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KNOWAutism Foundation Hosts 7th Annual “As I am” Luncheon and Inaugural Houston Heroes Awards

KNOWAutism Founder, Tammy Tran Nguyen

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Co-Chairs: Yoon Smith and Dr. Ayesha Rashid

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KNOWAutism Founder, Tammy Tran Nguyen

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Photo Credit: Quy Tran 

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KNOWAutism may be among the first huge success stories of what we all hope is the “post-COVID” reemergence of fundraising events in Houston - the most philanthropic city in the nation!

Were we lucky that the timing was right that those with their second vaccinations felt safe enough to physically attend? Or was the mission of this incredible foundation the driving force that filled the ballroom, though intimate, at the Junior League of Houston? 

Or maybe it was support for the Founder of KNOWAutism Tammy Tran Nguyen and her culinary genius husband Wayne Nguyen. They are tenacious and selfless when it comes to the Foundation, they created just seven years ago - a Foundation that has given more than $1.8 million to support children on the autism spectrum and their families. 

Board Chair Amy Pierce served as a skillful emcee keeping the program moving with her charm and sincere belief in the Foundation. She sprinkled the day with humor and even became an impressive auctioneer.

Two glamorous and resourceful co-chairs certainly inspired participation! KNOWAutism Board Member Dr. Ayesha Rashid and Yoon Smith, Store Director of Faberge, dazzled the crowd while adorned with Faberge jewelry fit for a queen. The two have hosted several events to inspire attendance and Faberge even created a special custom butterfly bracelet specifically benefiting KNOWAutism.

The 2021 KNOWAutism “As I Am” Luncheon was a family affair. The top of the show included a very heartfelt and personal video of Founder Tammy Tran Nguyen, sharing her emotional recollection of the day she was told her son Reagan had autism. The struggle to find treatment and support is what drove her and her husband Wayne to create KNOWAutism. Their handsome son, now 11, who was non-verbal until age 8, delivered a touching pre-recorded invocation. Their daughter, Julia, accompanied accomplished vocalist Angela Nichols for a rendition of Hallelujah that resonated around the room. Julia then continued on the piano to accompany Shaan (11) and Seva Khurana (5), son and daughter of Sippi and Ajay Khurana for a performance of “A Million Dreams”. A tough song for any vocalist, the three delivered a performance so special that the crowd of nearly 200 guests erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation! 

Sippi and Ajay Khurana were presented an original glass angel sculpture made by famed Houston glass artist Bill Meek, recognizing them as the KNOWAutism Heroes, which is an award that now bears their name. KNOWAutism Board Member Sherri Zucker introduced Corporate Heroes Renee and Alan Helfman of Helfman Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram, Fiat. KNOWAutism recognized Community Heroes Reagan and Alex Bregman of Bregman Cares Charity and Houston Astros along with Frontline Hero Renee Rodriguez D’Souza, M.D. of The Meyers Center at Texas Children’s Hospital.

 

Guest speaker Marcel Primes gave a tearful account of his trials, tribulations, and joy associated with raising a child on the spectrum. He was hesitant and emotional at first and joked, “I’m a crier, so let’s get that out in the open right now.” He continued to share the emotional, financial, and directional challenges associated with having an autistic child and how important and transformational the support of KNOWAutism has been to his family and specifically his son Obi, a scholarship recipient in 2020. Board member Perri Palermo contrasted the struggles of raising an autistic child as a single mother without resources such as KNOWAutism. The two speakers were followed by a “Fund A Mission” appeal in the room that garnered over $70,000.

Raising flutes and funds for KNOWAutism, luncheon guests had the opportunity to enter a champagne raffle for four extravagant prizes. The grand prize winner of a 14K 0.46 cwt. delicate French v-split contemporary diamond bar pendant and chain from iTouchDiamonds landed in the hands of Kendall Pierce who obviously stole her father’s tickets or drank cider and not champagne! Dina Connolly won the Louis Vuitton fragrance package compliments of SAKS. Tyri Centanni is suiting up with a custom-made 100 percent silk suit or dress from B’Lan Silk and the evening of entertainment with four tickets to a Theatre Under the Stars performance went home with Tianna Hall.

The 2021 KNOWAutism “As I Am” Luncheon had all the right stuff and raised an impressive $280,000.

Faces in the crowd included: Sippi and Ajay Khurana, Tammy and Wayne Nguyen, Amy and Rob Pierce with daughter Kendall, Yoon Smith of Faberge, Ayesha Rashid, Sherri Zucker, Marian McClendon, Brigitte Kalai, Tracy Faulkner, Alice Mao, Perri Palermo, Michelle Bohreer, Ayesha Rashid, Dr. Bridgette Shen Lee, Jean Wilson, Linda and Thomas Ling, Nancy Stow, Luis Orbegoso, Linda and Ted Wu, Betty Tutor, Elsie Eckert, Paige Thompson, Elaine Finger, Laura Davenport, Steven, and Sandi Wolf, Jason Feldman, Rori Feldman, Elaine Helfman, Blake Helfman, Stephanie Von Stein, Miya Shay, Corbette Daniel Parker, Sadaf Javaid, M.D., Devina & Dilip Bhojwani, Betty Gee, Mona Khan, Linda and Ted Wu, Joanna Podsiadik, Paige Thompson, Mona Khan, Gregg Harrison, Staci Henderson, Kat Kearns and Producer, Paul-David Van Atta.