Fort Worth

2021 Jewel Charity Ball Canceled

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Numerous nonprofits have canceled events in the wake of the coronavirus - and now it's already impacting next year's plans for one of Fort Worth's most cherished fundraisers.

Michelle Marlow, the president of Jewel Charity, told NBC 5 there "was a unanimous board vote that we would not be having a ball this year in 2021."

Jewel Charity
Jewel Charity president Michelle Marlow (left) announces the cancellation of 2021 Jewel Charity Ball.

The Jewel Charity Ball, an event that started in 1954, will not happen next year.

Since the founding of Jewel Charity by two women who wanted to help families of sick children pay medical bills and a ball that followed three months later, the Jewel Charity Ball has become a must-attend event.

In the process, almost $75 million dollars has been raised for Cook Children's Medical Center and the care of children whose families who could not otherwise afford it.

But back in March as Marlow started reaching out to donors for 2021, the word "sensitive" kept popping up. A major sponsor told the veteran volunteer fundraiser she was trying to be sensitive to "her families," those who work in her businesses in downtown Fort Worth, and "on that day, she was trying to set up cleansing stations downtown for the homeless," Marlow said.

Marlow found it difficult to talk about a ball while so many in Fort Worth were hurting.

"Even though the ball raises good money, you're still talking about a big fancy party, and talking about a ball just didn't feel right," Marlow recalled.

Through the course of that one day, the word "sensitive" came up in several conversations. She took her thoughts to Cook Children's Health Foundation and despite learning the hospital faces $10 million in uncompensated care during the pandemic, the foundation was ready to support whatever would be her decision.

By the end of the day, Marlow found herself with a change of heart yet knowing what she was thinking about doing would be difficult.

"The hard part about that is, the hospital still needs our money. And number two, this is an old organization. This will be our 67th year, and to not have the ball they've done all these years, as their leader, that was a hard thing to digest," she said.

Marlow went to bed that night remembering the words of her grandmother. "She said, 'Follow your heart. Follow your gut. Trust your instincts.' And so Tuesday night I went to bed saying, 'We're gonna cancel all of this.'"

She decided the time spent planning and preparing for a ball would be better spent, "Number one, love on our membership. Number two, love on our hospital. And number three, love on our community supporters."

Marlow spent two more weeks talking to numerous people, then took the issue to her executive board. She explained they could go forward with the ball knowing it would be hard to ask for donations or cancel the ball and concentrate on showing 'love,' as she calls it, in various ways to the three biggest stakeholders.

The board voted unanimously to skip the 2021 ball and bring it back in February 2022.

In a May 15th letter to Jewel Charity members, Marlow explained that like many businesses and organizations 'we must adapt and adjust, with the promise to keep our love and support of Cook Children's at the center of everything that we do. This year will be different than any other, but our Mission's priorities remain the same.'

Marlow said while the ball is canceled, plans for many of the annual celebrations and traditions are still underway. And the hope is that donors or 'angels,' as she calls them, will still step up if able to continue the Jewel Charity's tradition of raising funds to help Cook Children's care for patients in need.

The theme for the 2021 ball "The Tie That Binds" will stay in place for 2022, and Marlow believes it's now more appropriate than ever.

"It's a sentiment that says we are the tie that binds. We are gonna take care of our friends and our family. And we're gonna take care of the children in the hospital in this wonderful city. So, that's our plan. That's our message," she said.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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