An ordinary meeting space was transformed into a wonderland of tablescapes at the Hilton Southlake on a Friday afternoon in mid-November. The annual TableTops fundraiser convened for its fourth year, but this one had a new beneficiary — Unlikely Heroes.
About 300 guests gathered among the towering tablescapes to admire the designs and learn more about the nonprofit, which is based in Southlake but is slightly under the radar among Dallas-Fort Worth charities. Unlikely Heroes is an international organization that rescues and restores child victims of sex slavery, placing them in restoration homes — including one in Tarrant County called "Goldie's House" — for safe housing, medical care, trauma therapy, legal assistance, education, job training, and lots of love. Over 100 kids now live in seven homes around the world thanks to the efforts of Unlikely Heroes.
Hosted by Good Morning Texas co-host Alanna Sarabia and “Chewbacca Mom” Candace Payne, TableTops showcased 35 beautifully decorated tables by local designers and community members, and included a silent auction, wine and liquor pull, and photo booth. Each creative table had a different theme and design scheme, from jazz music and exotic animals to holiday nutcrackers, floral fantasies — and even one called "Christmas Carroll" that winked at the hometown high school.
The lunchtime gathering was a wondrous way to quell the Friday afternoon doldrums. Guests and designers — including Anna Groves, Claire Parrott, Kristen Greniar, Amanda Carr, Courtney Moehler, Kelia Powell, Cynthia Smoot, Michelle Davis, Delilah Clap, Mike Hutchison, Hanis Hussey, Yvonne Allen, Julie Walsh, Katherine Walsh, Roxann Taylor, Donna Maas, and Jenny Anchondo Oakes — mingled with mimosas made fresh (and topped with a plump strawberry) at the bar. They created their own lunch plates from an impressive display of antipasti and bite-sized delicacies, including mini grilled cheese sandwiches, five-spice duck fritters, and turkey-butternut squash strudel bites. A hand-scooped gelato bar and a double-tiered display of desserts ensured everyone got a sweet ending.
Before the official program started, guests bid competitively on dozens of silent auction items around the room — coveted spa packages, retail experiences, restaurant gift certificates, and more.
When the auction ended, attendees — among them Lily Moore, Nicole Tait, Michelle Davis, Melanie Kelley, Sarah Kahn, Mary Harlow, Jen Morgan, Angie Vandenbrook, Olive Cannon, Grace Thoennes, and Neda Khalilian — turned their attention to the stage.
Unlikely Heroes CEO and founder Erica Greve welcomed the local influencers, philanthropists, and interested patrons. She and Kelle Sherpy, the organization's director of Dallas Initiatives, introduced Unlikely Heroes' mission and future plans. Guests had the opportunity to make a contribution on the spot or to take home materials for a future gift. All proceeds from the event would be given to Unlikely Heroes, they said.
“Your dollars are going to provide a child everything they to live a transformed life — including trauma therapy, education, life skills, medical care and most of all, allowing us to model this in a healthy family environment,” Sherpy said.
Bringing the organization's mission back to the event's interior design theme, Sherpy announced plans for a $25,000 renovation of Goldie's House, $9,000 of which had been raised before the event. Photos of bedrooms transformed by local designers — from utilitarian dorm rooms to whimsical bedrooms — were projected on big screens and received with "oohs" and "ahhs."
“Our heart is to give these girls a home," Sherpy said. "Not just a house, but a home. And your donations allow us to do that. What you are saying to them by being here today is that you’re worth it and you matter."
She closed by revealing that one of the girls Unlikely Heroes rescued out of slavery had just received a college acceptance letter from her No. 1 choice, Baylor University.
"It's so fun to see our kids literally transforming right before our lives," she said. "When you think about all the things our kids have overcome how resilient and heroic they are, we want to give them the world because their futures are just getting started."