father of 15-year-old Matthew who has cystic fibrosis. “It’s taken hours of hard work, from many volunteers who became involved with no personal connection to CF. It’s tough to explain how much that means to families like ours.”
Jones says that he looks forward to the 10th annual Wine Opener, and is grateful for every minute he has spent with the group since he learned about the event eight years ago in a local newspaper.
Michael Benedetto has a 25-year-old daughter with CF, and says the type of commitment and support that this group collectively gives is “just awe inspiring.” He has great hopes for finding a cure for CF in her lifetime. “We have a daughter with CF. We’d like to have her forever.”
Eric Welke concluded the Hollywood-inspired program, a nod to the 2014 theme Red Carpet Reverie, with a challenge to raise the roof on fundraising in 2014, and a toast: “Let’s all raise a glass to those CF families here tonight, and to those that could not be with us…we are fighting for a cure for you.”
Tickets for the 2014 Wine Opener at Royal Affairs Ballroom sold out in eight hours. Guests will enjoy a seated dinner prepared by acclaimed chef Morris Salerno of The Grotto; a selection of fine wine generously supplied by Newton Vineyard; and a big board and live auction led by GDP Auctioneer Services. In the months leading up to the event, fundraising efforts will continue with Hot Cocoa for CF, lemonade stands by event sponsor The Lemonade Pals and Change for CF, a friendly competition among local schools.
Event chairs Eric and Jill Welke thanked event sponsors already committed to the 2014 event, and special recognition also went out to John and Carol Carter for hosting, and Savory Bistro for catering services.
For information on sponsorship opportunities, call the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Northeast Texas at 214-871-2222 or visit www.cfwineopener.org.
Photo above: Top row: Ronnie and Sheri Boule, Michael and Sissy Benedetto. Middle row: Dolores Skarjune; Colin and Diane Hill. First row: Michael Barton; Bob and Nita Jones.