$1 million announcement at Chronicle ‘Best Dressed’ gown shoot

As a pre-party to the Houston Chronicle Best Dressed Luncheon and Neiman Marcus fashion presentation, the 10 honorees gather for a formal photo shoot. Basically, it’s a gala rehearsal before the annual event that benefits the March of Dimes.

On September 6th, the Best Dressed Women met at a European mansion in Memorial, represented by Gigi Huang, a Best Dressed alum of Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The brightly colored dresses blossomed in front of the house’s Jardin à la française.

This year Houston’s Best Dressed list celebrated its 40th anniversary with the September 20th event at the Post Oak Hotel hosted by Hallie Vanderhider. After a pandemic-related hiatus in in-person events, it was time to break traditions — and raise record donations.

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When March of Dimes Senior Executive Director Jennifer Torres and Donor Development Director Kemah Blair arrived at the photoshoot armed with champagne bottles and flutes, the Best Dressed class of 2022 knew something was up. Torres shared the good news: For the first time, more than $1 million was raised before lunch.

Just before Labor Day weekend, an unexpected $100,000 gift from the Chronicle Best Dressed family helped propel the fundraising effort into seven figures.

Since lunchtime began, $15.5 million has been raised to support the March of Dimes’ mission to reduce preterm birth and birth defects, prevent maternal mortality and close the existing health equity gap. The nonprofit organization fights for the health of all mothers and babies, regardless of race, geography, or outcome, through research, programming, education, and advocacy.

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Locally, March of Dimes has three facilities to support families in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, which sponsors the Best Dressed Luncheon; the Women’s Hospital of Texas; and Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. “The latter is coming soon and was really funded by Best Dressed donors,” Torres said.

March of Dimes recently added a new initiative: Bridging the Health Equality Gap between White and Black Women. Internal results indicate a higher likelihood of maternal death or preterm birth based on race and ethnicity; Black women are 50 percent more likely to give birth prematurely. To address the discrepancy, March of Dimes offers training to recognize implicit bias, behavior change tools, and resources for mothers with mental health issues.

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The Chronicle 2022 Best Dressed award winners are up to the task. Hall of Fame honorees Kristy Bradshaw, Vicki West and Gayla Gardner, as well as honorees Brigitte Kalai, Sippi Khurana, Michele Leal, Kelley Lubanko, Elia Gabbanelli, Lauren Randle and Crystal Wright make up the most diverse class in history.

And with more than $1 million, they’re making the most of this milestone year.

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