'Wonders & Worries' Unmasked Gala 2017- Wonders & Worries Plans to Expand Outside of Central Texas

The 2017 “Wonder & Worries” Unmasked Gala, Mardi Gras Masquerade, celebrated 15 years of exemplary work on February 24th at JW Marriott in downtown Austin, TX. This is the third annual ‘Unmasked’ Masquerade Gala of  “Wonder & Worries.”  

The Austin-based nonprofit organization is the only program in the nation that provides a free of charge professional mental health staff who work and support children ages 2-18 and caregivers to improve understanding, enhance communication, and better manage the stress of a parent’s serious illness.

The Gala was presented by Texas Oncology and honored Meredith Cooper, the co-founder and former executive director, as well as Shelly and David Bain. The remarkable Gala raised more than $460,000 with the 400 Unmasked attendees, making it a very successful spring gala in the 15-year history of “Wonders & Worries” and raised nearly double the amount in 2016.  The Austin philanthropic community has very kindhearted individuals, businesses, colleagues, and friends that participated in a live auction led by Heath Hale of Cowboy Auctioneers.  The Live auction highlights included vacation packages for dove hunting in Argentina, a private plane flight to go fly-fishing in Colorado, exclusive tickets to concerts and events including Lollapalooza and Cubs games, and the heart-warming appearance of “Tucker,” a 12-week-old Borderdoodle puppy.

The evening featured a festive cocktail hour with extensive raffle prizes, including diamond earrings donated by The Menagerie and a rifle donated by Woods General Contracting. Rod Babers, a former Texas Longhorns football player, kept spirits high.

Alex Gabbi (MBA)  Executive Director of “Wonders & Worries” Interview by Yenis Monterrey

Yenis Monterrey.- “Wonders & Worries” has an extraordinary mission based on giving professional support to children during a parent’s illness and ensuring that children and teens can reach their full potential even though any of their parents is going through a convalescence. We certainly know that the illness of a parent can affect children and teens mentally, developmentally, and affect their relationships or personal performance. "Wonders & Worries" offer the tools and guidance to families to strengthen their communication and effectively support each other as a united family. “Wonders & Worries” gives free, professional support for children 2-18 years through activities, education, and self-expression. Wonders & Worries has a unique purpose. What else can you tell me about the organization?

Alex Gabbi.- I think we serve a very important need, most people and a lot of organizations focus on the person who is actually sick, but the children who have one of the parents sick need attention and also help to deal with their parent’s illness.  Parents who are ill need help about how they can prepare their children and talk to them and making them understand something as simple as their hair that falls from chemotherapy isn’t something bad; in fact, it is a good thing that the hair is falling out. This is our core about what we do for kids that make us very important, but now we are also trying to do a community at large so we have a lot of people that come to us and say, “We have a friend who has cancer, what can I do to help them, and what can I do to help my kids help support their kids?”  We are also expanding in this area and we are trying to expand “Wonders & Worries” outside of Central Texas.  Austin isn't unique and everybody faces the same issues so we are trying to find ways to expand outside of Texas and across the US.  The organization relies on community support and contributions to provide its professional services to families; there is no funding from federal, state, city, or county government.

After many requests for expansion, and acknowledging that Austin does not have a monopoly on sick parents, "Wonders & Worries" has plans to expand outside of Central Texas within at least the next five years.

Yenis Monterrey.- Wonders & Worries services are “free of charge” and also offered in English and Spanish. It serves bilingual families in Spanish and English and I think it’s wonderful. Are you planning to expand the services following the same format across U.S?

Alex Gabbi.- Yes, and that’s our goal too, we support Spanish and English languages in “Wonders & Worries” and our goal as well is to expand our services in both languages in a variety of different formats which is very exciting.

Yenis Monterrey.- What’s your background Alex, since you are working on a non-profit organization?

Alex Gabbi.- I come from the for-profit world. I’m a professor at the University Texas (McCombs School), and I have worked for a lot of for-profit companies. I have had senior leadership positions with small and Fortune 500 companies in the high-tech, consulting international business and software arenas. I have been deeply involved in "Wonders & Worries" since my wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010, and my three children received support from the organization. After the loss of my wife in 2013, I have committed to giving back to "Wonders & Worries".

Interview with Julie May (Child Life Specialist) BS CCLS by Yenis Monterrey

Yenis Monterrey.- Julie, what can you tell me about the services offered at "Wonders & Worries" and locations?

Wonders & Worries has four different offices and we help to serve families, especially with formalized psychosocial services for children and adolescents who have a parent diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness. Our services give psychosocial support and illness education to children at an age-appropriate level about the illness, treatment or side effects to help them maintain their well-being, ease the stress, sadness, fear or anger within their family and increase the parent’s ability to focus on treatment.  We also offer different tools, guidance, and connections to peers sharing similar experiences.

We currently serve families through a six-week course curriculum, and the six sessions are customizable. These individual sessions are free of charge and available in English and Spanish. We also offer group support for teenagers, and group support for new members called “New Wonders", where we also offer parent consultation.

Our Main Office or Headquarters is located on Burnet Road, our Southwest Location in Westlake is on Westbank Drive, our East Office is located on South I.H. 35, and our North Location is in the Williamson County Office in the Georgetown Community Resource Center.

Yenis Monterrey interview with Ty Lehman

My family got involved with “Wonders & Worries” in 2004. In July during the same year my wife found out she had colon cancer and when she was at the hospital she was asked about how could she receive help for our children who at the time were 6 and 4 years old.  We started with “Wonders & Worries,” and when my wife died after 4 months of treatment, I was alone and I didn’t know how to be a single parent with two younger children and I needed advice on how to cope with the situation. I was able to take classes at “Wonders & Worries” and afterward it was a lot easier for me to communicate with my kids. Thirteen years later my daughter is studying Aerospace Engineering and my son is almost out of high school. It was really amazing that we were able to go through all of this painful journey with the help of  “Wonders & Worries.

Save the date for February 23, 2018, to celebrate 16 years of "Wonders & Worries" success at 'Unmasked'This memorable masquerade gala will include cocktails, dinner, a live auction, raffles, and entertainment.

Wonders & Worries 2017 ‘Unmasked’ Mardi Gras Masquerade Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor:Texas Oncology;  Cocktail Hour Sponsor:Alpha Painting & Decorating Co., Inc; Dinner Sponsor: Pam and Mike Reese; Video Sponsor: Michelle and Lorne Bain. Unmasked Sponsors: Shelly and David Bain, Duane C.Cooper,  Managing Director Investments, withCooper Scoggin Financial Strategies Group of Wells Fargo Advisors,UBS Financial Services.


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