Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Best Charity Events in Dallas

2014 is right around the corner. I feel like I can't look ahead without also taking a moment to reflect back. It's like crossing the street: look left, right and then left again… As we approach the end of yet another fast and furious year, there are a handful of festivals, events and galas that resinate as standout events to me.  Before I even start this post, let me just throw out a disclaimer. When I say these are the "best" charity events in Dallas, I am not talking about the most worthy charitable endeavors. Every non-profit organization has great intentions towards an admirable cause. But let's face it, there is only so much time and money one can give. At the end of the day people are looking for an event that not only provides them with a way to give back to a cause or their community but also provides a great experience, delicious food, great people-watching and an amazing experience that still has you talking about months later.  The following events are listed in no particular order, and all are number one in my book. These functions were so well executed this year that they raise the bar for every chair person who comes behind them. Bless their hearts…

Mad Hatters Tea

The Story: Annual hat competition, fashion show and luncheon at the Dallas Arboretum

The Scene:  Like Alice in Wonderland, you'll spend most of your time wandering around this flowery fairyland with your mouth open in wonderment. Usually accessories are chosen to compliment the outfit. Not at this event - everything centers around the hat. Although to call these just hats is to really do them a disservice. What you will see at this daytime luncheon and fashion show are works of art, some created by the attendees, but most are created by milliners and local designers who work feverishly for months to out-do each other for the coveted awards that are doled out at this soiree.  It's been said (whispered really) that more money is spent on buying the hats than ends up going to the actual charity.  The morning starts off with a champagne reception where everyone oohs' and ahhhs' over elaborate chapeaus. You'll feel like a rock star as complete strangers walk up and ask to take a photo of your look. Astronauts in space can probably pick out the Arboretum from all the flash bulbs going off during this time.  Guests then file into Rosine Hall at the Dallas Arboretum for a fashion show. Awards are then presented in a variety of categories and the afternoon needs with a luncheon out of the terrace.

The Cost: tickets start at $200

Benefits:  The Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Next Opportunity to Attend: April 10, 2014

Tickets and addition information:

photos: Chefs For Farmers on Facebook courtesy of Elliott Munoz Photography

Chefs For Farmers

The Story: This event was created to highlight some of the area’s best chefs and raise awareness for local farmers and artisans through a casual, outdoor food, wine and spirits festival.

The Scene: Each of the participating eight chefs are paired with a farm, and compete for who can create the tastiest bite-sized meal. If I absolutely had to pick a favorite event for 2013, this one would probably be it. If it had been a cold or windy day, it wouldn't have been. A lot of an outdoor festival's success depends on the weather. This year, CFF got lucky and had the most spectacular, brisk sunny day which lent to the amazing ambiance of the festival.  A tented parameter is established around Lee Park and guests enter into a created courtyard filled with tasty treats, sumptuous wines and craft cocktails. Couches and chairs are placed to create cool seating areas, but for the most part, guests are encouraged to bring their own blankets and chars and like the Gold Rush in California, you come in and stake your claim on a plot of land for the afternoon. Live music plays smack in the middle of the courtyard so it can be heard from anywhere in the event. This year it was Texas Country and more bluegrass tunes, which fit the relaxed atmosphere of the day. For me, this event has it all: delicious food, great cocktails, it's casual fun and great people watching. Who could ask for more!?

The Cost: $65

Benefits: North Texas Food Bank and Cafe Momentum

Next Opportunity to Attend:  November 2014

Tickets and addition information:


The Story:  This annual black tie gala is comprised of a dinner, silent/live auction and runway show like none other to raise funds for organizations that aid in the fight against HIV/AIDS .

The Scene: Let's see… how can I best describe this event? This annual gala from DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) is about bling, glamour, elegance, libations, more bling, lots of posing and preening and so much fun it will take you a week to recover. Any event where gays are in the majority, the level of fashion and fun is going to be off-the-chart fantastic. The hair, the make-up, the accessories, the frocks.... it's like an eye candy explosion! Imagine a ball room full of Steve Kemble's - need I say more!? A champagne reception kicks off the night with more silent auction items that Santa could carry in his sleigh. During a seated dinner, guests enjoy a runway show featuring fashions, musical entertainment and a live auction. It's the absolute best people-watching of the year.

The Cost: tickets start at $375

Benefits: All proceeds go directly toward direct care to those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS in the North Texas area

Next Opportunity to Attend:  March 29, 2014

Tickets and addition information:

photos courtesy of FGI

FGI Night of Stars

The Story:  This annual gala bring focus to the fashion industry in Dallas by spotlighting its most deserving upcoming talent and honoring stars who have earned national recognition. Funds raised go to benefit Fashion Group International (FGI) Dallas Career Day scholarship awards.

The Scene:  Similar to DIFFA, this event is all about fashion. What makes it different is that this is an industry gathering and when you are dealing with the creme de la creme of the industry, I can assure you that they are going to pull out ALL the stops to make sure their look is flawless. DIFFA is all about shock and awe, FGI is all about sophisticated glamour and trends. The evening stars with a champagne reception and a silent auction in the Great Hall at Market Center. During a seated dinner guests watch a fashion show from a featured national designer and awards are give out to "Rising Stars" in the categories of fashion, interior design, photography, accessories and beauty.

The Cost: tickets start at $75

Benefits: Proceeds support FGI Dallas Career Day. Career Day has awarded more than $75,000 in multiple scholarships to local fashion students.

Next Opportunity to Attend:  November 2014

Tickets and addition information:

Burgers & Burgundy 

The Story:  A handful of the area's best chefs are tasked with the challenge to serve up the best burger sliders and compliment them with the burgundy of their choice.

The Scene:  This event is always held on the grounds of a fabulous private estate. The atmosphere and dress code is relaxed and casual. And by that, I mean jeans are appropriate as long as they are paired with lots of blingtastic accessories.  Beautiful people wander the grounds and graze on delectable sliders paired with sumptuous burgundy wines. There is always live music to provide a festive ambiance. This year, Hunter Sullivan had guests kicking off their shoes and spinning around the lawn while he crooned Michael BublĂ© tunes.

The Cost: $150/$100

Benefits: Funds raised from the event will go towards DIFFA/Dallas’s mission of serving those who are affected by AIDS and HIV across North Texas.

Next Opportunity to Attend:  September 2014

Tickets and addition information:

The great thing about Dallas is that there a million ways to support great causes. The bad thing about Dallas is that there are a million ways to support great causes and it's hard to decide what you should spend your money on! There are many organizations that are worthy of your time and money. The fundraisers list in this post are just a few of my personal favorites. Let me know what events you love in the comments below.  I am always looking to discover something new and 2014 is a brand new year!