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Coronavirus impact

Fort Worth's glam Jewel Charity Ball canceled for first time in 67-year history

Fort Worth's Jewel Charity Ball canceled for first time in 67 years

Michelle Marlow, Scott Marlow
Jewel Charity Ball president Michelle Marlow and Scott Marlow at the 2020 gala. Photo by Rhi Lee

Fort Worth's most glamorous gala and storied fundraiser, Jewel Charity Ball, has been called off for 2021 amid fundraising concerns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The ball, which, since 1954 has helped raise more than $75 million for Cook Children's Hospital, will not take place again until 2022, the organization confirmed on May 26. 

Jewel Charity president Michelle Marlow says in a release that the board voted unanimously not to hold the 67th edition of the ball in 2021.

As first reported by NBC5, back in March, when Marlow started reaching out to next year's donors, she kept hearing the word "sensitive," referring to those whose health or livelihood already were being inpacted by COVID-19. 

“This decision was extremely difficult for all involved," Marlow says in the release. "The word ‘sensitivity’ became a common thread in all conversations with members, community leaders, and friends of Jewel Charity. Planning a ball did not feel right in the current state of our world.”

Knowing Cook Children's Health Foundation still needed the money, though, the decision to cancel was difficult — and unprecedented.

Jewel Charity Ball is a powerhouse fundraiser that annually attracts 1,500 of Fort Worth's most generous philanthropists. Fort Worth’s longest standing formal gala is a celebration to honor Jewel Charity Angels, and proceeds provide access to care for the patients at Cook Children’s. The inaugural Jewel Charity Ball was co-founded in 1954 by city benefactor Nenetta Burton Carter, wife of Amon Carter.

The 2020 edition, a glittering affair themed "One Enchanted Evening" that took place at Dickies Arena, raised more than $2.5 million. The gala went ahead as planned on February 29, but by the time Jewel Charity was ready to present the check to Cook Children's on March 31, the pandemic had already forced stay-at-home orders. So the check was presented in a virtual gift celebration streamed on Facebook.

Every major spring fundraiser in Dallas-Fort Worth was canceled to help curb the spread of coronavirus. Some organizations canceled entirely or moved their events to the fall, while others shifted efforts toward virtual fundraisers. Jewel Charity Ball is the first major local nonprofit to cancel a big gala in 2021. This is the first time in Jewel Charity's existence that the ball will not take place.

In a recent letter to members and donors, Marlow said continued support would be critical in the coming months.

“Please keep a watchful eye out for a special project at Cook Children’s that you can support," she wrote. "The coronavirus doesn’t prevent children from facing a new cancer diagnosis nor does it keep child abuse at bay.”

Plans for Jewel Charity Ball 2022 are already underway with the fitting theme "The Tie That Binds." Marlow promises it will be "a celebration that will certainly feel like a long time coming.”