HOPE Under the Stars 2019

This past Winter, 600 guests filled the Grand Ballroom of The Woodlands Resort to raise funds and share the message of HOPE for The Will Herndon Research Fund at the 11th annual HOPE Under the Stars event. The guests experienced a genuine glimpse into the world of Will Herndon, a 16 year old Woodlands resident that has been battling a rare degenerative brain disease called juvenile Batten disease. The evening’s theme transformed the ballroom from black and white to a world full of color and HOPE. The transformation represented the hope and optimism personified by Will and his love for life. The event honored long-time supporters, Dr. Scott and Amy Young and corporate honoree, Waste Connections for their overwhelming support.  The event raised over $570,000 for research and funding for the anticipated clinical trial to begin in early 2020.
“The Woodlands community embraced Will as their own son and stood by our family, funding research and sharing prayers to help save our boy,” said Missy Herndon, Co-Founder of HOPE: The Will Herndon Fund. “After 11 years of support, awareness and fundraising, we are excited to share Will will be in a clinical trial in the coming month.”

For more information on juvenile Batten disease and the fight to Save Will visit www.willherndon.org or www.beyondbatten.org

Photography Courtesy Derrick Bryant & Jen McDonald

Yes to Youth Gala

Elaborate costumes and intricate décor blew guests away as they entered the Ignite Their Light Yes to Youth Gala, a themed event benefitting Yes to Youth. The ballroom was striking with ornate lighting and elegant floral centerpieces. The lights served as a reminder for the cause-inspiring and helping children who have experienced difficult hardships. The Yes to Youth Gala, presented by Tricia and Jack Futcher, was chaired by Katrina Savage and Michelle Maggert, and honored Tom Pisula as well as Waste Connections.

The evening benefited Yes to Youth Montgomery County Youth Services, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to helping youth and their families overcome challenges. Yes to Youth offers crisis counseling, shelter programs, and prevention services aimed to keep youth in school and prepare them to be productive citizens.

Haley Garcia and Travis Ellard

The evening was full of powerful, emotional moments. A special dance performance to “This is Us’ by Boni’s Dance and Performing Arts Studio kicked off the night. Katrina Savage and Michelle Maggert, the Gala Chairs, shared various testimonies explaining the profound impact that this organization has had on so many. A powerful music performance by Theresa Black, Hannah Johnson, and Special Guests left the audience moved and inspired to give back. The live auction and raffle concluded the evening. The attendees left the Yes to Youth Gala with a kindled spark to truly Ignite Their Light and make a difference in the lives of others.

Patti, Dr. Lucian Rivela, Dr. Ann, and Jerry Snyder

Linda Freede, Worthing Jackman, Keith Gordan, and Michelle Little

Live Auction

Bret and Angela Strong

United Way of Greater Houston -“Women Who Rock” Luncheon

United Way of Greater Houston -“WOMEN WHO ROCK” Luncheon Raises Funds For Young Mothers Childcare Scholarships

A crowd of nearly 800 United Way supporters listened and laughed as Texas native Melissa Radke shared her story of connecting with women across the country through social media, ultimately leading her to write her first book. Held at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel, the 6th annual United Way “Women Who Rock” luncheon raises funds to support Young Mothers Childcare Scholarships which allow young women who are committed to pursuing secondary education to provide their children with quality childcare while they attend school.


“We believe education is one of the best ways to break cycles and create new legacies that can be passed on for generations,” said Anna M. Babin, president, and CEO of United Way of Greater Houston. “The United Way Women Who Rock luncheon is a fun and inspiring way to rally the community around the important cause of helping young mothers pursue their education goals.”


Funds raised from last year’s luncheon provided scholarships to 15 Montgomery County women for the 2018-19 school year. Scholarship recipients attended Lone Star College campuses in Montgomery, Conroe, and Kingwood, along with Sam Houston State University and Chamberlain School of Nursing.


“I knew finishing school to get my bachelor’s degree was necessary to give my daughter a better life,” said Taylor Contreras, a scholarship recipient who shared her story at the luncheon.


“United Way’s support of young women receiving scholarships goes well beyond paying for childcare,” said Melissa Young, chair of the United Way Montgomery County Regional Council and CEO of Corporate Incentives. “United Way THRIVE offers financial coaching and mentoring that allows these young mothers to make the most use of their degrees and careers.”


The application cycle for the 2019-20 school year begins in early April.


About United Way of Greater Houston

United Way focuses on strengthening our community by developing children and youth to their full potential, creating strong families and safe neighborhoods, sustaining senior independence and rebuilding people’s lives in times of crisis. Last year, United Way of Greater Houston touched the lives of nearly 2 million of our neighbors in the Bay Area and in Fort Bend, Harris, Montgomery, and Waller counties. For more information, please visit, www.unitedwayhouston.org.



Taylor Contreras, Melissa Young

Melissa Radke, Back Row: Melissa Young, Ellie Pfahl, Laura Lea Palmer, Megan Crowl, Courtney Galle, Peg Welbes, Front Row: Jennifer Stefero, Clare Simmons, Jeanne Toth, Michele Kooken, Judy Rhodes

Ms. Kooken, Ellie Pfahl, Peg Welbes, Michele Kooken

Holly Gruy, Laura Lea Palmer, Gil Staley, Ashely Byers

Tiffany McLeod,  Bob Earl


Heart Ball 2019 – Get Your Heart in the Game

The Woodlands Waterway Marriott was flooded with gorgeous gowns for an amazingcause this past weekend as the community came out to support heart health at the 2019 Montgomery County Heart Ball. The event benefits the American Heart Association which has funded more than $3.5 billion in research since 1949 in the fight against our nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers, heart disease and stroke.

The legacy sponsors of the event were Suzanne and Bob Potter, while North Side Imports Houston served as the presenting sponsor. Sondra, MJ, and Chris Ruhman were the event chairs for the sports-themed gala, and Christen and Brad Kaufman were honorees.

Heart Survivor, Bryce Deegear, a Woodlands High School student, received a standing ovation and was joined by his soccer teammates when he shared his touching story of being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and having to stop competitive soccer due to a defibrillator.

Guests supported the cause through the bid-board and live auctions that were filled with fantastic prizes. Attendees enjoyed the glamorous décor, exquisite dinner, and dancing to world-renowned DJ, Mick following dinner at the after-event lounge.

The mission of the American Heart Association is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. The AHA was founded in 1924 and educates lawmakers, policymakers and the public. They fund research and education and are advocates for better health, improving patient care and reaching populations at risk. To learn more please visit: https://www.heart.org/en/affiliates/texas/montgomery-county

Wade and Stephanie Watson

Jennifer Bruse and Rod Prado

Bryan and Mary Neskora, Sharon and Bob Kroslowitz

Brandi and Brandon Berryhill

Jenny Hiser and Haley Garcia

Christine Butuc and Laurie Shea

Bret and Angela Strong

Amy Young, Elvira Graham, Candice Burrows, Amy Torres, Aimee Willetts

Dawn Rawson, Stacey Boarke, Gina Rodriguez, Sandy Morrow, Christina Clark


The 2019 Inspire Film Festival

The third annual Inspire Film Festival was held in The Woodlands this past week. The theme was “Game Changers,”and the films featured incredible people making positive impacts in the lives of others, as well as an iconic Houston building, the Astrodome. The festival once again challenged attendees to do more, be more and make the community and the world a better place.

New to the festival this year were the Wells Fargo 300 and 200 seat theaters, the Inspire Holiday Tent and the Tent Talks.

The festival partnered with community partners Angel Reach (read more about Angel Reach here:www.thebookthewoodlands.com/philanthropy/angel-reach/) and Big Brothers Big Sisters and encouraged festival goers to get involved and become game changers by serving as a mentor to a young person in one of these worthy organizations.

Regardless of whether you attend the free outdoor shorts program on opening night, or take in every film, it is impossible not to be inspired and uplifted by the Inspire Film Festival. Make sure to add the Inspire Film Festival to your schedule for next year, because as the festival promises you will leave different.

Angel Reach

In 2004, foster and adoptive parents as well as close friends, Sandra Carpenter and Deborah Zempel, had a desire to help families in Montgomery County, taking on the role of caring for young, neglected family members. These relatives, known as kinship families, are the lifeline to many foster children. These women gave of themselves, assisting fellow foster parents by providing for the ever-changing needs of the children and those families. With their faith and a garage full of supplies, they began helping kinship families by giving them support where it was needed most—clothing, supplies and food. Angel Reach had begun.

The nonprofit, Christian organization started humbly in a garage, but today, it has grown to assisting over 600 people in need of support each year. Jean Radach, Executive Director of Angel Reach, explains how she began with the organization: “I just felt God’s calling. These kids could have been me. They could have been my son.” As a third generation of adoption—her father being an adopted as a child, an adopted child herself and parent to her adopted son—she was inspired to give her time to Angel Reach. She began by becoming a volunteer driver, filling an enormous need for many clients who don’t have driver’s licenses or transportation. “These kids come from families who have rejected them. They’ve been with multiple families. We’re not just going to put them back on the streets. We’re going to find a program where they can hopefully flourish,” Radach says.

Charles Maurice, Board Chair for Angel Reach and consistent volunteer since 2011, has witnessed firsthand the challenges these young adults have had to overcome, as well as their stories that got them there. “These are good people who have been given a rotten deal. Once you see how hard many of them are working to change their lives, it’s difficult to walk away,” he says. Maurice is continually motivated by the staff and volunteers at this nonprofit and claims their passion was contagious from the beginning.

The Kinship Care Program, the original Angel Reach service, continues today and exists to support the kinship family in their caretaking responsibilities, and it provides food, clothing, furniture and additional resources like counseling and life skills. Assisting approximately 150 families each year who receive minimal support from the state of Texas, this program fills a desperate need.

In Montgomery County, 90–100 children are aging out of the foster program each year. Angel Reach steps in with the Transitional Living Program to bridge the gap with these young adults ages 18–24. Any child in the foster care system is allowed the opportunity to engage with this organization in order to transition to the next step of life. Their needs are met with housing, life skills training, counseling, employment guidance, educational advising, mentoring and character building. As they become emotionally stable and financially independent, they advance to increasing levels of the program.

With a mission to break the generational cycle of neglect and homelessness, Angel Reach serves the youth homeless population ages 16–24 through its Community Youth Outreach Program, which provides meals, clothing, a hot shower, safe housing and a computer for job searches. In partnership with United Way, the goal is to guide them towards productive lives with financial and emotional stability

The Angel’s Nest program began due to the desire to serve single moms in the community. Dedicated to supporting these moms, Angel Reach is able to give them a place of their own to raise their children while providing guidance in finding jobs, childcare and vocational or college training.

Before Roxy Wood began working on staff at Angel Reach, she was a client herself. Her story represents the potential that each young person can achieve when they fully engage with the services provided and put in the hard work necessary. “Not only has Angel Reach assisted me with my pursuit of a better future, but they were my mentors and guiding light in life for these past few years as I have struggled and fought my way back to a brighter future,” Wood says. She is paying it forward by assisting others make a plan for a positive future, helping them take small steps forward each day in the right direction. After graduating from Sam Houston State University, Wood is leading a successful life against all odds. She says, “I wanted nothing more than to gain my degree so that I could turn around and help individuals just like myself. Angel Reach is, in some cases, the last lifeline for at-risk youth being booted out of the foster care system.”

As a longtime volunteer, mentor and fundraising leader for Angel Reach, George Lindahl has been instrumental in its growth and the development of homes for its Transitional Living Program, which includes five homes and five apartments that house 30–35 clients in the Conroe area. “You can’t imagine. Think about growing up with no mom and dad, no grandparents, no siblings, never having a new pair of shoes or a birthday party. It’s hard to comprehend,” he says. Lindahl has personally mentored young men, and each year he has taken several of them on mission trips to Honduras, where they learn more about spiritual growth while helping others. “If you see this program, you will want to help. We’re changing lives, but it’s a tough ministry,” he says.

Angel Reach has grown to 30 staff members and more than 40 volunteers, by filling a dire need in Montgomery County for young people to be able to change their paths as young adults. Angel Reach has become that bridge from troubled youth to productive, stable young adults. “They need someone to believe in them. That’s what they need,” Radach says.

To volunteer or provide donations for Angel Reach, please visit angelreach.org

HOPE Under the Stars 2018

Nearly 800 people packed the Woodlands Resort on Saturday, October 24 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of HOPE Under the Stars. The event raised over $900,000 for research to save Will Herndon, a now 15-year-old boy suffering from a rare, fatal brain disease called juvenile Batten—a disease that just 10 years ago offered no hope for a treatment or a cure.

Will and Nicole Murphy presented HOPE Under the Stars along with Wells Fargo Private Bank. Will and Nicole Murphy were also honored at the event and recognized as honorary chairs for their tireless dedication in the fight to save Will Herndon and to find a cure for juvenile Batten disease. Guests were decked out in their best Saturday evening attire, and the room was filled with black and gold HOPE shirts which adorned all of the amazing women who serve on the committee for the remarkable event, which was chaired by Erin Doré and Beth Landgraf.

The energy and excitement was palpable and began immediately with a stunning performance of “Lean On Me” by the gospel choir of Sam Houston State University. They were followed by Missy and Wayne Herndon, who shared some groundbreaking research developments from the past year and those to come in 2019, due to the incredible contributions and determination of the HOPE Under the Stars community of donors and friends.

Will Murphy once again emceed the evening and conducted the fast-moving live auction, which featured an adorable labradoodle puppy and a painting by Will Herndon, among other items. The show-stopper of the evening was an address by 13-year-old Steele Herndon, who spoke incredibly eloquently and with such fierce conviction about the effect of juvenile Batten disease on his brother, himself and his family. The entire audience was riveted by his spellbinding speech.

The program concluded with a surprise, 3rd Line brass band performance that was provided by J&D Entertainment. Guests stayed until late in the evening, dancing the night away at the fabulous after party, HOPE after Dark, presented by Waste Connections.

In the Pink Luncheon 2018

Over 1,200 people showed up in every shade of pink imaginable to support the fight against breast and ovarian cancer at the In the Pink luncheon on October 12. The elegant event at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center highlighted the mission of In the Pink of Health: to reduce the incidence of breast and ovarian cancer and to assist survivors on their journey.

Presented by Richie’s Specialty Pharmacy and chaired by Cheryl Brady and Tiffany McClung, the In the Pink luncheon provides vital funds for the staggering 1 in 8 women in our country who are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and the over 22,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Since its inception in 2001, In the Pink of Health has raised over $5 million, which has been redistributed directly into Montgomery County and the surrounding communities to support breast and ovarian health. This year’s luncheon grossed over $800,000, the most money raised to date at an In the Pink event. The proceeds fund initiatives through the Memorial Hermann Foundation, including programs like Canopy, a cancer survivorship center housed in Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center.

The highlight of the event was the featured guest speaker, Scott Hamilton. He brought both the laughter and the tears with his inspirational remarks regarding the seemingly insurmountable obstacles he has overcome in his life, including losing his mother to breast cancer, facing his own battles with cancer and pursuing his goals as an Olympic Gold Medalist. He was extremely gracious, extending his speech and staying until every autograph was signed.

Thanks to strategic community partnerships and public generosity, each year In the Pink of Health funds projects that support its mission, changing the lives of women and families in Montgomery County and beyond.

Safe Harbor Luncheon

Know Us Before You Need Us

It is startling to accept that 1 in 10 children under the age of 18 are affected by abuse and trauma. Unfortunately, The Woodlands is not immune to this devastating problem. The Children’s Safe Harbor luncheon underscored the importance of awareness about child abuse and being proactive and bold in educating and protecting the children in our community. The funds raised at the luncheon will help Children’s Safe Harbor in the creation of a new facility to house the combined medical, legal and counseling services to serve and heal young victims between the ages of 2 and 17 who have been betrayed. Approximately 98% of these young victims are harmed by someone they know and trust.

The luncheon was presented by Texas Children’s Hospital and chaired by Dan & Lisa Michalk. The Honorable Lisa Michalk who helped start the Mental Health Court for Montgomery County, also was the keynote speaker for the event. Children’s Safe Harbor helps provide support for over 200 new cases each month.

Warriors of the Light. Attendees were enlisted to become warriors of the light by helping raise funds through the purchase of limited edition challenge coins created by the Montgomery County Special Victims Unit and other silent auction items. The event culminated with a very powerful moment when all of the lights were turned off and the room was lit by over 14,000 miniature white lights in the displays and centerpieces that represented each of the children that has been helped through Children’s Safe Harbor since the organization was founded.