It took some classic last-minute theatrics from an old Dallas Cowboys football playbook, but civic leaders of the Exchange Club of Fort Worth raised a record $210,000 Wednesday for the Star-Telegram Goodfellow Fund.
With only a few minutes left in the club’s 82nd annual charity holiday luncheon and servers clearing the steaks and pecan pie, the downtown businessmen’s club had raised barely half the money needed to help buy school clothes and shoes for local poor children.
But their guest speaker came through in the clutch, just like Roger Staubach did for two Super Bowl championship Cowboys teams.
Staubach, 75, offered to auction autographed footballs. He signed the first and tossed a perfect spiral across the Fort Worth Club meeting room to the buyer: investor Lee Bass.
Then emcee and “chief extractor” George Young Jr. shouted “Shut the doors!” and ratcheted down the pressure on the 135 business leaders.
Within 15 minutes, Young and Staubach had shattered the old record of $161,000 and banked enough checks and pledges to buy clothes and shoes for 4,200 children.
“This may be the greatest ‘Hail Mary’ pass ever for the Goodfellows,” said Goodfellow Fund executive director Richard Greene, referring to Staubach’s game-winning touchdown pass against the Minnesota Vikings in a 1975 playoff game. Staubach, a Roman Catholic, told reporters afterward he just “said a ‘Hail Mary,’” and the term caught on.
In place of the club’s traditional comedy roast of risque skits and funny hats, BNSF Railway Co. executive chairman Matthew Rose interviewed Staubach before a record luncheon crowd.
Staubach said fans in Minnesota still haven’t forgotten the “Hail Mary” victory there against the heavily favored Vikings.
A few years ago, he spoke at a chamber of commerce luncheon and “I got booed,” he said.
“Now they’re going to have the Super Bowl up there, and they still will not get over it.”
After the game, he told a reporter that when he threw a deep sideline pass to Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson, “I just closed my eyes and said a ‘Hail Mary.’”
“Now they say it for everything,” he said.
As the luncheon began, “Santa’s elves” TCU seniors Christine Clutterbuck, 23, of Grapevine and Haleigh Curlee, 23, of Hurst gathered checks for the 106-year-old holiday charity campaign.
Young, in the role created by original emcee J.A. “Tiny” Gooch and polished by 20-year emcee Edward “Buzz” Kemble, reserved the jokes for new members Barclay Berdan, John Boswell, Baker Gentry, Tom Puff and Billy Rosenthal.
Introducing Rosenthal, a investor and food industry executive, Young said he’d heard a rumor about Rosenthal and golf.
“But we don’t have to hear that story,” Young said, grinning.
Rosenthal handed over a check. Young said, “You’re a good man.”
Berdan, the chief executive of Texas Health Resources, jokingly asked, “Was I supposed to bring a check?”
He counted out $16. Young warned him: “You’re running out of time.”
Berdan handed over a check.
One new club member, former TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte, was absent. He took a job this week as Texas Longhorns athletic director in Austin.
“He’s moved on to his next calling,” Young said to laughs, “at the University of Texas at El Paso.”
Members faced less teasing, but gave more in gifts.
Counting the later donations, the average gift was more than $1,500.
“The whole point is to help children in need,” Dickerson said.
“Our membership enjoys the high jinks, but they’re also very generous.”
Incoming president O.P. “Huck” Newberry said a younger generation of Exchange Club members is upholding a legacy.
“Every year, we lose some of our most generous members, so we have to work hard to catch up,” Newberry said.
It was another Staubach performance for the records.