Ice Ball 2017 An Unprecedented Success

Thirteen proved to be a lucky number as Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 13th annual Ice Ball gala raised a record-breaking $670,000 for the organization, with donations still coming in and final numbers expected to exceed this early total.

Despite inclement weather, the largest fundraising event for BBBS drew a capacity crowd of over 800 people to the JW Marriott on Saturday, August 26. The black-tie affair was an elegant evening focused on raising funds to create life-changing friendships between at-risk youth and caring adult mentors.

“The 2017 Ice Ball Gala was a big success on every level, far exceeding our expectations,” said Brent Fields, CEO of BBBS. “We had record attendance, amazing energy and an unprecedented amount of funds raised to support our mission of helping children succeed in life. The funds raised at Ice Ball, and throughout the year, allow us to serve and support close to 1,000 mentoring matches and to move as many children off our waiting list as possible. A big ‘thank you’ to all those who attended and to our sponsors for helping create an event that will be forever changing lives.”

Bigs and Littles were on hand to welcome guests as greeters. The festive evening began with a number of exciting activities including a silent auction, a raffle, a Big Board mini live auction, Kendra Scott Mystery Boxes, and a photo booth with the signature Ice Ball ice sculpture.

The Big Board auction was new to this year’s event and featured an assortment of special items such as a golf flag autographed by PGA champion Jordan Spieth, SXSW interactive badges, a Uchiko dinner for 4, and a San Antonio Spurs VIP experience, among others.

Guests were lead into the ballroom by The Memphis Train Revue, a Dixieland band, where they enjoyed a seated dinner, the evening’s program, and a live auction, which offered opportunities to win exclusive experiences and trips including a UT tailgate party, flag football with Colt McCoy, trips to Paris and Cabo San Lucas, tickets for the 2018 Dell Match Play Golf Championship, and a “choose your own adventure” passport package featuring a choice of trips to 25 different world-wide destinations. Excitement filled the room as the crowd participated in games and the live auction led by auctioneer Gayle Stallings and emcee Mike Barnes, KVUE Sports Director.

During the ‘Fund A Friendship’ portion of the evening guests were invited to make donations to help fund more mentoring relationships. A moving video told the story of Big Sister Maggie, and her Little Sister, Kirida’s, relationship. Kirida, a recent high school graduate who is beginning her first semester at Texas A&M University, thanked the crowd for helping to make life-changing friendships like the one she has enjoyed with Maggie possible. Their story provided a powerful example of the impact BBBS’ mentoring program has on children, families, volunteers, and the community as a whole.

“I was absolutely amazed by the turnout and by the enthusiastic support our Central Texas community showed at Ice Ball!” said Carlos Barbosa, BBBS’ Board Chair. “We were bracing for the rain, but what an amazing show of support we received! Huge thanks to all who came out, and to those who couldn’t make it but still found ways to support our agency!”

Following the auction, the celebration continued with dancing to music provided by The Memphis Train Revue. It was the perfect end to an evening that will make a lifetime of difference for children and families in Central Texas.

Special thanks to our lead sponsors:

BB&T; Connie and Bill Nelson, RSM, Toni Schach and Michael Forte, US Micro Products; Henna Chevrolet; Gustavo Artaza, ASK Charitable Foundation, ATX Life Coaching, Sam Bassett, Chilligence, General Motors, Heather and Dominick Granato, HEB, Pamela and Will Hurley, Maxwell, Locke & Ritter LLP, Pape-Dawson Engineers, Parsley Energy, ScaleFactor, Wells Fargo, and the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation.

See our Flickr album of event photos here

See Kirida and Maggie’s story, produced by Castleview Productions, here

BB&T: Making A Difference

It’s been 3 years since BB&T bank signed up to be a Diamond Sponsor for Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Ice Ball gala. During that time, the company has not only seen BBBS grow and change, the company’s relationship with BBBS has grown and changed as well.

“Three years ago, we were looking to further support the community by partnering with an organization that aligned with our values, and whose mission fit well with BB&T’s mission – part of which is to make the world a better place to be,” said Blake Absher, BB&T’s Austin Market President and a former Big Brother. “BBBS was near and dear to us. We liked that funds raised for BBBS would go back to our community and to supporting youth.”

The relationship between BB&T and BBBS proved to be a perfect match and each year BB&T’s impact on, and support for, BBBS has grown. Over the past three years, the company has increased annual donations for the Ice Ball Gala through an employee-led fundraising campaign, spread the word about BBBS’ work and mission to the organization’s employees, clients, friends and associates, and recruited others to support BBBS as volunteers, mentors and donors. It’s a growth no one really saw coming.

“In the beginning, we knew we wanted to connect our associates with BBBS. We wanted to be more than a gala sponsor. We wanted our team to feel invested in the agency’s mission,” Blake said. “But seeing how things have grown, and how passionate and involved our employees have become, is really amazing,”

“We have employees who have taken leadership roles in fundraising and advocacy, joined committees, and who want to become Bigs themselves. We have associates who are out there championing BBBS’ work while also championing BB&T’s mission. I didn’t think it would grow like this,” Blake admitted. “The snowball effect has been incredible. Our partnership has affected our organization, our employees and our clients. In addition to our own team members, we now have clients coming in as Ice Ball sponsors, joining the Ice Ball host committee, and then leveraging their own networks to fundraise for BBBS. Seeing this evolution has really been rewarding.”

“I think our involvement with BBBS has brought our organization together city-wide,” said Cathy Haines, BB&T’s Retail and Small Business Leader, and a former Big Sister. “We have 15 branches in Austin. Fundraising for BBBS has fostered friendly competition among all our teams and teammates. We look forward to giving back to BBBS, and we gain as much as we give. BBBS is a wonderful organization that we have all got behind, and our partnership with BBBS makes us proud.”

BB&T’s support for BBBS extends far beyond the walls of the company. “I help manage the annual fundraising campaign from the branch level, and I would definitely say that we do take it home with us,” said Susan McNeight, BB&T’s Market Leader, Onion Creek Branch. “Many of our team members not only try to raise funds through their interactions at the bank, but they also go home and tell their friends and families what they’re doing. They go on social media and say ‘Hey, I’m fundraising for BBBS. Would you consider donating?’”

“One of our tellers was a former Little, and our relationship with BBBS really means something special to her. And again, she talks to everybody she knows and tries to raise funds,” Susan said.

BB&T’s employees are also committing to more personal involvement with BBBS as well. “Every year, I’ve gotten more involved,” said Susan, who is currently a member of the Ice Ball Host Committee. “Ultimately, I’d like to become a Big Sister.”

BB&T’s support for BBBS not only brings their employees together, it also brings the company closer to its clients. “I reached out to my personal network when I was fundraising last year and I got a response from a company that donated $3,000, which I was not expecting at all,” Susan continued.  “The owner said ‘I just wanted to donate. I hope this contribution helps you reach your goal. My daughter is a Big in San Antonio, and BBBS is an organization I’m really proud of and believe in.’ He and his wife have been mentors to young kids in the past, so our campaign really touched him, and I’d had no idea. I was just making a request and his response was a surprise. This year, when I reached out to them again, they bought a table at Ice Ball. They’re coming to the gala from San Antonio and bringing some of their clients with them.”

Through all of the fundraising and networking however, BB&T never loses sight of the fact that the real goal of their activity is to get kids off of BBBS’ waiting list and into positive mentoring relationships. “That’s really been a motivating, driving factor,” Blake said. “We know that there are still 600 kids out there who are waiting to be matched with mentors of their own, and that’s something that drives us to tell every client who comes through the door about our partnership with BBBS.”

“BBBS has just moved into a new building that will give them room to grow. The agency’s program metrics are at an all-time high, and the organization has won a number of awards for program quality and impact. Now BBBS needs to increase its financial resources in order to serve more kids. We want to help make that happen.”

“I handle weekly calls with the captains of each branch and we talk about how much we have raised and how many kids those funds will get off the waiting list,” Susan said. “That makes the impact of our efforts very real and very personal. We know our activities are affecting kids’ lives.”

“When you look at the impact that BBBS makes on an individual basis, the difference a one-to-one relationship can make in a child’s life, it is very powerful,” Cathy added. “As former Bigs, Blake and I have witnessed this first-hand. To me, communicating that message is really important. Helping children, helping community members, and making the world a better place is an important part of what we do at BB&T. Working with BBBS allows us to put our mission into action.”

“At BB&T we have a saying that ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.’  Blake concluded, “But, as our relationship with BBBS shows, by working together, we can do even more.”

The Ice Ball 2017 Host Committee: Having A Ball

As the Texas summer heats up, there’s one cool thing you can count on – Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 2017 Ice Ball gala set for August 26 at the J.W. Marriott in downtown Austin. The Ice Ball Host Committee has been hard at work making plans and preparations for this major event – one of the largest fundraisers for the organization.

Christine and Blake Absher are chairing this year’s Ice Ball gala and have been involved with the organization off and on since 2008. “Our connection with BBBS began in Austin when I was a Big Brother for about 4 years,” said Blake, Austin market president of BB&T, the Diamond sponsor of this year’s event. “We moved to Houston for a few years, and then, when we returned to Austin, we knew we wanted to be involved with BBBS in some way. The Ice Ball Host Committee sounded interesting, and we’d never done anything like that before.”

Now, having been involved with Ice Ball for several years, Christine and Blake felt the moment was right to become even more involved in the event. “2017 is a great time to be event chairs,” Blake continued. “The agency has great momentum, the organization’s program metrics are at an all-time high, and we’ve been groomed for the last couple of years to further carry the Ice Ball baton.”

In accepting the leadership role, they’ve found themselves working with a great team. “The Ice Ball Host Committee is made up of an extraordinary group of people,” said Christine. “And they’ve become family. They are creative and selfless, giving out of the goodness of their hearts. They’ve been so inspiring and their enthusiasm is contagious. For many of them, this is their first connection with Big Brothers Big Sisters. They are raising money for a cause they’ve just come to care about, and they’re doing it so well.”

Team members heartily agree. “The members of the committee are focused, engaged and eager to contribute to the success of this year’s event,” said Connie Nelson. She and her husband Bill have been a Big Couple since 2011, worked as bid spotters for the Ice Ball that year, and subsequently served as Ice Ball Chairs in 2014 and 2015.

“Bill and I are honored to be serving on this year’s Ice Ball Host Committee,” Connie remarked. “The Ice Ball is SO important! It’s the largest BBBS fundraiser and monies raised help get kids off the waiting list and into the life-changing mentoring relationships they deserve. Guests attending the Ice Ball walk away with greater appreciation for everything BBBS does for Central Texas’ youth. Our 2017 chairs, Blake and Christine, are natural leaders with a passion for BBBS.”

Lauren Petrowski, news anchor for Fox 7, shares that passion for the agency and the event as well. “I look forward to the Host Committee meetings, seeing the other committee members, and knowing we’re making great things happen,” she said.

Lauren served as a Big Sister for 5 years and is still in contact with her Little Sister. “I was fortunate to have two loving, supportive parents growing up. Not every child has that, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the same opportunities to be happy and successful in life. Even with two parents, many kids can benefit from having additional positive influences in their lives. That’s what BBBS provides through mentorships, and I’m honored to help support an organization that does that.”

“As part of the Ice Ball Host Committee, it is also incredible to see the community and local businesses stepping up to help BBBS.”

Joanna Just of RSM, a Gold sponsor for the event, adds, “Ice Ball is a signature event that has grown over the years. To see where the event started and what it has become, is astonishing.  Ice Ball supports the wonderful things that BBBS does for children in our community.”

Not only is the team working to raise more dollars, new community connections are being made as well. “There are a lot of new people involved in this year’s event,” Christine continued. Blake agreed, adding, “We have a significant number of new donors. We are grateful for donors who’ve supported this event for years. It’s also a testament to the 2017 Host Committee members’ efforts that they have reached out to their own personal networks and friends to establish new relationships on behalf of the gala and BBBS.”

“I appreciate how the committee members have come together to support this event personally because of their dedication to Big Brothers Big Sisters’ work,” Joanna added.

This year’s Ice Ball not only has new sponsors, it also has a new location at the J.W. Marriott. “There’s an excitement and a freshness with the new venue and the move downtown,” Christine said. There are also new live auction packages and new programming.

And make no mistake, it is a fun night for all involved. “It is such a fabulous night. Without a doubt, you’re going to have a good time,” Lauren said. “But for me, I love to see the room full of hundreds of people all coming together because they care about kids in our community having the best opportunities, and the brightest futures, possible.”

“The Ice Ball is the coolest place to be in August,” Connie added. “Great food, entertainment, incredible silent and live auction packages, and so much more. Bill and I love seeing friends at the Ice Ball year after year, and meeting new people who will enjoy a wonderful evening and learn more about BBBS!”

How does the Ice Ball differ from other galas around town? “Every dollar raised impacts children and families here in our community,” said Christine. “The fundraising is so local.” “It’s all about supporting underprivileged youth, having a positive impact on children’s lives, and educating people about BBBS” Blake added.

After months of planning and preparation, the night itself is a culminating celebration. “The event is a crescendo of a lot of work,” Blake said. “At the gala itself you reminisce about what everyone has done to make the event happen. I enjoy visiting with all of these amazing people and sharing what we’ve done collectively. It’s like going and seeing 800 of your closest friends,” he laughed.

In a word…

“Ice Ball is unforgettable,” said Lauren.

“It’s amazing,” said Joanna.

“It’s inspiring,” said Connie.

Don’t miss this cool, spectacular, life-changing event set for August 26, 2017 at the J.W. Marriott. You can learn more and get your tickets now at www.austiniceball.org.

Connie & Bill Nelson, “Big Couple” and Host Committee Chairs for Ice Ball 2015

 

Connie Bill Thomas ice cream adjsm2

When Connie and Bill moved back to the States in 2009, after living and working overseas for 20+ years, they chose Austin as their home. Once settled, they began looking for ways to get involved and make an impact in the Austin community, in addition to their volunteer activities at Riverbend Church. Their oldest son, Bill, reminded them of his years serving as a Big Brother in Austin (while attending UT) to a young man in the BBBS program and what a rewarding and life-changing experience it had been. A light bulb went off – Bill and Connie contacted Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas and within weeks had become a “Big Couple” to their Little Brother, Thomas. This summer they are celebrating four years together in the BBBS program.

Connie and Bill have been amazing champions for Thomas and have become increasingly involved with BBBS and the Ice Ball gala, the organization’s largest fundraiser. This year, Connie didn’t hesitate to say YES when asked to chair the 11th annual gala, pledging to make this year’s Ice Ball “bigger, bolder, and brighter.” Indeed, the event is on track to be the most successful Ice Ball yet. Bill joined her at the end of May.

When asked about how BBBS has impacted their family’s life, Connie doesn’t hesitate. “It’s huge,” she says. “And not just for Bill and I, it impacts our whole family, because our kids love hanging out with Thomas.”

Connie and Bill were wanting to make a difference and have found that difference with BBBS. “Volunteering with BBBS is easy because of the blessing that comes back to you,” she says.

What is hard is looking back over the many weekends they’ve spent with Thomas and trying to pick out only one favorite experience. “There are so many favorites, but I guess some of the best times are during the holidays,” said Connie. “Spending Christmas Eve with Thomas, decorating cookies, going to Christmas Eve service, just having a ball.” Then Connie remembered another special outing. “Taking Thomas Christmas shopping for his family with the money he’s saved from his allowance through the year,” said Connie. “He manages his own funds and he wraps all the presents he has chosen himself. That’s a huge highlight.”

The gifts don’t stop with the family. Connie and Bill helped Thomas set up a “giving back box” where he can save money and give back to his community – money the Nelsons match in kind. “We asked Thomas who he wanted to help with this money,” said Connie, “and he didn’t hesitate. He wanted to give to BBBS. So every year he presents a donation to Brent Fields, BBBS’ CEO. That’s his way of giving back.”

Bill and Connie bring a wealth of experience to the Ice Ball, having each founded and run successful businesses and chaired events and community efforts in the U.S. and overseas. When asked why they have continued to get more involved with BBBS and the Ice Ball, they say “what could be more important to the future of Austin, Texas or the world than its kids?”                               

Connie Bill Scholarship Ceremony 2015