The Parish School Blog

The Parish School Raises More Than $550,000 With “Under the Big Top” Gala

Written by Katy McCarthy
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This year’s fundraising event was the most “over-the-top” yet, featuring exciting live entertainment, amazing production, and a record-breaking live auction.

The Parish School’s 26th annual gala, held Friday, Jan. 25 at The Ballroom at Bayou Place in downtown Houston, featured a spectacular program that raised amounts second only to last year’s record-breaking numbers. The gala is The Parish School’s largest event of the year and raises much-needed funding for the school and financial assistance for families. This year’s event, chaired by Kate and Doug Bacon and Bailey and Simon Haidamous, also honored retiring Head of School Nancy Bewley.

aerial artists

The event surpassed all fundraising goals, breaking the live auction record and raising more than $160,000 in “Paddles Up” donations, which support the school’s financial assistance fund.

The colorful, circus-themed gala dazzled its 430 guests with dramatic light and sound production and exciting live entertainment from the Fenyx Aerial Arts, J&D Entertainment’s stilt walkers, a unicyclist, and other eye-popping acts.

Roula Christie of 104.1 KRBE’s “Roula and Ryan Show” kept the energy high as emcee and “ringmaster” for the night’s program, which opened with an invocation read by student Lorien Wolter, age 11. After dinner, guests were treated to a special spotlight performance by the Fenyx Aerial Arts, followed by an emotional video tribute to this year’s Golden Oak Honoree, Nancy Bewley.

Golden Oak Honoree Nancy Bewley with Board Member Laurie Gutierrez

Over the past 26 years, The Parish School gala has honored groups or individuals with the Golden Oak Award, presented to those who exemplify the values of the school. This year’s gala honored Bewley for her 21 years of service to The Parish School, first as a speech-language pathologist, then as Principal, and finally as Head of School. Before presenting Bewley with the award, board member Laurie Gutierrez delivered a moving speech honoring the long-time educator’s commitment to teaching children who learn differently.

Following the award presentation was a fun and inspiring video starring Parish students and staff. Set to the song “This Is Me” from the 2017 film The Greatest Showman, the video showed attendees how The Parish School provides a unique learning environment where kids can be proud of who they are.



Next came the record-breaking live auction, which included a pulse-pounding bid for a highly-coveted package of four rare batch bourbons (including Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23-year-old bourbon) that sold for a whopping $13,000! The silent auction was a spectacular success as well, featuring rare items like vintage French wines, autographed JJ Watt Jersey, and exclusive dining and vacation experiences like a private dinner for 10 at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse and a trip to the exclusive Floridian National Golf Club.

As in previous years, the highlight of the evening was the parent testimonials, which were delivered by this year’s gala chairs Bailey Haidamous and Kate Bacon. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as each shared their stories of how The Parish School transformed their struggling child.

Doug and Kate Bacon

Bailey and Simon Haidamous’ son Robert is 3 years old. By the age of 2, he had lost the few words he had, and was later diagnosed with autism. The couple enrolled Robert in The Carruth Center, The Parish School’s on-site clinic that provides services to Parish and community children. After six months of speech therapy, amidst growing fears of Robert being non-verbal, Robert’s parents finally heard his voice again. Robert is now in The Parish School’s emerging language class, where he is thriving. The Haidamouses consider him “a Parish School miracle in the making.”

Kate and Doug Bacon’s son Gus was 4 years old when they relocated to Houston from New York, where Gus had been receiving therapy for speech and gross and fine motor delays. After enrolling him in a mainstream preschool, they realized that despite his amazing teachers and individual after-school therapies, Gus needed more. That’s when they heard about The Parish School from their friend, Bailey Haidamous and decided to enroll him in the school’s summer program, Camp Acorn. According to the Bacons, it was clear on the first day that they had found the right home for Gus.

“The Parish School is such a treasure for this city,” said Kate Bacon. “Parents receive so much support and education from this loving community. And we can relax…trusting that our children are receiving the individualized and specialized education they need.”

With this year’s gala raising over $550,000, The Parish School can continue to be a treasure in the Houston community.

Kevin and Adonia Cokinos with Roula and Tasos Katsaounis

About The Parish School
:  Since 1983, The Parish School has educated children ages 2-12 who have communication delays and learning differences, empowering them with the tools to succeed. This nationally recognized, special needs school in Houston provides an education for the entire family within the environment of a nurturing and safe 17-acre campus with onsite pediatric therapy clinic, The Carruth Center. Our personalized academic approach – with a focus on communication skills, social learning, nature, independence and the arts – allows children not just to grow, but to thrive.