A menagerie of celebrities gathered in downtown Houston on December 7, all united with one mission: to raise as much money as possible for the Altus Foundation, the local philanthropy that provides diversified assistance to people in need.
They did exactly that at the annual Houston Gala, a record-breaking night that saw 1,300 black-tie guests at the Hilton Americas pledge more than $1.5 million toward community services like healthcare, food, and shelter. Comedian Wayne Brady and TV host Jeannie Mai emceed the lavish affair, which included appearances by 50 Cent, Flo Rida, Trae the Truth, Chester Pitts, and more.
It was the latest in a string of H-Town events for Fiddy, who's been all over town promoting the Spec's release of his new luxury champagne, Le Chemin du Roi, and his Branson Cognac. Both were served at the gala, and the rapper led a toast to kick off the luxury silent auction full of incredible donated items like a signed and framed Muhammad Ali boxing robe, diamond jewelry, and guitars autographed by country-music legends Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, and Jason Aldean.
On stage, 50 Cent also signed a magnum bottle of his Le Chemin du Roi champagne—valued at a whopping $16,000—which was promptly auctioned off to the highest bidder. That bidder returned the bottle to then be auctioned again, effectively doubling the donation to Altus.
Outfitted by Prashe Decor, the hotel ballroom positively glittered as dazzling chandeliers reflected off glass tabletops dotted with vibrant floral arrangements, layered candles, oversized Medusa centerpieces, and clear Chiavari and gold Olympic chairs. Guests dined on a diverse plate of filet, diver scallops, cauliflower puree, mushroom risotto, broccolini, and sweet corn relish with peppadew sauce. For dessert, options included a blueberry white chocolate cheesecake and a vanilla bean passionfruit dome with mango pineapple compote.
Besides Brady and Mai, guests heard from beloved NFL star Pitts—also an Altus Foundation board member—and Taseer Badar, Altus co-chair and CEO of ZT Corporate, the gala's platinum sponsor. Badar began the night by requesting a moment of silence for fallen Houston Police Sgt. Christopher Brewster, who was fatally shot that evening while responding to a domestic call on the east side.
Mayor Sylvester Turner, who served as co-chair of this year's gala, was delayed by the tragic incident. After spending time with Brewster's family, Turner arrived later in the evening and led guests in another commemorative moment of silence. On behalf of the gala attendees, Badar contributed to the Assist the Officer fund for Brewster's family.
"We are one community and stand shoulder to shoulder in this time with the Brewster family and all our brave men and women in uniform," Badar said.
Turner thanked Badar for his personal donation and for all of Altus Foundation's charitable endeavors—to date, the Foundation has provided more than $7.8 million in free healthcare to community members in need.
Altus Foundation President Anil Motwani and Director of Marketing ThuyLan Chang shared this year's accomplishments, which include donations and community partnerships with Carson Park, Healthcare for the Homeless, Angel by Nature, Relief Gang, and Helping Hands of the Community.
Guests saw the Foundation's impact first-hand in a video introducing Jashly, an 11-year-old girl fighting a rare from of cancer, and her family, who shared how Altus has helped them navigate the traumatic and financially fraught time. Later, Jashly joined Brady and Mai on-stage, where the Foundation gifted her a dream trip to Disney World, a car for her family, and continued ongoing financial assistance for medical expenses.
During dinner, a live auction dangled coveted prize packages like getaways to Napa Valley, France, and Bali; an all-expenses-paid trip to the Monaco Grand Prix at Café de Paris; and a week with Andrea Bocelli in Italy.
Still, the night was far from over—the invitation listed an end time of 2 a.m., after all—and the room went from gala to club once Flo Rida stepped onstage, where the crowd leapt to its feet to join him for a full-on dance party to chart-topping hits like "Low," "Good Feeling," and "My House." A live set followed from DJ duo Natalia & Esther, known for their blend of violin and electronic music, which kept guests dancing all night.
"Creating a spectacular evening to help fundraise for the mission of the Altus Foundation in giving back to our community is our ultimate goal," Badar said. "None of this would be possible without the selfless giving of the incredible network of supporters at the Altus Foundation. Together, we're proud to be a part of a community that endlessly gives back, and we look forward to continuing the Foundation's work to impact and change lives into 2020 and beyond."