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The Spirit of Giving

Ray Dennison, Helena Kontos and Mellanie Perez | October 31, 2016 | Feature Features National

'Tis the season for tinsel and gifts, but this time of year is as much about getting as it is about giving back. November falls in the midst of a busy itinerary of galas, balls and luncheons all in the name of fundraising. The causes are varied, but the individuals behind them share the same goal: making a difference. Here are a few of the philanthropists making it all possible.
Houston Texan Whitney Mercilus gives back through his new WithMerci Foundation.

Whitney Mercilus
Charity Kickoff

Houston Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus, 26, has had a prosperous year. Not only did the 6-foot-4 Ohio native emerge as one of the top pass rushers in the NFL, but he also launched the WithMerci Foundation, an advocacy nonprofit for children with disabilities and special needs. “I’ve figured out what my heart [is] really passionate about and that is children with disabilities,” he says. Born to a family of nursing assistants, Mercilus nurtured a special heart for giving early on, even majoring in community health and disabilities as an undergrad. “Since I’ve been in the NFL, I’ve had the opportunity to visit lots of children in hospitals, and my heart goes out to them.” As a professional athlete, it’s no surpise that he’s a role model to youth, and he doesn’t take the responsibility lightly. “They are the generation that will take over, and I feel like the best way we can help them succeed is by paying forward the knowledge and resources we have.” This mindset has propelled him to visit student athletes at local high schools, like Alief Taylor, Elsik and Hastings, to offer words of advice. He’s also an ambassador for the Houston Red Cross, and during the regional flooding last year, he made a personal contribution of $25,000 to the organization’s local relief fund. “Being able to affect a lot of people within this community is a great accomplishment. Whether they need a smile or a couple of hugs, I’m here to help in any way that I can.” Super Bowl or not, this Texan has already scored a major touchdown!

Joanne King Herring
Living Legend

When Julia Roberts played her in the 2007 film Charlie Wilson’s War, socialite Joanne King Herring hit silver screen status. Suddenly, people from around the world wanted to know how a Southern belle could so heavily influence international politics. Houston, however, already knew the answer. For decades, Herring’s been making waves here for local causes, and she’s still going strong. In 2009, she founded the Marshall Plan Charities, an organization that sends aid and resources to Afghan villages, and in 2015, she was nominated for a Congressional Gold Medal. This fall, as the Houston Women’s Home—founded by her grandmother—celebrated its 60th anniversary, Herring hit another milestone: The Home opened the Adele and Ber Pieper Family Place—offering 84 subsidized apartments for homeless families—and next spring, expansion continues with a new service center. At 87, Herring isn’t missing a beat.

Number Crunch

The price for a Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG coupe, donated by Mercedes-Benz Dealers of Greater Houston to the South Texas Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s Winter Ball in 2016. Next year’s ball, held in January, will feature not one but two hot rods for auction. Full speed ahead!


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