Tom DeLay has left office early, but he is not returning to Sugar Land and the pest control business. He is staying in his condo in Alexandria, Va., right across the river from Washington, to pursue other interests. Or maybe Alexandria doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Austin.
DeLay’s stated reason for remaining in Washington was that he became ineligible to run for election since he’s no longer a resident of the state of Texas. This move allowed the GOP to quickly appoint someone to run for the open slot in the 22nd Congressional District. As for the former Majority Leader, aka the Hammer, we can expect him to accept that most lucrative of post-Congressional callings and become a Washington lobbyist. If DeLay knows anything about anything, he knows money and lobbying. Even his brother made six figures a year with the extraordinary talent of being, well, Tom DeLay’s brother.
Also, we must remember that DeLay and most of his former colleagues never return home because Washington is their home. So, the fact that his seat is open because he no longer lives in Texas is pure irony. Almost none of Texas’ elected reps live in the state, and they show no sign of leaving Washington.
It has often – maybe too often – been said, “Politicians and diapers have one thing in common; they should both be changed regularly for the same reason.” Houstonians don’t buy that. DeLay himself had been in Congress since 1984 and was in his 11th term. Gene Green is now in his seventh term, having first been elected in 1992. Sheila Jackson Lee – in office since 1994, running for her seventh term. John Culberson – since 2000, third term. Kevin Brady – arrived in 1996, now in his sixth term. Ron Paul is a special case, as he has been in and out of Congress since 1976 (running on a platform of term limits). Paul is now in his ninth term.
Since the Big Gerrymandering of 2003, Harris County is in all or part of seven different Congressional districts, running from Louisiana to Austin. In the process of re-drawing the districts, we booted out a bunch of Democrats and then elected Republicans. So, we have newly minted members, such as Ted Poe, Michael McCaul and Al Green (a Democrat) who skewer our normal seniority.
These new kids on the block will get their turn at Potomac Fever, which has long been contagious among the Texas delegation. Tom Connally served in the Congress for 30 years. When he finally left the Senate he stayed in Washington and worked for a law firm. Texas was no longer his home. Lyndon Johnson went to Congress when he was 28 and didn’t return to live full time in Texas until he was 60. Sam Rayburn spent more of his life in the U.S. House than he did in Bonham.
Last Christmas, I got a nice card from my former Congressman, Bill Archer, who served in the House for 30 years before retiring. The return address was “Arlington, Va.” These are only the latest examples of Ashby’s First Axiom of Congress: They never go back to Boise. Once, I noted that another Houston Congressman, Mike Andrews, was retiring but not coming back. He wrote me that he was “going to work for a Houston law firm.” That he did – in Washington. Former U.S. Rep. Dick Armey, who represented a Dallas suburb for 18 years, retired and also joined the lobbying and legislative operations of a Washington law firm.
After serving in the House and then in the Senate, Phil Gramm announced he would retire, and that he and his wife had bought some property outside of San Antonio. Well, almost. Gramm has a job with a bank and will split his time between Washington and New York. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison ran, and won, on a platform of only serving two terms. She is now running for her third term, fourth if you count her first partial term to fill the spot of Lloyd Bentsen. This brings us to Ashby’s Second Axiom of Congress: When the Washington Redskins become the home team, it’s time to come home.
Then, there are the first Bushes, George and Bar. When he was vice president and then president, his legal home was a room in the Houstonian Hotel. The Bushes would faithfully return to their room to vote in each election. They had said all along they were coming back to Houston when their tour in Washington was over. Many locals greeted that promise with some skepticism, but return is exactly what the Bushes did, even if it came four years earlier than expected.
As for our boy from Sugar Land, he got into trouble partially over his close connections to a disgraced lobbyist, Jack Abramoff. But the former Congressman faces criminal charges back in Austin for allegedly raising money to strengthen the Republicans’ – and thus his own – grip in the House. One of the greatest ironies in Texas politics is that Tom DeLay successfully expanded his power, and in doing so, lost it.
Allow me to start this article as I did for the first “25 Most Beautiful Houstonians” I wrote last year. “I believe that there is something very beautiful about each and every human being.” Here, again, I admit that this is a most difficult project, but with the help of many professional, talented photographers, I, along with the entire staff of H Texas magazine, submit the following “25 Most Beautiful Houstonians” for 2006. I opt to repeat what I pointed out last year. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” a quote that has been attributed to many writers. It was, however John Keats who said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” My colleagues and I interpret this famous prose to mean that through service to mankind, we will never pass into oblivion.
1. KRIS BROWN
Kris Brown, along with his wife, Amy, founded Kris Brown’s Kick Club in 2003 to benefit Texas Children’s Charity Care Program, which provides financial relief to families facing overwhelming medical costs. For every point Kris scores as kicker for the Houston Texans, the Browns and six corporate sponsors donate each $250. In its first two years of existence, the Kick Club raised more than $380,000. Kris was inspired to create the program from an experience in his own family when his sister was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at age 11. She beat the odds and has been in remission for more than 15 years. His newest initiative, Kris Brown’s Kick Club Youth Leadership Program, was started last year to provide an opportunity for Houston-area high school students to experience and learn leadership skills.
2. JAN CARSON
A familiar face in Houston, Jan Carson spent 25 years as a television anchor and five years as a magazine columnist. She has always integrated community service into her life by becoming a big sister in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program, serving numerous non-profit boards and chairing major fundraising campaigns, such as the Heroes for Heart Ball for the American Heart Association and the Honor Your Father Campaign for Prostate Cancer Research, with net proceeds of $6.5 million benefiting the Baylor College of Medicine. Jan founded and chaired the Jan Carson Invitational Golf Tournament, benefiting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, which netted $1 million over nine years. She also founded Urban Campout, benefiting the San Jacinto Girl Scout Council, and over the past 14 years it has raised more than $2 million.
3. KARA CHILDRESS
Native Texan, Kara Childress has been married to former Houston Oiler Ray Childress for 22 years. In addition to running her own design firm, Kara Childress Inc., her dedication to Ray and their four children keeps her busy as a full-time chauffeur, team mom and consummate school volunteer. For more than 15 years, she has volunteered for many organizations, including Board of Stewards at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, VICTORY (American Cancer Society), After School All Stars and on the advisory board of the Girl Scouts. She chaired “Evening in the Park,” which celebrated the $32 million renovation of Hermann Park and has served as vice president of the Childress Foundation since its inception in 1993. The foundation has awarded more than $1.2 million in college scholarships and funding for the Childress Foundation Academy, which has helped more than 1,300 at-risk high school students stay in school, via mentoring, tutoring and after-school enrichment.
4. BRIAN CHING
A member of the new soccer team, Houston Dynamo, Brian Ching grew up in Hawaii, where his mother began to coach him to play soccer at age 7. He is the first Hawaiian native ever drafted by an MLS team. In 2004, playing with the Earthquakes, Brian was named to the Radio Shack MLS Best XI team and was named the Budweiser Scoring Champion and Most Valuable Player. Brian has donated his time to a local Lupus Chapter in Hawaii; was chairperson for the Halloween Heroes, a charitable foundation in San Francisco; worked for the U.S. Leukemia/Lymphoma Foundation through the U.S. Soccer Federation; contributed to Hurricane Katrina victims; and currently supports Hawaiian organizations that help underprivileged children. “It’s very important for me to give back to the community because I get so much joy and satisfaction out of helping make a difference in someone’s life,” Brian says. “I’m so fortunate to be able to help.”
5. ROGER CLEMENS
A seven-time Cy Young award-winning pitcher, Roger Clemens started his athletic career at Spring Woods High School where he starred in football, basketball and baseball. He also became the first player to have his baseball uniform number retired at the University of Texas. Roger and his wife, Debbie, created The Roger Clemens Foundation to help fulfill the needs, ease the suffering and encourage and support children from all walks of life. Among the many organizations that have benefited from the foundation’s work are: Texas Adaptive Aquatics, The Twin Towers Fund, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis, Star of Hope, Texas Children’s Hospital, The Arbor House, St. Francis Episcopal Day School, The Variety Club of Houston, San Jacinto Museum Foundation and Spring Branch Independent School District.
6. TENA FAUST
When she was only 5 years old, Tena Faust told her father that “someday I will have a dog sanctuary.” Devoted to her husband, her identical twin, family and friends, she finds time to volunteer for animals, children and the elderly. She has served on the advisory board for Child Advocates, chaired an event for Houston Children’s Charities, and worked for the American Heart Association and Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, as well as many others. She traps stray animals to have them spayed, neutered and inoculated and has co-chaired a Saving Animals Gala. Tena, her sister and friends take dogs and children to a local nursing home to visit with the residents; they hosted a holiday party there and are working to improve landscaping and make other improvements. “It is because of generous people that we’re able to underwrite these efforts,” she says. Saving animals is the cause closest to her heart, and she continues to raise money and awareness for Saving Animals Across Borders.
7. ROBERT DEL GRANDE
After graduating from the University of San Francisco with a B.S. in chemistry and receiving his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, Robert Del Grande came to Houston where he was courting his wife, Mimi. Robert began experimenting in the kitchen of Mimi’s sister and brother-in-law, Candice and Lonnie Schiller — the kitchen that is now the famous Café Annie. Robert never left the kitchen, using his creative chemistry to indelibly change the culinary landscape with his interpretation of Southwest cuisine and becoming one of the most celebrated chefs in the country. There is hardly a charity in the city that has not benefited from Robert and Mimi’s generosity, but a few that are close to their hearts include DaCamera of Houston, the End Hunger Network, Meals on Wheels, Nature Conservancy, SOS (Share Our Strength), American Heart Association and American Cancer Society.
8. URSALINE HAMILTON
Ursaline Hamilton moved to Houston 13 years ago when her husband ended his major league baseball career. While she primarily focuses on her husband and their two sons, Ursaline works as a professional model and has become very involved in volunteer work. Currently, she is dedicating most of her volunteer time to Child Advocates Inc., serving on the Advisory Board for the past three years. The project she holds closest to her heart is the Children’s Holiday Party that provides a festive holiday environment for the children to celebrate and be creative with their advocates and families. Additionally, she donates her services for the Angels of Hope luncheon and fashion show by Neiman Marcus, which also benefits Child Advocates.
9. GREG HURST
KHOU-TV news anchor Greg Hurst is a native Texan who has reported on everything from Washington politics to the Pope, plane crashes to floods and hurricanes, as well as the war from the Iraqi desert. After working at television stations in Little Rock, San Diego and New York, Greg landed in Houston. Greg volunteers for charitable organizations that have directly affected his life, such as the Juvenile Diabetes Association. His 14 year old daughter, Arianna, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was 9. He lost a family member to heart disease, and the American Heart Association benefits from his concern. Serving as emcee at the Lifeline Chaplaincy Program for M.D. Anderson Cancer Center inspires him to visit the center’s cancer patients on a regular basis. At the Small Steps Nurturing Center, Greg works with underprivileged children. Additionally, every Thanksgiving, Greg and his family serve Thanksgiving dinner at the Star of Hope.
10. KYM JACKSON
With a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and Fashion Merchandising from Texas Southern University, Kym Jackson won the title of Mrs. Texas in 2005. She has served the community by sharing her knowledge of the beauty and fashion industry in speaking engagements, workshops and self-improvement seminars. Her book, “Powder Puff Principles,” covers makeup, hygiene, etiquette, wardrobe and more. Kym feels these “principles” shape our inner and outer selves and teach the importance of individuality and of living life to the fullest. She works with girls, ages 9-17, at the Tamina Community Center in an effort to build their self-esteem and provides free seminars to incoming freshmen at TSU that focus on hygiene, etiquette, wardrobe and makeup. A portion of the proceeds raised by her company are donated to the Rose Ribbon Foundation, an organization that provides post-cancer reconstruction for patients.
11. GEORGE LANCASTER
As vice president of Hines, George Lancaster heads worldwide communications efforts. At SMU, in order to graduate with a communications degree, George secured a required internship at Galleria Dallas, a Hines project. Twenty-one years later, he is still with the firm. He moved to Houston to work as the director of marketing and PR for the Galleria. Always involved as a volunteer, George is a board member of Equity Theatres in Dallas, New Orleans and in Houston, where he serves on the executive committee of Stages and will co-chair its gala next year. He volunteers with the AIDS Foundation Houston, working with the Mukuru arts program. The focus of his civic service is as a director of the Meadows Foundation, his family’s charitable foundation that gives to cities all over Texas. Founded by George’s late uncle Algur H. Meadows, George travels to Dallas monthly for board meetings. He is an active member of the Conference of Southwest Foundations, as well.
12. MELANIE LAWSON
Award-winning journalist Melanie Lawson was born in Houston and attended grade school here before earning her undergraduate degree in politics from Princeton University and a joint degree in law and journalism from Columbia University. As a news anchor at Channel 13 since 1982, she has covered every city, state and national election, traveled to many countries and interviewed a wide range of notables. As much as she loves her job, she loves her city and works tirelessly for many organizations, including the Alley Theatre, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the YMCA, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Foundation for Interfaith Research and Ministry, the Houston Chapter of the Links, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the Volunteer Center, San Jacinto Girl Scouts, the Houston Association of Black Journalists and the Houston International Festival.
13. AMY LEE
A native Houstonian, Amy Lee earned a bachelor of business administration from Texas Christian University, where she majored in accounting. She joined the tax consulting team of Ernst &Young until her husband’s e-trading company took them to New York, where they lived for three years before returning to Houston. While placing a strong emphasis on being a good mother to her young sons and a devoted wife, she finds time to serve the Houston community. She co-chaired the March of Dimes Signature Chefs’ Auction and worked on the American Cancer Society’s Cattle Baron’s Ball. This fall, she will co-chair the Family Services of Greater Houston men’s fashion extravaganza, “Una Notte in Italia.” She is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Dickerson Leadership Alliance (DLA), where she assists in selecting Houston-area K-12 students who demonstrate civic involvement and leadership to receive awards and scholarships. She serves as a guild member for the Children’s Assessment Center and the March of Dimes, as well.
14. LINDSAY LOVE
Owner of a collectible vintage clothing company, Lindsay Love enjoys shopping for just the right vintage apparel, as well as just the right antique. In addition to her love of reading, traveling, cooking, fly fishing and playing tennis, Lindsay enjoys giving her time to worthwhile causes. She says, “I like to focus my energy on charities that involve helping adolescents because I’ve always felt that making a change in a young person’s life does make a lasting impression.” She is a board member of Kick Start, founded by Chuck Norris to help at-risk teens gain self-confidence and discipline through the martial arts. She is also involved with the Houston Ballet and the March of Dimes.
15. LUCINDA LOYA
Lucinda Loya was born in Indiana but moved to Houston when she was 12. After attending HCC, she studied interior design at the Art Institute and, today, has her own design firm based in Houston, New York, Connecticut and Telluride. The loving wife of Javier and doting mother of two small children, Lucinda finds time for many charitable projects. She is the underwriting chair for the Museum of Fine Arts/Latin American Gala next year, and in the past has served as co-chair for the March of Dimes “Signature Chefs Auction,” underwriting chair for the March of Dimes “Winefest,” co-chair for the Arte Publico Press Annual Gala and chair, with her husband, of the Muscular Dystrophy annual gala. She serves on several guild committees, including The Children’s Assessment Center and the March of Dimes. As a couple, they annually support the University of Houston, Columbia University, American Diabetes Association, Junior Achievement and assorted scholarship funds.
16. LENNY MATUSZEWSKI
Working with many famous designers throughout his career as a model led Lenny Matuszewski to start producing fashion events 20 years ago. Much of Lenny’s talent, time and energy is spent in volunteer service. Each year, he produces the Fashion Group International Gala. Additionally, he choreographed the UNICEF “Designs of Hope” fashion show that raised more than $500,000 for tsunami victims. He recruited an entire volunteer ensemble cast of 30 professional models, 10 hairstylists, 10 makeup artists, 15 dressers, five backstage staff and one senior fashion stylist. Last September, he spearheaded a drive for Katrina victims, collecting money, food, water and supplies, and driving an 18-foot cargo truck to Franklinton, La. Lenny also supports the Salvation Army “Reflections on Style” Fashion Show, Best Buddies Gala, Mexican Women’s Initiative, CAP Gala, D.I.F.F.A., AmFar, The Cancer League and Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
17. VICTORIA OSTEEN
As co-pastor of Lakewood Church, Victoria Osteen serves alongside her husband, Pastor Joel Osteen. Since they have been leading the church, attendance has increased from 6,000 to 40,000 attendees each week. Because it is the largest and fastest-growing church in the country, Lakewood moved to new quarters in the old Compaq Center. As a wife and mother, Victoria understands the pressures that women face in today’s society and feels a special passion to minister to them. She has founded the Women’s Ministry at Lakewood to encourage women to use their strength, beauty, unique gifts and talents that are God-given. Victoria actively participates in each Lakewood worship service, whether in Houston or other cities or countries, and she continues to meet one-on-one with hundreds of women to provide counseling, prayer or an encouraging word. Victoria is a full and active supporter of The Bridge, a Houston ministry for battered and abused women.
18. YUKI ROGERS
A native of Japan, Yuki Rogers is currently a board member of the Asian Chamber of Commerce and the Dance of Asian America, as well as on the executive committee of the Japanese Association of Greater Houston and president of the Ikebana International – Texas Chapter. She volunteers for “Showing Japan” which promotes Japanese history, tradition and culture to local schools, churches, hospitals, organizations and care centers for the elderly. She volunteers to fundraise for youth scholarships, education institutes and cultural exchange programs, such as Asian Pacific American Heritage Association, Asia Society, Asian Chamber of Commerce, Japan America Society and the Japan Festival. Her true passion is serving children who are below the average cognitive level in the United States and in underdeveloped countries. She also wishes to adopt animals, saying, “Saving the homeless animals will make my life complete.”
19. CINDI ROSE
A native Houstonian known as a portrait and silhouette artist, Cindi Rose began volunteering when she was a teen, entertaining children at Texas Children’s Hospital. She has served on boards of the Women’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital and on guilds, including the Alley Theatre, Theatre Under the Stars, the American Heart Association and the Houston Ballet. In addition to serving on the boards of the Houston Grand Opera, Orchestra X, The River, Moores School of Music and the Houston Symphony League, she has chaired the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night Gala, Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition, Orchestra X, Cystic Fibrosis Gala, Child Advocates and The Houston Symphony. Recently, Cindi and her husband, Dr. Franklin Rose, founded the Rose Ribbon Foundation for free reconstructive surgery and education for the uninsured with cancer. Their goal is to help individuals continue a life of normalcy after cancer.
20. ANN SAKOWITZ
Whether in the performing arts or in medicine, Ann Sakowitz has provided leadership, hard work and commitment. Her entire life has been committed to serving Houston and the organizations that define the city’s greatness. Her dedication and tireless efforts as a trustee of the Moores School of Music Society has led to remarkable successes for the school, and she continues to motivate others to share her vision. Ann was a co-founding member of the board of the Society for Performing Arts, where she served as president for eight years. She has been active on the board of directors for the Alley Theatre, Houston Ballet Foundation and Combined Arts Corporate Campaign, and she was a charter member of the Houston Festival. An active board member for the University of Texas Health Science Center, the Houston Speech and Hearing Center, and the United Fund, Ann served as director for the Houston Prevention of Blindness Foundation.
21. PHILIPPE SCHMIT
Heralded as one of New York’s most innovative and talented chefs, Philippe Schmit was the executive chef of Orsay, one of the most popular restaurants in Manhattan, when he made the decision to move to Houston to open bistro moderne. His goal from the moment he arrived in Houston has been to become an important part of the community. In addition to presenting a French culinary experience for diners, he wishes to make a significant contribution to the charitable community. He served as chairman for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction and has participated in the UNICEF “Designs of Hope” Gala, The Arc of Greater Houston “Celebration of Life,” the Houston Museum of Natural Science guild gala “Romancing the Stone,” Houston Children’s Museum’s event “Arabian Nights,” The Art Institute of Houston’s “Teen Chef Award,” Recipe 4 Success, Stages Theater Gala and many others.
22. DEBBIE SCHNITZER
A real estate agent with John Daugherty, Debbie Schnitzer supports The Rise School for toddlers and pre-school children with developmental disabilities, a charity that her company heavily supports. Her business career began with the Houston Rockets, and she became very involved in the many charitable events they sponsor. With two teenage sons at Kinkaid, many of her volunteer efforts are focused on that school. Additionally, she has been a board member of The Arbor School, where she has chaired several fundraising galas, and has donated time, energy, creativity and resources for the past 10 years to Houston Children’s Charity. Debbie has also chaired events for and supported The Escape Center for many years.
23. JEFF SHELL
The director of Neal Hamil Agency, Jeff Shell moved to a small 1920s bungalow on a large lot in historic and quaint Woodland Heights to create an urban organic oasis just minutes from downtown. What ensued is Jeff’s total devotion to the principles found in horticulture, the science and art of growing fruit, flowers, ornamental plants and vegetables in small gardens. For three years, he has been responsible for coordinating the Green Valentine tree planting in Stude Park, a partnership between his own Heights Beautification Project (.org) and the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department. Hundreds of trees have been planted, as well as areas allocated for reforestation along White Oak Bayou. What Jeff can’t grow in his own garden, he buys from the many local organic farmers represented at the markets in Houston. He believes that buying food that’s grown in Harris County helps to stop too much sprawl because it keeps small farmers in business.
24. RENEE SOMOZA
Wife and mother, Renee Somoza spends much of her volunteer time at her 4-year-old son’s school, St. Francis Episcopal School. She co-chaired the Rainforest Gala with her husband, Fernando, and has chaired other events for the Rainforest Foundation. Last year, she co-chaired The Institute for Hispanic Culture Houston De Las Americas Gala with her husband. Currently, she is studying for certification in Healing Energy Medicine, which will take two years to complete. Her goal is to open a practice to work with children with learning disabilities, hyperactivity and other concerns that she feels can be addressed in a natural healing manner.
25. JONATHAN ZADOK
Following in the footsteps of his parents, Dror and Helene Zadok, Jonathan Zadok entered the family jewelry business, along with his two brothers, Segev and Gilad. After 27 years, Zadok Jewelers continues to believe that clients should feel at home in their store. The whole Zadok family is there to greet you. Jonathan feels that giving back to the community is the most rewarding experience. While the family participates in many charitable organizations, those that hold a special place in Jonathan’s heart are Child Advocates, The Children’s Museum, Cerebral Palsy, Jewish Federation of Houston, the American Diabetes Association, Beth Yeshurun Schools, Seven Acres Jewish Senior Care Services and the American Heart Association. He participated in the Sickle Cell Man of Style event last year, as well.
Houston charity gives special needs children the opportunity to experience the adventures of summer camp
Anyone who has attended summer camp knows that it can be one of the most exciting and enriching experiences during childhood. Unfortunately, hiking, swimming, camping, canoeing and climbing are not activities that all children can enjoy — especially those facing disabling conditions, such as disease, delayed development, or hearing and sight impairments.
In 1993, Dr. Bob Zeller and Dr. Paul Gerson, two physicians from Houston who had cared for disabled children for many years, collaborated with a parent who had lost his child to cancer to create the June Rusche Hamrah Camp For All Foundation. The founders of Camp For All envisioned the creation of a summer campsite that would accommodate all types of children and adults, and their extensive array of special needs. The trio joined forces with 19 health organizations that had been operating separate special needs camps — and developed one dream camp for everyone to enjoy.
The organization purchased property in Burton, Texas, in 1996 and welcomed its first group of campers to the 206-acre campsite in 1998. Today, more than 6,000 people attend the camp each year from more than 70 different special needs groups. The impressive campsite in Washington County boasts more than 100,000 square feet of facilities, including a gymnasium, an arts and crafts center, a nondenominational chapel, an equestrian center, nature trails and two lakes, as well as abundant room for campers to enjoy outdoor activities. With 18 cabins that can accommodate 250 campers, the campsite also offers a health center that includes treatment rooms, semi-private bedrooms for volunteer medical staff, an education den and medical support areas. Additionally, the campsite’s buildings are linked together by wide, concrete walkways that make it possible for campers in wheelchairs to easily move to and from the different locations.
Each week-long summer camp here is specifically designed to meet the needs of the children attending that particular session. Camp For All’s certified staff works in partnership with each special needs organization to create an individualized program, fitting each group’s physical skill level, mental capability, mobility requirements and age range. With an extensive array of suitable activities, campers can enjoy aquatics, archery, arts and crafts, biking, ropes courses, equestrian programs, fine arts, nature trails, a small animal farm and team sports, as well as fishing and canoeing on the lake. Camp For All is also home to an impressive tree house that can accommodate up to 10 campers in wheelchairs.
Camp For All works in partnership with more than 70 Texas special needs organizations. The program welcomes children and adults who are suffering from a wide range of conditions such as asthma, burns, cancer, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, epilepsy, hearing and sight impairments, HIV, kidney disease, and muscular dystrophy. In addition to the organization’s week-long programs in the summer, Camp For All hosts many day and weekend retreats for special needs children and adults in the spring and fall.
Make a difference
Each week-long session at the campsite in Burton costs $500 per camper. Camp For All sponsors $250 of this cost, and visiting special needs organizations cover the other half. Each organization attending the camp brings its own campers and provides a volunteer staff, counselors and medical team, if needed. Funding to maintain the camp, its staff and activities are generously donated by individuals, foundations, corporations and civic and religious organizations. Camp For All offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for different groups, age ranges and interests. Camp For All Friends, the original volunteer organization; Young Professionals, composed of young women and men; and Helping Hands, a group for teen volunteers; each work together to make Camp For All’s events possible for special needs children throughout Houston and the state of Texas.
Camp For All
10500 U.S. 290, Ste. 220
Mother and daughter work together to make a difference
Denise Bush Bahr and Olga Flora Bush are one of Houston’s most dynamic mother-daughter duos. With the help of their husbands, they are enriching the lives of fellow Houstonians through their charitable and philanthropic work. And, they throw a great party!
“Denise is a wonderful daughter,” Olga says. “We like the same things. We love art and music, and we love our God.” But surely they had some difficult years? “No,” Olga says, “even through what are usually difficult high school years, we never had a bad relationship. Now, there were times I had to pull rank, but not often.” “When I went to college, I was amazed by how many of my friends and sorority sisters didn’t want to go home for the holidays,” Denise recalls. “I couldn’t imagine not wanting to go home.” Denise remembers the day in her 20s when, “My attitude changed to a friendship and respect for my parents. It was like looking through a window. I was late for a party, and they were there when I stepped into the room. They were engaged in deep, animated conversations having a wonderful time and I thought, ‘Wow, what neat people!'”
Olga was baptized as “Olga Flora de la Santisima Trinidad.” That means Olga Flora of the Holy Trinity. Olga’s mother dedicated Olga to God – and that dedication is a deep part of who she is. Olga began life on the family’s Costa Rican coffee and cattle “finca” (ranch) on the slopes of the Poas Volcano. Her love of flowers and horses began there, and some of her favorite memories are of her Spanish and French grandmothers. But when Olga was 9, her father moved the family to Los Angeles, where he established a plastics printing business.
Enter Gerald Bush
Olga met Gerald Bush at the University of Southern California. He was studying to become a geologist and delighted her with his tales of playing French horn for movie orchestras. After the outbreak of WWII, film studios were desperate for musicians, even college students like Gerry. After two years of chaperoned courtship, they married. “I got an MRS degree, and Mr. Bush graduated with honors and a degree in geology,” she says. The young couple moved often, as Gerry pursued his career in the oil industry. They lived in Odessa, Monahans, Dallas, Houston and back and forth from Texas to California. Denise was the first child, and then they had Randall two years later.
Take a Child to Work Day
“We always had fun,” Olga says of their family life. “We always did things together as a family.” It almost seems like they invented Take a Child to Work Day. “We’d go on geological expeditions to Hawaii or out to Gerry’s oil rigs,” she says. “Our children knew what we did as individuals and took part in it.” In California, the children learned about the Head Start program because Olga was a volunteer teacher. They also learned about fundraising because Olga helped to build the first Catholic church in Hacienda Heights. “Our children were always part of the whole picture of our lives,” Olga says. “Problems were discussed with them, not at them. We treated them as young adults. Our family was a tight bond, and we extend that bond out into the community.”
Houston becomes home
Denise spent two years at the University of Southern California in pre-med but decided to move to Houston when work brought her dad back to the Bayou City. She graduated from the University of Houston. On New Year’s Eve 10 years ago, she and Houston native, Philip Bahr, married. “He’s a lot like my Dad,” she reveals. That means he is patient, fun and supportive. Over the past decade, Denise has been a charity dynamo, chairing a vast number of events. Even though it is through Denise’s name, usually, as chair, the event is always a family affair. Olga helps in every aspect, and Philip and Gerry are supportive in whatever way they are needed. This year saw Denise and Olga as co-chairs of the Moores School of Music Dinner Concert Gala, “Making Overtures.” In 2005, Denise chaired the Ballet Ball, “Shades of White.” Olga was officially decorations chair, but Denise says, “She’s always my co-chair.” They have chaired galas for the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night, The Society for Performing Arts and Alpha Delta Pi. Additionally, the Houston Symphony, Asia Society, Brookwood Community and many more organizations have benefited from the family bond that extends outward.
This summer will find Olga studying hard, so that she will be certified to continue with one of her favorite volunteer organizations, Kids Hope USA. Kids Hope is a fabulous mentoring program for at-risk kids. The family’s church, Our Lady of Walsingham, is teamed up with an elementary school through Kids Hope USA. Here, the teacher tells the mentor what help is needed in each situation. In this case, Olga is mentoring a second grade girl, and they are working on the child’s communication skills and confidence. Denise thinks she’s going to take a rest this summer. But, if past is prologue, Denise will be studying too.
Houston Rockets lend their superstar designs to the All-Star Miracle Home
Three popular players – Chuck Hayes, Luther Head and Tracy McGrady – have decided to give the All-Star Miracle Home a Rockets twist – by adding their personal touches to the media, game and guest rooms.
Tackling the media room, Rockets’ forward Hayes plans to complement the state-of-the-art electronics donated by Electronic Dreams by stocking the room with his favorite CDs and movies. On the other hand, Rockets’ guard Head will be dealing a bit of Lone Star flair to the game room by infusing it with a Texas Hold ‘Em theme – including a top-of-the-line poker table. Last but definitely not least, Rockets’ guard and five-time NBA All-Star McGrady has decided to replicate the island escape of his favorite vacation destination, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in the guest bedroom.
The competition doesn’t stop for these athletes when they step off the court. These three outstanding players are competing against each other for the best design within the All-Star Miracle Home – and the public is encouraged to vote on it. Just click to www.allstarmiraclehome.com/houston to check on their progress, and come out on Aug. 5 for the official grand opening of the home – and the chance to vote for the best design.
The public is invited to tour this custom home, as well as buy a chance to win the house. Raising $2 million for the Children’s Miracle Network of the Greater Houston area and the Houston Rockets’ Clutch City Foundation, only 20,000 entries will be sold at $100 each. On Feb. 23, 2007, one lucky person will win the keys to this 4,100-square-foot, four-bedroom, $500,000 home in Sienna Plantation.
Fully furnished and landscaped (including a pool), The All Star Miracle Home has been generously donated by Meritage Homes and its subcontractors. The Children’s Miracle Network provides relief and support to Houston families, helping those with sick children pay costly medical bills. Committed to serving forgotten young ones, the Clutch City Foundation strives to provide help, hope and inspiration to Houston children. For more information about the home and its beneficiaries, visit www.allstarmiraclehome.com/houston.