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New Heights of Hope Celebrated at the Children's Hope Dinner
by Analiz Schremmer
Posted on Tuesday, April 24, 2018
The fifth annual Children’s Hope Dinner benefiting Orphan Outreach, held at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas, welcomed close to 600 attendees and raised $450,000 for ministry programs in Latin America, Europe, Russia, Africa, and Asia.

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Keynote speaker Leigh Anne Tuohy, who was portrayed by Sandra Bullock in the 2009 Academy-award winning movie, The Blind Side, stormed the stage with her testimony and fiery personality.

When Tuohy met Michael Oher, he was a 16-year-old whom society had let slip through the cracks. He was in more than 20 foster homes, and was homeless when she first saw him on a cold Thanksgiving Day. His story would become one for the ages, as the Tuohys welcomed him into their family. With the loving support of family, Oher was awarded a full athletic scholarship for the University of Mississippi, and has played for the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers.

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“Can you imagine, if someone as valuable as a Michael Oher falls through the cracks, who is out there who doesn’t get to make it because all they needed was for someone to give them a chance,” Tuohy says. “A chance. That’s what everyone in this room has the opportunity to offer tonight.”

Generous with Her Gifts and Talents

Jimmy Westcott, who came up with the concept of the Children’s Hope Dinner, became the 2018 recipient of the Children’s Hope Award.

“On her first trip to Russia, Jimmy asked how we raise our money and she was really impressed by how we were able to stretch our dollars,” says Orphan Outreach President Mike Douris.

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“She said, ‘You need an event,” so she came up with the name, logo, she drove the process,” Mike says. “Now we’re five years into it … we’ve grossed over a million dollars in those events we’ve had so far.”

Jimmy is a long-time supporter of Orphan Outreach, and many other organizations. She is generous with her resources and her talents, serving as a Trustee of Southwestern Medical Foundation and on the Children’s Health Services Board of the Children’s Medical Center Foundation.

“The experience of coming on (an Orphan Outreach) mission trip has made me more and more grateful of the life I’ve been given it also makes me feel like because of that life personally I must give back in any way that I can because I feel so blessed and so  lucky and I want to help these kids,” Jimmy says.

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Judy Allen became the first recipient of the Paula Hayes Service Award for the impact she made in bettering the lives of vulnerable children in Russia and around the world.

Allen was a good friend of Hayes, whom the award was named after.

“Judy Allen embodies the spirit and heart of the Paula Hayes Volunteer Award and is a fitting first recipient,” says President Mike Douris.” Paula would be thrilled that we are honoring Judy.”

A Heart for Children and Service

There are two things nobody would ever dispute about Judy Allen: Her love for children and her love for culture, particularly Russian culture.

For more than 50 years, Judy has served as an accomplished local educator, founding The Learning Tree School for preschool-age children in Dallas. But her accomplishments don’t stop in the United States. She has gone on at least 14 international trips with Orphan Outreach and has used her expertise in early childhood education to train orphanage caregivers in Russia, Romania and China.

One of the most notable things she did was start the Babushka Program (Grandmother Program) in an orphanage in Russia.

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“On one of our trips, she visited a crisis center in St. Petersburg that had a lot of babies and not enough caregivers,” says Amy Norton, director of programs. “She created a solution by starting the Babushka Program, which recruited ladies from the local church to love on, cuddle and care for the babies. Eventually, Orphan Outreach started to pay some of these women to help on weekends and at night, as well, so that had a huge impact for many years.”

Amy says she was amazed to see the change in that orphanage as the women began pouring into the babies.

“This is such a valuable thing, to see the local church step up and wrap their arms around these lonely babies,” she says. “It’s exactly what these children needed, and it turned a cold place into a place that was filled with the love of a grandmother.”

Amy adds that Judy always has Russia in her heart, going out of her way to fundraise for the Babushka program and other programs to help children in Russia by doing an annual Angel Tree in The Learning Tree School and incorporating lessons about the country into the children’s curriculum.

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“My boys attended The Learning Tree,” says friend and fellow advocate Debra Clark. “She has brought Russia back to Dallas. We have a whole curriculum just on Russia at the pre-school. See, for Miss Judy, it’s not just the children in Russia. It’s the children in Dallas; it’s the children all over the world that she has touched and impacted.”

Judy’s passion for culture is so profound that she co-authored a book called, “Cultural Awareness for Children,” a teacher’s resource book used in universities throughout America and overseas.

Judy’s daughter, Dandi Weiss, who recently joined her on a family mission trip to Russia, explained that her mother believes that understanding where a person comes from, and about their culture, is the beginning of peace.

“I would love for everyone in America, especially children in America, to understand that they are the same as children in Russia,” Judy says.

 


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