Ice Ball 2021 Reaches New Heights

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 2021 Ice Ball Gala was nothing short of historic. A sold-out crowd, the introduction of our new CEO,  a 50th anniversary celebration, and a record-breaking $1.2 million in funds raised to create life-changing friendships between at-risk youth and caring adult mentors. It was truly a night to remember.

Held at the Fairmont Austin on Saturday, December 4, the black-tie affair was an elegant evening focused on raising funds to help children achieve their full potential. Viewed through the huge ballroom windows, the nighttime skyline offered the perfect backdrop for the event. Guests’ gowns glistened under the chandeliers, much like the city lights against the night sky.

“Wow. What a perfect Ice Ball for our anniversary year. It was an amazing evening and a win for kids in our community,” said Leah Newkirk Meunier, BBBS’ new CEO. “We had over 800 enthusiastic friends and supporters in attendance who stepped up in a big way.”

“This well-loved event is one of the premier galas in Austin,” said Leah. “Ice Ball has continued to grow over the years, and it has now reached a new level of success… success that translates into hundreds of children receiving the mentoring relationships they need and deserve.”

The evening’s pre-event cocktail hour featured a giant ice sculpture, photo booths, a Kendra Scott pop-up shop, a signature cocktail, and the opportunity to bid on silent auction items. For many, however, the main attraction was the opportunity to gather with friends face-to-face and to spend time together, which created an air of energy and excitement.

This year’s event also included an online option for attendees who wanted to enjoy the gala from home. Online guests were able to view the main event program, and participate in the silent auction, live auction, and Fund A Friendship portions of the night via their phones and computers.

The program began when guests were ushered into the ballroom. Emcee Quita Culpepper, an anchor with KVUE news, rallied the crowd with a 50th anniversary quiz game highlighting the year BBBS of Central Texas was founded – 1971. Guests in the room and online answered the quiz questions on their phones and watched as the results were shown on screen.

After the game, former CEO Brent Fields welcomed the crowd and introduced incoming CEO, Dr. Leah Newkirk Meunier. Dr. Meunier talked about BBBS’ achievements over the past 50 years, and highlighted current agency needs. She also recognized and thanked the Ice Ball Host Committee, the gala’s 2021 event chairs Paula and Kevin Burns, and this year’s major event sponsors.

Following a short break for dinner, the live auction began. Auctioneer Heath Hale and his Cowboys inspired the crowd to bid on a number of exceptional auction packages including a private dining experience in The Independent’s penthouse for 10 with Chef Matt Peters; a special tour of Oregon wineries; a south Texas hunt on the King Ranch; a Colorado Rocky Mountain get-away; a special Paris stay near the Eiffel Tower; a beachside vacation in Costa Rica; a luxury retreat in Turks and Caicos; a skiing adventure in Park City, Utah; and two custom catamaran experiences featuring chef-prepared meals and luxury accommodations.

These exceptional experiences went for top dollar during the auction, much to the delight of Ice Ball attendees and event chairs Paula and Kevin Burns, who were instrumental in securing many of the live auction items. “From the moment we signed on as Ice Ball Chairs, we wanted to raise more money for BBBS than anyone ever has,” said Kevin. “And tonight, we achieved that goal.”

“We’ve always believed that the best way to give back to the community is to help youth succeed,” said Kevin. “The funds we raised tonight will positively impact the lives of so many kids, which helps them, as well as the broader community. We all do well when our kids do well. It has been a great evening.”

One of the highlights of the event was the presentation of BBBS’ mission story featuring Little Brother David and his Big Sister Emily. David talked about his journey growing up in a single parent home and assuming the role of parent and provider when his mom left the family after losing her jobs during COVID. Through his struggles to make ends meet and to manage both school and work, to his ultimate reconciliation with his mom, David’s Big Sister Emily provided support every step of the way. It’s a story that reflects what BBBS is all about. Today, David has a good job. He is financially independent, he is attending ACC, and he is on a positive path with a bright future.

Following the mission story and the Fund A Friendship portion of the program, BBBS honored this year’s Ice VII recipients, Connie, and Bill Nelson, for their significant impact on the gala.

Constant, caring and committed, Connie and Bill have had a profound influence on the rapid growth of this signature event. Connie and Bill have the unique distinction of having chaired the Ice Ball for two years in a row, in 2014 and 2015. They have also recruited others to participate in, donate to, and chair the event as well.

Following this special award presentation and recognition of Paula and Kevin Burns for their incredible contributions as this year’s Ice Ball gala chairs, it was time to reveal the evening’s results – and they did not disappoint! Ice Ball 2021 raised more than $1.2 million, exceeding our original fundraising goal by more than 40%!

This tremendous announcement set the stage for a celebration, which continued into the early morning hours as the gala’s after-party began with music and dancing by Memphis Train Revue. All in all, it was an Ice Ball for the record books.

We are grateful for the generous support of our sponsors, attendees, and partners. Thank you. Your contributions will make a difference for children and families in our community for years, and generations, to come. And that’s what Ice Ball is truly all about.

See photos from this year’s gala HERE

See our 2021 match video HERE

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