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Ryan Group: Damon Chronis, Ryan, Presenting Sponsor; Jim Trester, Honorary Chair; Ginny Kiseling, Julie Chronis

Presenting Sponsor Ryan | Honorary Chairs Holly and Jim Trester

The 2023 Folds of Honor North Texas Annual Gala presented by Ryan welcomed over 1,700 supporters as they filled the playing field of the AT&T Stadium. It was an evening of patriotic inspiration fueled by personal testimonies and stirring presentations from veterans, scholarship recipients and singing of the Folds of Honor Anthem.  

The annual gala brings together military families, veterans, scholarship recipients and members of the North Texas community in an event of celebration which includes dinner, a live auction, raffle, live entertainment, fellowship and a custom cowboy hat steaming station in partnership with American Hat Company for donors who funded a full Folds of Honor Scholarship ($5,000). The scholarship donors had the choice of choosing a custom hat by American Hat Company or a pair of cowboy boots in partnership with Petite Paloma.

The money raised provides educational scholarships to the spouses and children of military members who have fallen or been disabled while serving in the United States Armed Forces and now, the Folds of Honor mission has expanded to incorporate America’s first responders, including police, fire-fighters, EMTs and paramedics.

Entering the playing field, guests walked through the Folds of Honor Memorial sponsored by Higginbotham, which was flanked with flags above and 13 footprints and plaques representing 13 servicemembers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and their families are now benefitting from a scholarship through the Folds of Honor.

VIPs were feted in an early reception in their honor at the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders locker room, while Honorary Chairs Holly and Jim Trester and their family greeted guests, sponsors, underwriters and supporters as they browsed the silent auction, bought tickets in support of the raffle and enjoyed cocktails.

Just before dinner, the crowd stood for the singing of the National Anthem by Kia Dawn of Party Machine. Meredith Land, Master of Ceremonies, explained the meaning of the POW/MIA Table, which was a place setting for one so that tonight, as everyone celebrated and honored our nation’s heroes, guests were asked to take the time to reflect on why that small, lone table is there and raise a glass for the ones that have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.

She recognized scholarship recipients as they stood, as well as veterans and those now serving in active duty as the crowd applauded in collective gratitude for their service. She also thanked sponsors, including Ryan as Commander in Chief sponsor; Trudy and Robert Wright, General Sponsors; The Stephenson Foundation, Patriot Mobile as Colonel Sponsors, and Major Sponsors Lydia and Bill Addy on behalf of the Addy Foundation, Aero, Aethon Energy, The Buster Family and Higginbotham Insurance and Financial Services

Taking the stage, Sarah Duncan, Folds of Honor Senior Director of Impact and also the daughter of a fallen hero and a scholarship recipient, along with Meredith Connally, Folds of Honor Regional Impact Officer; Mary Scott, Folds of Honor Regional Impact Officer and Mike Beltz, North Texas Board Chair, invited the honorary chairs to the stage and presented them with World War II handmade bomber jackets, expressing heartfelt thanks for their hard work and support of Folds of Honor and this very special event.

Folds of Honor founder, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Rooney, a PGA Professional and F-16 fighter pilot in the Air Force Reserves, who has served three tours of duty in Iraq, revealed his inspiring story: As he was returning home from his second tour of duty on a domestic flight, he became painfully aware as the passengers deplaned of the reality families face when a loved one in uniform is fallen or disabled. The airline pilot announced they were carrying the remains of a fallen soldier, asking passengers to respectfully remain seated while the casket deboarded. He watched as the family of the deceased walked somberly alongside the flag-covered casket. Among them was the young son of the fallen Corporal. Seeing the other side of the war through the eyes of this fallen soldier’s child was life-altering. He decided he had to do something to pay tribute to American service members and their families. He founded Folds of Honor in 2007 as a 501(c)(3) organization that provides educational scholarships to the families of military men and women who have fallen or been disabled while on active duty in the United States armed forces and now, have expanded to incorporate America’s first responders, including police, fire-fighters, EMTs and paramedics. The motto says it best: Honor Their Sacrifice. Educate Their Legacy. This year because of the support of generous patriots and Folds of Honor supporters, the organization was able to expand its mission to honor the sacrifices of families of first responders, as well.

Since that time Folds of Honor has awarded nearly 51,000 educational scholarships totaling roughly $240 million in financial assistance. For the 2023-2024 school year, Folds of Honor has awarded 1,131 scholarships in the state of Texas alone, totaling more than $5,282,825 in financial assistance for our deserving recipient families. The Gala Host Committee are Cindy and Fred Balda, LeeAnn and Josh Campbell, Kristen and Nick Cassavechia, Krystle and Chad Craycraft, Annie and Travis Jones, Richelle and Justin Kerber, Meredith and Daniel Rath, Karen and Rick Schornack, Brittany and Aaron Sizemore and Ashley and Lance Whitworth.

A real treat was when acclaimed country singer James Colton sang the Folds of Honor Anthem, produced by Toby Keith. A spirited live auction followed which featured items including a stay in beautiful mountain homes, a once-in-a-lifetime elk hunt, a Montana excursion, Operation Overlord with Lt. Col. Dan Rooney honoring the 80th Anniversary of the allied invasion of Normandy and more.

Honorary speakers Colleen Katzenberger and her son, Everett Katzenberger spoke and shared their heartfelt and moving story beginning with Colleen meeting her late husband, Army Staff Sergeant Jeremy Katzenberger and married when she was only 19. After she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, they expanded their family. Even though SSG Katzenberger was deployed in October 2010, the Army allowed him to return home for the birth of their son, Everett. Only a few months later in 2011, Colleen and Everett lost Jeremy.  In 2016 both Colleen and Everett became Folds of Honor Scholarship Recipients. She graduated with a Master of Education degree from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri and currently works as a high school teacher. Everett continues to excel in many areas and enjoys science, Boy Scouts and golf. She expressed how grateful she is for the support of Folds of Honor and the blessings that have happened in their lives, much due to the involvement of Folds of Honor.

A call for donations in the Give from the Heart segment raised just over $1,236,131.00, bringing the total amount raised from the gala to $3,192,201.  Then the crowd danced the night away to the tunes of Party Machine, celebrating a truly fabulous gala.

Donation dollars: 90 cents of every dollar donated goes directly back to programs. Folds of Honor has a four-star rating on Charity Navigator and a platinum level rating on Guidestar, the highest possible ratings for both organizations.

For more information visit the website at or  contact Sarah Duncan, Folds of Honor Senior Director of Impact, at; Meredith Connally, Folds of Honor Regional Impact Officer at or Mary Scott, Folds of Honor Regional Impact Officer at

Photos by Thomas Garza, Lisa Means and Rob Wythe/Wythe Portrait Studio

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