The event, held at the Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas, started with the hustle and bustle of a Guatemalan Market. Beautiful purses and bags, artwork and Orphan Outreach hats and t-shirts were sold while the guests signed up for the raffle and caught up with old friends.
More than 400 guests were present, breaking any previous attendance record, and a generous donor matched contributions up to $30,000. Table sponsorship, market purchases, raffle tickets and donations raised a record $110,000 for orphans and vulnerable children in Guatemala.
“The money will help support hundreds of kids who have suffered sexual exploitation and neglect, kids who have been diagnosed with special needs, and community-based programs supporting family preservation,” says Orphan Outreach President Mike Douris. “We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the generosity of these gifts.”
Orphan Outreach Board Member Trey Velvin shared that he has enjoyed seeing the evolution of WOW, from its inception.
“My wife and her friends were chatting about the need for an auxiliary,” he says. “Several of them decided to take their daughters down to Guatemala on a mission trip and it snowballed from there. The first luncheon was maybe 10 tables. Then that first generation passed it down to their siblings, and then their friends became a part of it, and it started growing from there. It’s becoming a legacy.”
Before the event, guest speakers Alfredo and Irene Salazar, founders of the Guatemala Association of Down Syndrome, were overflowing with excitement.
“Being here is a dream for us,” Alfredo says, “We never imagined we would be able to speak at an event like this.”
During their speech, the couple shared the story of how their son Alfredito, now 14 and in the audience, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
“The Lord spoke clearly to my heart,” shares Irene. “He said that one of the reasons why Alfredito was born with Down Syndrome was because we had to live what each family lives and understand the pain, despair and anguish that they experience. But we also need them to know that God loves them and loves their children and work with them to achieve optimal development.”
This calling led the Salazars to develop the Guatemala Association of Down Syndrome. With support from Orphan Outreach and other donors, they are able to provide the families of 60 children with affordable physical and speech therapy, sports programs, special education and early intervention. They have a long wait list and hope to serve 80 children next year.
“We work with the parents,” Alfredo says. “They often have wrong ideas about the limitations of their children, but we tell them about the positive and help eliminate the negatives.”
Also during the luncheon, student missionaries Lauren Shanafelt and Liv Brink shared their stories.
Shanafelt, now 16, says she went on her first trip to Guatemala when she was 11. She has gone back each year since for a total of six trips.
“Each time has been a new experience that has had a huge impact on me. I’m always struck by how the people live and how even though they don’t have much, they are happy and thankful for what they have.”
Recipients of the 2017 Love to Serve, Serve to Love Student Awards were Anna Disney, a junior at Parish Episcopal School; Hannah Ryan, a senior at Ursuline Academy and Lauren Shanafelt, a junior at Parish Episcopal School.
During her speech, Orphan Outreach Marketing Director Tiffany Taylor Wines says she was recently reflecting about the blessing of having others love your child like their own, especially when they are in need.
“When my children are hurting and my friends are there for them, it touches me deeply and I am grateful beyond words,” she shares. “And that is what I think about our Heavenly Father. He is touched by how you love children that you don’t even know and may never meet… He sees you really love His children that are hurting, and He is moved.”