Wonders & Worries will host the fourth annual Unmasked Gala Feb. 23.

By Saba Ghaffari, Photos courtesy of Wonders & Worries

Since 2001, Wonders & Worries has been a ray of hope for thousands of Central Texas families. The only nonprofit in the country to provide free coping services and counseling for children when a parent is diagnosed with a severe illness, Wonders & Worries offers all-encompassing support to families during the most difficult times of their lives.

Wonders & Worries’ child-life professionals recognize each age group has different developmental needs when it comes to coping with stressors. For example, young children tend to act out their feelings, and therefore, most benefit from play therapy, while adolescents are more directly communicative. Wonders & Worries representatives also understand no family is the same, and thus, the organization develops customizable plans.

“One of the great things about being free of charge is people don’t have that additional stressor at this turbulent, stormy time,” says Penney Berryman, the organization’s communications director. “The generosity of individual donors really are the means that allow us to continue to keep our doors open and expand.”

In addition to individual donations, Wonders & Worries hosts three fundraising events each year: a clay-shooting event at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch in Buda, Texas, a family scavenger hunt and the upcoming Unmasked Gala Feb. 23, its largest fundraising event.

“Women make 90 percent of the household decisions for medical care and 95 percent of all medical appointments,” Berryman explains. “So, I think part of it was an interest in having that kind of special dress-up night for ladies to come together and enjoy times with their husbands and spouses.”

Kelly and Brannon Hyde

The name for the annual gala comes from a popular Wonders & Worries activity for teenagers. Each teen receives a blank mask and decorates the exterior based on how they represent themselves to the world, while they decorate the inside with things they typically keep private.        

“The exterior of these masks are often very colorful and bright, with positive words,” Berryman says. “And the inside, there’s usually a lot fewer words. They’re like, ‘I’m a little worried,’ ‘I’m feeling anxious,’ ‘What if I don’t get into college?’ or ‘I wish Mom didn’t have this disease.’ The idea of Unmasked is that by coming to Wonders & Worries, you have an opportunity to look at some of those feelings and be in a safe space and talk about them with someone who cares.”

This year’s Unmasked Gala, chaired by Dr. Brannon Hyde and Kelly Hyde, will be at the JW Marriott and will include signature cocktails, a multicourse dinner and a live auction. Guests can also look forward to hearing from heart transplant survivor Kristen Patton and her husband, Steve Goldsmith. Right after the birth of her fourth child, Patton experienced two heart attacks and was unconscious for several weeks. Then Patton’s mother, who was living with the family at the time, suddenly passed away. During this tumultuous time, Goldsmith called Wonders & Worries for much-needed support.

Additionally, some Wonders & Worries teenagers will speak about their personal experiences with the nonprofit. Plus, DJ Gatsby and the infamous Cowboy Auctioneers will be in attendance.        

“[The Cowboy Auctioneers are] this delightful group of gents who all wear giant cowboy hats and smile for the camera,” Berryman says. “They just bring a lot of energy to live auction and paddles-up events.”

Raffle items at this year’s gala include a week in Belize, two five-day passes to the Dell Match Play golf tournament and six bottles of British royal-family-approved Veuve Clicquot Champagne and six Champagne flutes. Live-auction prizes include a flag-football party with former University of Texas quarterback Case McCoy, a five-night stay at a family-friendly oceanfront villa in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, as well as a six-night stay in Lake Tahoe, Calif., for 11 people.

Tickets for the Unmasked Gala are $250 per person, with tables and sponsorships starting at $2,500.


For more information, visit wondersandworries.org/unmasked.


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