A hot and sunny afternoon set the stage for the sixth annual Derby event Hats, Hearts & Horseshoes benefiting Bo’s Place. The Houston Polo Club was the venue with its expansive green fields and horses watching from their stalls; tenting and umbrella tables were scattered for the crowd. Over 350 supporters were excited to be dressed in their finest attire for the running of the Kentucky Derby, held on Saturday, May 7. Chairs of the record-breaking event were Carol Lee and Allen Lyons and Sheridan and Robert Plumb who, along with Honorary Chairs, Megan and Luke Hotze, Hallie Vanderhider, Kelli and John Weinzierl, Alissa and Kevin Maples, Millette and Haag Sherman, and Christie and Mark Sullivan, were thrilled to raise over $345,000.  President of the Bo’s Place Board of Directors, Laura Laux, presented the first ever Champion of Hope award to Rick Smith.  Rick, former Texans General Manager, stepped away from his career to care for his wife Tiffany. She tragically lost her battle with breast cancer in 2019 and Bo’s Place was a support for Rick and his 3 children.  He continues to spend his time working with Bo’s Place as a member of the Board of Directors and an advocate for the bereaved.

The afternoon was led by emcee Stephen Lewis and Chita Craft with KHOU Channel 11, who kept the attention of the lively crowd. Floral dresses, hats, fascinators, and men wearing shorts with jackets made for ideal people watching. Guests socialized, sipping champagne from the bubble bar, traditional mint juleps, and indulging in the delicious food provided by Cotton Culinary. Silent auction bidding, a racing wall raffle, heads or tails, bourbon pull, and a healing hearts giving market entertained the guests before the race. Multiple large screens allowed everyone to have the perfect view to watch the race. Cheering started when the horses broke from the gates and continued with clapping and shouts of surprise when Rich Strike an 80 to 1 odds horse stunned everyone with the win. Those who had placed raffle tickets on the racing wall were excited to win a chance at the 1st place prize of a $1,500 gift card to IW Marks, a long-time supporter of Bo’s Place.

But the most important part of the program was when Chairs Carol Lee Lyons and Sheridan Plumb spoke about their personal connections to Bo’s Place. Carol Lee shared, “I first knew Bo’s Place as a Kindergarten teacher at St. Francis when I went to a Bo’s Place training to learn how to better support the grieving students in my classroom. Our school had found that every single year, there were students who had experienced a death who needed extra supports as they managed their grief.” Little did Carol Lee know that the following year she and her daughter Annie would be in great need of the services offered by Bo’s Place after the death of her first husband and Annie’s birth father. Carol Lee added,  “After our very first support group night, Annie shared with me that she did not realize she was not the only one who had lost a dad. After that very first night, she did not feel so alone.” As for Carol Lee, her experiences at Bo’s Place helped her to be a better teacher and to be better able to support a grieving child while grieving herself and navigating a very different life, but a life that is beautiful with deep connections and special friends made at Bo’s Place.

Sheridan then shared, “My two brothers, parents and I attended Bo’s Place after my little brother Michael died in 2004. Bo’s Place was like a first responder to our family in our grief. I remember meeting other children who had experienced the death of a sibling and immediately feeling a connection to them as we all talked and shared our stories. At the end of every group night, every person attending Bo’s Place would come together and stand in one giant circle as the facilitators played ‘Lean on Me’. The entire group would hold hands, sing, cry, and sometimes we would even laugh. We always walked away from Bo’s Place with a little more comfort and peace in our hearts.” She added, “That’s why we’re here today. Bo’s Place has helped our families and countless other bereaved families in our community. With your help, we can provide connection and support for countless more.”

Mary Beth Staine, Executive Director of Bo’s Place, said, “Bo’s Place offers children and families the tools to be resilient after experiencing a great loss, as well as a support network of other bereaved peers as they navigate their grief journey. Together we can help support grieving children, families and adults giving them hope in their darkest hours and a path to happier and brighter futures.”

Bo’s Place exists to provide support and community to those who have experienced the death of a loved one. A non-profit bereavement center, Bo’s Place offers multiple grief support services for children, families, and adults at no cost and provides education and resources for those who assist people in grief.