Over 1,000 attended inspiring annual luncheon featuring Uma Thurman as speaker, honoring the organization’s three founders, and celebrating the restoration and empowerment of formally trafficked and sexually exploited women, teens, and children
Over 1,000 guests joined New Friends New Life (NFNL) on November 9 at the Omni Dallas in celebrating 20 years of successful outreach to victims of human sex trafficking, increased awareness of this widespread problem, powerful legislative reform, and success stories of survivors, empowered to gain long-term stability.
The luncheon featured Uma Thurman as keynote speaker and raised $1.3 million to help the organization continue its mission to restore and empower formally trafficked and sexually exploited women, teens, and children. New Friends New Life Founders Nancy Ann Hunt, Pat Schenkel, and Gail Turner were honored for their vision and creation of the organization two decades ago to help one woman. Today the nonprofit has reached thousands of women who have been victims of sex trafficking and has expanded its mission and services to encompass the broader scope of educating and preventing “modern-day slavery.”
Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson gave the invocation, and former NFL player and Men’s Advocacy Group board member Tyler Clutts introduced this year’s ProtectHER award recipients: Victor Boutros, founder of the Human Trafficking Institute (international recipient); Becca Stevens, founder and president of Thistle Farms (national recipient); the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (state recipient); and The Dallas Morning News (local recipient). The award recipients were formally recognized at a VIP Platinum Dinner for top sponsors the evening of November 8.
New Friends New Life CEO Kim Robinson reminded attendees of the amazing work that the nonprofit has been able to accomplish as a result of their generosity of these 20 years and introduced a video which captured the three founders as they recounted the early days of the organization – one of the first of its kind in the nation to address human trafficking. Especially touching was the story founder Pat Schenkel shared when she learned one of her daughter’s childhood friends had herself become a victim that was saved by the work of New Friends New Life and is now a mentor to women through the direct outreach of the organization. Kim welcomed her along with three other survivors to the stage where they received a standing ovation by everyone in attendance.
Marla and Mike Boone served as the luncheon’s honorary chairs while Connie Kleinert Babikian, McCall Cravens, and Jill Meyer served as this year’s luncheon co-chairs. Mrs. Babikian is the third generation of women in her family to work with New Friends New Life. Her grandmother is founder Nancy Ann Hunt, and her mother is board member Ashlee Kleinert.
The event culminated in a moderated conversation with Golden Globe-winning and Academy Award- nominated actress Uma Thurman and NFNL board member Shelly Slater. Thurman continued to remark that she was “absolutely blown away by what’s going on” regarding the accomplishments of NFNL. “I’m so moved by this love-based conversation,” she said. “What I see in this room is what is missing in other parts of the world – a lack of judgment, love, and support…. We need more of a commitment to support that in women.”
After talking about the mission to end human trafficking, Thurman also discussed her personal life. She talked about her childhood growing up in a family with three brothers and going alone to New York City at the age of 15 to model. Highlights from Thurman’s remarks include: her favorite designer is friend Zac Posen, how long it takes to get ready for the Oscars, and the moment when she was in awe meeting Robert Redford and Paul Newman. She is the proud mother of three children. Her oldest daughter Maya is now following in her mom’s footsteps and is acting in the series “Stranger Things.” Her son Levon is 16 and daughter Luna is 6.
Serving approximately 1,000 women, teens, and children annually, New Friends New Life provides holistic services for victims of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation including access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health counseling, and spiritual support. By partnering with law enforcement, corporate sponsors, community organizations, and individual donors and volunteers, New Friends New Life helps to provide legal assistance, medical services, budget counseling, job-readiness training, and educational opportunities.
Texas ranks 2nd in the country for the most human trafficking, and in Dallas, there are an estimated 400 trafficked teens on the streets each night. New Friends New Life believes this is a community-wide issue and advocates for the victims of sex trafficking by driving state and national legislation and establishing partner groups to raise awareness and encourage volunteerism, including its Circle of Friends board and Men’s Advocacy Group.
Media sponsor was WFAA Channel 8.