Texas Red Ribbon Wish Network hopes to make a few dreams come true for some chronically ill North Texans
“It all started as a wish,” Brian Paris said, explaining how the new nonprofit called Texas Red Ribbon Wish Network came to be.
“I was having lunch with a friend a couple of years ago, in a little café in Athens, and we were talking about what we’d do if we suddenly came into a lot of money,” Paris said. And for someone who has spent most of his professional career — not to mention his volunteer time — working with or for people at or near the end of their lives, the answer was easy.
“I am a huge, huge fan of the performing arts. And since I have spent so much time working in nursing homes and hospitals and with EMS, I know there are a lot of people who, like me, have always loved the performing arts, but whose health situations keep them from being able to get out and go to the shows and events and they love,” Paris said. “They still have the want to, but they just don’t have the ability.
“Say A Chorus Line is their all-time favorite show, and all they want is to be able to go see that show live one last time — maybe to see it live for the first time, even,” he continued. “They know that Dallas Summer Musicals or ATTPAC is bringing that show to town, but they can’t go. Their health won’t let them go. What if we could make that happen for them, so they could go? It’s something that’s been on my mind for years, thinking about what it would be like for them if they could get to see their favorite performer just one more time.”
In April, Paris and his mother — another avid fan of the performing arts — traveled to Austin to see Holland Taylor in Ann, the play she wrote and performed about legendary Texas Gov. Ann Richards, at Zach Theatre. “As I sat there watching the play, I started looking around, thinking about, if we wanted to bring a patient here to see a show at this theater who was on a stretcher, who needed a nurse with them, how would we do that?” he said.
In September, when he and his mom went back to Austin, to the same theater, to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The logistics of bringing a patient on a stretcher or a wheelchair to see a show at that theater were still on his mind, so Paris decided to ask. And after talking the manager, he realized, “There really are ways we can do this.”
So Paris decided to put his experience with other nonprofits — like Home for the Holidays — to use and create Texas Red Ribbon Wish Network, an organization focused specifically on providing chronically and terminally ill patients with a chance to check off a bucket list item by seeing one last play, or concert, or sporting event.
He applied for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and received approval in 15 days — “which is practically unheard of, to get approval that fast” — and pulled together a board of directors that includes people with experience in a variety of fields, from entertainment to sports to logistics to law enforcement to medicine and more.
He also pulled in the Charity America organization, which puts on the Mr. and Miss Charity America pageant each fall and spends the rest of the year raising funds for other nonprofits. From now on, he said, proceeds from Charity America events will be divided between the beneficiary organizations chosen by the titleholders and the Red Ribbon Wish Network.
TRRWN has seven voting board members (members other than Paris and Michael Champion, aka Miss Charity America Emeritus Sable Alexander, prefer to remain anonymous), with the 2017 Charity America titleholders, Jazzmin St. James D’Monaco and Marty Edwards as non-voting advisory board members. “Our two titleholders, they are the face of this organization,” Paris said. “The rest of us — we don’t want to draw any of the attention to ourselves. It’s all about the clients we’re trying to serve, the ones who may well be on their very last outing during their time here on earth, and that’s where the attention needs to be.”
Right now, he added, “We’re all working for free to make this happen.”
A percentage of proceeds from the Charity America pageant in September provided TRRWN’s first funds, Paris said, adding that the Christmas with Charity America Show set for Sunday at The Rose Room will hopefully put some more money in the bank.
“All the expenses so far have been gifted to us by very generous anonymous benefactors or have been paid out of [board members’] own pockets. We have some grant requests out to some very generous and very diverse organizations,” Paris said. “God knows what will come in, but even a $5 check in the mail puts us closer to our goal.”
Paris continued, “Dallas Summer Musicals, ATTPAC, Bass Hall — they are all bringing some amazing touring shows to North Texas in the next year. And we have so many amazing sporting teams and events here. We’d love to start giving people the opportunity to see these shows and these events.
“But it doesn’t always have to be a big, expensive outing,” he noted. “Somebody’s wish could be something as simple as getting to go backstage at the Meyerson to how the curtains work, or at a play to see how they set the stage. Maybe they just want to see Neiman-Marcus all decorated for Christmas, or drive through Interlochen [in Arlington] to see the Christmas lights.
“What matters is being able to give someone a chance to see that show, that singer, that team that they always wanted to see. It’s the best feeling in the world, watching someone’s eyes light up and knowing that you helped make their wish come true.”
Paris acknowledged that the new organization has some work to do to be able to start granting more complicated and expensive wishes. And he knows that there will likely be some wishes that just are possible. “But even if we can’t guarantee granting someone’s wish, we’re going to do the legwork, make the calls — everything we can to try and make it happen,” he said.
“With people with such a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds who all care so much, when you put your heads together, that’s when miracles can happen,” Paris said.
Information is also available at the Charity America Facebook Page, Facebook.com/CharityAmericaTX.
Donations can also be mailed to Texas Red Ribbon Wish Network,
P.O. Box 24, Malakoff, Texas 75148.
Miss Charity America Jazzmin St. James D’Monaco and Mr. Charity America Marty Edwards host the Christmas with Charity America fundraising show Sunday, Dec. 11, from 7-9:30 p.m., in the Rose Room at S4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. Doors open at 6 p.m.Proceeds will benefit Texas Red Ribbon Wish Network.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2016.