Ice Ball 2018 An Unprecedented Success For Our Kids!

It was the coolest event on one of the hottest nights in Austin as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ 14th annual Ice Ball gala exceeded all expectations. A record-breaking $850,000+ was raised – a $200,000 increase over last year – with donations still coming in and final numbers expected to exceed this early total.

A sold-out crowd attended the special event which was held for the first time at the Fairmont Austin hotel on Saturday, August 25. The black-tie affair was an elegant evening focused on raising funds to create more life-changing friendships between at-risk youth and caring adult mentors.

“We were honored to have over 800 generous friends and supporters gather to make a BIG difference for children in this community,” said Brent Fields, BBBS CEO.  “The unprecedented success of the event, with over $850,000 raised, will allow us to provide mentoring services to more than 700 kids who deserve the opportunity to reach their greatest potential.  We’re thrilled at the confidence and trust the community has placed in us to continue providing our transformational services for children and families in Central Texas.”

As attendees arrived, they were welcomed into a vibrant pre-event gallery where they enjoyed opportunities to take event photos beside the gala’s signature ice sculpture, and visit a pop-up shop filled with items from Kendra Scott’s new fall jewelry line. Guests also participated in a Big Board mini live auction, bid on numerous exclusive silent auction items, and purchased raffle tickets for a chance to win a trip for 4 to New Orleans, Miami, Chicago or Montreal.

A Dixieland band, Memphis Train Revue, led guests into the ballroom for the main portion of the evening where they enjoyed a delicious dinner, an exciting live auction, and a mission-centered ‘Fund A Friendship’ donation drive. Emcee Quita Culpepper, with KVUE-TV, got the program started.

New to Ice Ball 2018 was auctioneer Heath Hale and the Cowboys. This team has raised over $14 million for charities this year.  Using the classic auctioneer patter, Heath and his team motivated the inspired crowd to bid top dollar on many exciting auction packages.

The gala’s 2018 live auction packages included a UT tailgate party for 30 to 40 guests at Sour Duck Market, a King Ranch hunt with Colt McCoy, a wine lover’s trip to the Burgundy wine region of France, a dove hunt in Argentina, a golf trip and 5-night stay at a baronial castle in Scotland, a luxury trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with a scenic tour of the Grand Tetons, and a “choose your own adventure” package featuring trips to 20 different world-wide destinations, among others.

A surprise addition to the live auction came courtesy of Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. The Chief offered guests the opportunity to bid on an officer ‘ride-along’ experience to demonstrate the police department’s support for BBBS.

A highlight of the evening was the match story featuring Big Brother Chris and his Little Brother Keontray. Their relationship provided attendees with a powerful example of the life-changing impacts Big Brothers Big Sisters’ services have for children and adults alike.

“The Austin community came out and really supported our kids Saturday night!  It was a packed house!” said Lauren Portley, Vice President of Development for BBBS.  “Our mission takes precedence in planning this annual event, and BBBS’ Executive Board, Ice Ball Host Committee, and staff worked so hard to pull off what turned out to be our best Ice Ball yet!  At the end of the day, it’s all about serving our kids and making life-changing friendships that allow children to achieve their biggest possible futures.”

At the end of the evening, Ashley and Justin Yarborough, this year’s Ice Ball Gala Chairs, and the 2018 Ice Ball Host Committee, were recognized for hosting such an exceptional event. The celebration continued into the early morning hours as everyone enjoyed dancing to the music of Memphis Train Revue, and, as this year’s gala came to a close, guests left knowing that their support for Ice Ball 2018 will make a positive difference for hundreds of children in Central Texas for years to come.

See Ice Ball event photos here

Watch our BBBS Mission video here

See our Match Story video here

See photo booth photos here

Special thanks to our top sponsors:

BB&T, Big Bend Brewing Co., Kendra Scott; Heritage Title Company, RSM, US Micro Products; Sam Bassett, BMC Software Inc., The Christopher & Ross Families, Dr. Achal & Rajal Dhruva, Heather & Dominick Granato, H-E-B Tournament of Champions, Moody Bank, Connie & Bill Nelson, Pape-Dawson Engineers, Parsley Energy, ScaleFactor, Thessaly Startzell & Sam Burd, Candy & Rhett Stone, Strangeworks, Texas Capital Bank, Urbanspace, Wells Fargo, and Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, & Rosati Foundation.

BBBS’ Big Futures Program

A mixed race teenage girl is taking a high school standardized test in class. She looks down and works on the test.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas exists to help children achieve success in life through one-to-one mentoring. BBBS currently serves children ages 6 to 18 years of age, and the agency’s formal relationship with each match ends when a Little becomes 18 years old or graduates from high school. However, a new program called Big Futures may extend the length and type of services that BBBS provides for Bigs and Littles.

“By closing matches at 18 or at graduation, we are missing out on the opportunity to positively impact our young people as they are entering adulthood – one of the most pivotal times in their lives,” said Joe Strychalski, BBBS’ Vice President of Programs.

Big Futures will offer on-going support to Bigs and Littles beyond the high school years, help Littles fully utilize BBBS’ Scholarship Program, and provide additional resources and support regarding post-secondary education and career readiness.

A handful of matches whose Littles graduated from high school last year are currently working with BBBS to develop and define this new program as a pilot project.

“Many of our young people come from challenging backgrounds and are often the first in their families to attend college,” Joe continued. “Our goal, especially in the early stages of this pilot, is simply to better understand the needs of our young people as they transition into adulthood and to continue offering support, encouragement and guidance to help them get where they want to go.”

Eventually, Joe sees the program providing resources and training to students in middle and high school as well.

Big Brother John and his Little Brother Jaylon are involved in the Big Futures pilot program. Although Jaylon is a college freshman in Alabama and John doesn’t see him as often as he did during Jaylon’s high school years, the two are still in contact. John is currently providing support to help Jaylon stay focused on his goals in veterinary science.

“Big Futures is a great idea,” John said. “With BBBS’ current age limits for matches, you help someone get through high school and then it’s like ‘Hey, good luck in college.’ And college is a really different animal, with a lot more freedom and responsibility. If kids need a helping hand to get through grade school and high school, they are likely to need support as they transition to college.”

Rob Richardson, a Big Brother and benefits specialist at the University of Texas at Austin, agrees. Rob has worked in the college environment for over 16 years, spending a large portion of that time training resident advisors and, more recently, working with student judicial services. Rob has counseled students on everything from roommate conflicts to allegations of cheating to police charges.

“The years between ages 18 to 22 are a crucial developmental time,” Rob remarked. “This is when students are building habits they will have for a lifetime, they are in transition getting new class schedules every three months, and they are learning to create structure for themselves for the first time. The Big Futures program will provide Littles with consistency and support during these years.”

“Support is so important, especially in the first year of college when students are making decisions about their majors and how to spend their time,” Rob continued. “I’ve seen students fall into the trap of wanting to do everything, and then I’ve seen the opposite, students who have trouble engaging with the campus community. Continuing the BBBS relationship will offer Littles stability as they are developing ideas about the world and about their purpose.”

BBBS’ pilot project is currently focused on identifying the most important issues and needs that young people have following high school. The agency will then work on developing a range of tools, activities, and resources to support Littles as they navigate their respective paths toward adulthood.

Helping students prepare for success doesn’t just mean college prep work either. Big Futures will support youth around the three “E’s” – Education, Employment and Enlistment.  The program will serve as a resource for students wanting to attend college, enter the job market immediately after high school, or enlist in military service. Matches will be able to access information on job readiness, resume building, work/life skills, and enlistment requirements.

“We recognize that we are not the experts in any of these areas and we don’t want to be,” Joe explained. “There are numerous agencies doing fantastic work in each of these realms. Our goal is to guide young people to the most useful resources for them.”

“This is one of the most exciting things I’ve experienced in my 9+ years at BBBS,” Joe concluded. “This program will give us the opportunity to truly experience the life-changing power of mentoring as our youth transition from childhood into adulthood. Big Futures will allow us to help Littles use the confidence, skills and aspirations that they’ve built through their matches as they move toward achieving the ‘success in life’ that our Vision proclaims.”

If you’d like more information on this or other BBBS programs, please contact us at 512-472-5437 or visit our website at