A Cookies and Castle Gingerbread Extravaganza
Story by Jan Osborn. Photos provided by Cookies and Castles.
To those of you who know me, I am a bit on the competitive side. However, I never envisioned that decorating gingerbread houses at a luncheon to raise money for Scottish Rite Hospital for Children would turn into such a fun competition. Was I ever wrong! I showed up at my first Cookies & Castles event in 2016 expecting to have a laid-back lunch and cheerfully create my gingerbread house. When I arrived at the luncheon, to my surprise, the level of decorating surpassed my expectations—Pinterest would have been impressed! I recently met up with LeAnne Langholz, as well as Katie Broussard, to learn more about Tri Delta’s Cookies & Castles, a Gingerbread Extravaganza™. LeAnne was all smiles when she told me that the co-chairwomen for this event are Katie and Laurel Looney, otherwise known as “The Dynamic Duo”!
Katie, tell me about Cookies & Castles?
Cookies & Castles is A Gingerbread Extravaganza™. It's a holiday event that is hosted at Scottish Rite Hospital each December and it benefits the hospital's prosthetics department, as well as the Tri Delta Foundation. We have between 200 and 250 ladies that join us for the luncheon on Friday. They decorate their gingerbread houses, and yes, it can get very competitive. Even though our famous “Candy Counter” has over 5,000 pounds of sweet treats, we have a few ladies who bring their own toppings and candy to make sure it goes along with their theme.
How has Cookies & Castles grown over the years?
Cookies & Castles has grown so much over the years. We started out just as a one-day family event and going into our 12th year, we are now hosting three seatings and private parties. We have people who have been attending all 12 years.
The Ladies Luncheon was added in 2013. We host about 250 ladies on a Friday morning for lunch and gingerbread decorating. The houses that these women create are impressive! Attendees also enjoy hearing from different patients from the prosthetics department who share a little bit of their story.
Saturday is the crazy day - our Family Day events. We are expecting to see about 1,200-1,300 people this year. We do two seatings on that day and it is family friendly. All sorts of kiddos and multiple generations participate. After a few years, we started thinking how we could grow this event, “Are we crazy to think we could do two events in one day?” And yes we could! In 2015, we added a second seating to Family Day. There is a small gap between seatings where we flip the room from the first event and reset for the second event—we got it down to about a 20-minute flip!
Last year was our largest attendance and fundraising year, and we were able to donate $150,000 to Scottish Rite and $5,000 to the Tri Delta Foundation. To date, the Cookies & Castles Ladies Luncheon and Family Day combined have raised over $580,000 for the hospital. We’re looking forward to another great year!
What’s new to the event this year?
Each year we take over the atrium downstairs at Scottish Rite. This year we have the opportunity to offer private suites for up to 50 guests. It is a new sponsorship opportunity—corporate or individuals can purchase them as well. Actually, we have the whole floor of the hospital reserved this year. So, it's a Cookies & Castles takeover! Each room will be set up like a mini Family Day. We will have a candy counter in each room and a candy concierge to help bring supplies to their rooms.
Who benefits from Cookies & Castle?
The Prosthetics Department at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children is our primary beneficiary. This includes the care of pediatric and adolescent patients with amputations or limb deficiencies. Our secondary beneficiary is the Tri Delta Foundation which provides financial assistance to collegians and alumnae.
How many volunteers does it take to make this extravaganza happen?
Our committee has 45 Tri Delta women who plan and organize the event. More than 200 Tri Deltas from Dallas and its suburbs volunteer during the event. There are 400 women in the Dallas alumni chapter of Tri Delta. This year has been interesting and exciting, as about half of our committee is new. We have our loyal, returning veterans that we are so thankful for. In addition, we have a lot of young alumni on the committee. There are at least 15 different colleges represented.
Can you name a few of the schools?
Yes, we have several different colleges on the committee: Texas, Auburn, LSU, Furman, SMU, Alabama, Denver, SFA, OU, Valparaiso, UTA, TCU, Millsaps College, Bucknell, Pepperdine, University of Richmond, Vanderbilt.
Do other Tri Delta chapters host a gingerbread house event?
Tri Delta’s main philanthropy at the collegiate level is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The alumni chapters across the country have adopted the same concept except that they support local children’s hospitals within their city. The Dallas Alumnae Chapter chose to partner with Scottish Rite Hospital.
Katie, how many gingerbread houses do you order and where do you get them?
We work with a partner out of Canada where we order all of our gingerbread houses. Last year we ordered 1,100. We’re ordering between 1,300 and 1,400 houses for this year’s event.
Did you expect to go from being in charge of ordering gingerbread houses to chairing the entire event?
When asked if Laurel and I would co-chair the event this year, we said, “Absolutely! Let's do it.” After being involved with the committee for a few years, we were honored and excited to accept this role. We make a great team. Last year, Laurel led our reservations team - which is a huge job trying to coordinate over 1,000 people at tables. She is still working closely with our reservations team, overseeing all of the event logistics and finances. While I'm working closely with the marketing and sponsorships teams.
Who's your major corporate sponsor?
DFW Acura Dealers is leading the way for 2019.
LeAnne, can you tell me one of your favorite stories?
A few years ago, there was a little boy, maybe less than ten. The mom had adopted him even knowing that he had some issues with his legs.
Unfortunately, his legs had to be amputated. While he was in the hospital healing, he got his prosthetic legs. Once he got to use his new prosthetics, all you could see were these legs flailing all over the place. He was running down the hall of the hospital in no time. He was so excited. He didn't look at it as a disability.
Tell me what makes Scottish Rite Hospital so special?
The staff! From the moment you walk in the door to the nurses, the doctors, the technicians, they just have this love of children, they just have a passion. It is such a delight to see. Every person that works at SRH whether medical or not, tries to make the hospital not feel like a hospital. The constant outpour of support to serve their patients is remarkable to see. It really is one of the most energy filled places in Dallas.
How can people in Dallas help?
We still have a few sponsor packages left. This is a fabulous opportunity for corporations and families to give back to our Dallas community. You can also purchase tickets or, if you are unable to attend the event, you may purchase To-Go Houses or Cookie Men. Visit www.cookiesandcastles.com for sponsor opportunities, submit a raffle item, purchase tickets and for more information about the event.
Mark your calendars for this year’s Cookies and Castles:
Ladies Luncheon - Friday, December 13, 2019, 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Family Day - Saturday, December 14, 2019, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Family Day - Saturday, December 14, 2019, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.
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