TOP 20 IMPACT MAKERS AWARDS 2020
2020 Top 20 Inspiring Woman Impact Maker Award
Sunday, January 19, 2020
The St. Regis Houston
6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Brigitte Kalai and her family moved to Houston to get her father the best treatment possible when he was diagnosed with cancer. Thus began her lifelong love of the Bayou City. Growing up in Houston, Brigitte attended Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions, planning to go to medical school. When she met Bashar Kalai at Walgreens, while getting cold medicine, the two became inseparable. She went on to graduate with a BSN from the University of Texas and then to work as a pediatric nurse at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston working with children who had significant and chronic health challenges.
She and Bashar married in 1993 and started a family and their company, Amerapex, of which Bashar is CEO. They have two children, Remy and Alex, who attend Rice University. Max, a Miniature Schnauzer, completes the family.
For Brigitte, giving back to the community is an honor, and it brings her great pleasure. As a Big Sister volunteer, Brigitte mentored girls who would benefit from having a positive role model in their lives. She also volunteered for a number of organizations that helped the aging and the infirm, making home visits to the elderly and the sick.
In her early twenties, Brigitte began to experience symptoms from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which eventually forced her to retire from nursing. The experience increased her empathy toward those living with chronic illness and cemented her commitment to supporting them and their families. Brigitte understands the physical, emotional, and financial burdens that accompany such conditions. Determined her RA wouldn’t deter her from helping others, she continued to volunteer at homeless shelters.
As Bashar began to grow Amerapex, which eventually became a global leader in the energy sector, the couple were committed to it being a good corporate citizen. As such, they became involved with various charitable organizations hoping to enhance the lives of Houstonians and people around the world.
Brigitte is a founding member of Methodist Tri and a leading supporter of Crime Stoppers. She has implemented and helped fund current programs to support Small Steps, March of Dimes, Nora’s Home, UNICEF, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Houston Area Women’s Center, the Society for the Performing Arts, Pratham USA, KNOWAutism, Houston Children’s Charity, ALMA, Syrian Scholarship Endowment Gala, and The Kinkaid School. She is also on the boards of Interfaith Ministries, UNICEF, Crime Stoppers, Nora’s Home, and the Sheriff’s Advisory Board, is a member of the March of Dimes Roosevelt Society, and serves on the Asia Society Women’s Leadership Series Steering Committee.
Brigitte has chaired or cochaired a number of worthy events, including the Pratham Houston Gala, 2016, raising $1.8 million; the Nora’s Home Gala, 2016, helping raise close to $500,000; the Una Notte Luncheon, 2017, benefitting the Women’s Center; the Best Friends Brunch, 2018 and 2019; the UNICEF Gala, 2018; the International Mother’s Day Soiree, 2018; the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Luncheon, breaking the previous record; the Una Notte Gala, 2018, breaking all previous records; the Crime Stoppers Gala, 2018, breaking all previous records; and the SBP Gala, 2018, raising over $900,000 for the first-time event. She was the honorary chair for the Crime Stoppers Gala, 2019, as well as the SBP gala, and she will cochair the March of Dimes Best Dressed Luncheon, 2020. As well, Brigitte was an ambassador for KNOWAutism in 2017.
Brigitte has been involved with a myriad of worthy causes with her husband. Together, they contributed to the capital campaign to help expand Nora’s Home, a facility which offers young transplant patients and their families a home away from home. Brigitte sits on its board and has contributed to the capital campaign. They have donated to, and worked with, Houston Methodist Hospital, Can Academy, the Star of Hope, Small Steps, and UNICEF. They have also contributed to capital campaigns by both The Kinkaid School and Rice University as well as to their annual campaigns to help fund scholarships and programs. Brigitte and Bashar also funded and initiated The Brigitte and Bashar Kalai Workshops at Rice University, which host distinguished speakers and Nobel Laureates from around the world.
Deeply involved with Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, which provides over one million meals-on-wheels a year and helps promote interfaith dialogue as well as assist in the resettlement of refugees, Brigitte and Bashar provided the lead gift for the organization’s Brigitte and Bashar Kalai Plaza of Respect. Honoring the interfaith work of three Houston faith leaders, the plaza is a beautiful outdoor space meant for reflecting, learning, and gathering.
Together, Brigitte and Bashar chaired the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce Gala, 2012; were the title sponsors for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Gala, 2015 and 2016; and were the honorary chairs of the Operation Smile Gala, 2017.
In gratitude for her service, Brigitte was an International Mother’s Day, 2017, honoree; honored as a Leading Lady for Crime Stoppers in 2017, 2018, and 2019; was named Best Dressed for the March of Dimes; was a Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame honoree; was a Women of Distinction honoree; was named one of Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women; was named one of Houston’s 25 Most Beautiful People; was a St. Jude Research Hospital Family Honoree; received the St. Jude Research Hospital Golden Heart Award; was a Leading Lady of Crime Stoppers; was a Lebanon Times honoree; was an Interfaith Ministries honoree for establishing The Brigitte and Bashar Kalai Plaza of Respect; and was a Big Brothers Big Sisters honoree for establishing The Brigitte and Bashar Kalai Event Space. As a couple, Brigitte and Bashar were honored with the John Connor Humanitarian Award, 2017, and by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 2015, 2016, and 2017 and by Texas Children’s Hospital in 2018.
Brigitte has spent her life supporting programs that help mentor and uplift women, children, and animals and serving those with chronic illness. Service has been a calling Brigitte has answered with joy since high school.
It is for all the reasons mentioned above, and many more, that Brigitte Kalai has been named a Top 20 Inspiring Woman Impact Maker for 2020.