FORT WORTH — Former first lady Laura Bush remembers stopping by a little boy’s house to take him to AstroWorld and finding him standing at the front door in his underwear.Bush was a history teacher in Houston at the time, and planned to take the child to the then-popular Six Flags attraction in Houston. But when she stopped by the child’s house to get his mother’s permission, the woman refused to come to the door. Bush still remembers hugging the scantily clad boy and walking away.“Not all stories end in triumph, and if I even need to remind myself of that, all I need to do is think about that boy,” Bush said.The former first lady told her story to a ballroom filled with 220 local leaders gathered Thursday night for a fundraiser for the nonprofit Alliance for Children. The nonprofit works with abused children at its Fort Worth, Arlington and Hurst centers and partners with Child Protective Services, Cook Children’s Medical Center and law agencies to prevent and help children who are abused.Following her speech, Bush dined in a private room with 16 guests. Her personal dinner conversation was worth $50,000 to the organization, the highest level of sponsorship offered.At least $180,000 was raised as of Thursday night, organizers said. The event is a crucial fundraiser for Alliance for Children, one of the first child advocacy center programs in Texas and the only one in Tarrant County. Former Dallas Cowboys player Rayfield Wright, former WFAA journalist Gary Cogill and Pam Minick, co-owner of Billy Bob’s Texas were among the participants that sat at circular dinner tables and talked about ways to prevent child abuse and raise awareness at the “Great Conversations Dinner.”Wright, a Football Hall of Famer, said it was his second year to support the organization. He spoke briefly about his own foundation, which works with children from low-income families. “I didn’t know my dad. My mother and grandmother raised four kids. I was going to join the Army after high school because I had no financial support,” Wright said.Then one day a man whom he has never met went to his high school and said he wanted to pay to send one student to college, and that it could be any student the principal picked. That student was Wright. “That man sent me $50 a month until I graduated, and all he wanted in return is that if I was ever in a position to help another kid, that is what I would do,” Wright said. Alliance for Children is currently working on an educational program to prevent sexual and physical abuse. The program, called “Prevent Now,” hopes to train 70,000 adults by 2020. “The problems are great, but greater here is the love for our children,” Bush said.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792 Twitter:@MonicaNagyFWST