Jesuit Dallas Hope Squad acknowledged at Grant Halliburton Foundation's Beacon Of Hope’s Luncheon with keynote Zak Williams, son of the late comedian Robin Williams
My Sweet Charity | An Ongoing Conversation for the Good of North Texas | Apr 4, 2022 9:30 AM by Jeanne Prejean
Before the 500+ guests gathered in the Omni’s Dallas Ballroom for the Grant Halliburton Foundation‘s Beacon of Hope fundraising luncheon on Wednesday, March 9, they had loads of interest to attract their attention in the lobby. There were mental health activations including a Nespresso station, a Butterfly Wall, and DJ Lucy Wrubel blasting the tempo to keep things upbeat. Inside the ballroom, Event Co-Chair Mitchell Family Paula and John Mitchell and daughter Caroline Mitchell were doing mic checks. Missing in the group was son Thomas Mitchell, who was finishing up his senior year at Texas A&M.
While organizers waited for keynote speaker Zak Williams, the rest of the day’s highlighters like Jesuit College Preparatory Dallas’ Hope Squad of 19 and Halliburton Co-Founder/Executive Chair Vanita Halliburton did a warm-up on the stage.
Arriving in the room, Zak blended in with the crowd and seemed a bit shy. But after joining Event Emcee Steve Noviello and Moderator Jenny Anchondo on stage, he lightened up and chatted with the two local TV personalities.
Once the door opened to the ballroom, guests including Brad Sham and Alan Halliburton took their places with a shout-out by Steve that he was amazed how quickly the quiet filled the room.
Following a performance by the Junior Players, a well-produced video told the story behind Jesuit Dallas’ Hope Squad (Dave Alcala-Frederick, Gustavo Aldrey, Jose Alvarado, Brody Carlson, Joshua Chacko, Jantzen Da Silva, Anton Dimafelix, Samuel Dunkerley, Thomas Gasper, Cade Gill, Cole Hatzmann, Raul Hernandez, Cameron Lewis, Michael Mathie, Drew Noonan, Christopher Simingtom, Finn Soesbe, Joseph Trigiani and Mark Trottier). As the students took to the stage, the room of guests stood to acknowledge their work. It was rather obvious that the students were amazed at the response.
Following lunch, Vanita reported that despite the past years of the pandemic’s squelching the fundraiser, the organization had continued to battle mental health challenges with the results being a sold-out event of more than 500.
But headliner Zak’s chat with Jenny got to the heart of the organization and its mission of helping others to survive a major distress.
In some ways the talk between Zak and Jenny was uncomfortable as the son of actor/comedian Robin Williams peeled back his life from being the the child of a celebrity to his father’s shocking suicide. Zak emphasized that his life growing up as the eldest son of the beloved “Mork” had been pretty normal. But he also confessed the reality of his father’s death in 2014 was a surreal situation. With the world grieving Robin’s death, it took his son more than a year for the grieving process to get underway.
And it wasn’t an easy process. Zak started a downward slope of alcohol and not taking of himself. Then he started on a road to a healthy lifestyle taking care of himself, both mentally and physically.
It was four-fifths into the conversation that Zak said that being vulnerable especially for men was a true sign of strength. In other words, putting yourself out there was a true sign of courage. This admission was rewarded with an overwhelming wave of applause by the guests.
He then pointed to the Jesuit Dallas Hope Squad students and how their program was remarkable in helping others work through depression, anxiety and the challenges of life.
When asked his recommendation for others on how to face the day, Zak suggested that a person should wake up every day and write three things for which to be grateful.
At the end of the luncheon, the message came across that “mental hygiene” was more important than ever after two years of struggling with the unreal world of the pandemic.