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Troy Aikman

Troy Aikman

FEATURES

Living to Give

By Kristie Ramirez & Rhonda Reinhart

Photography by Billy Surface & Fort Lion Studio

10.25.17

Dallas is a generous city, a Texas icon known for its ability to reach deep into its pockets for myriad causes. Here’s a look at a few of the people who lead the charge.

Troy Aikman
The Pro Football Hall of Famer makes his biggest play yet with United Way.

What did Troy Aikman do when United Way of Metropolitan Dallas initially asked him to chair its annual fundraising campaign? “I said no,” Aikman says with a laugh. It’s easy to see why. The fundraising goal for the 2017-18 year is to exceed last year’s $58 million mark. Aikman reconsidered after hearing from C-level executives who’d served in the role. “From Randall Stephenson [chairman of AT&T] to Rich Templeton [chairman of Texas Instruments], it didn’t take long for them to convince me.” Aikman has a history with United Way. He not only co-chaired its 90th anniversary celebration with Charlotte Jones Anderson in 2014, but he also moved his namesake foundation—known for building playrooms in children’s hospitals—into a donor-advised fund with the organization. “I’ve spent most of my life here; I’ve raised my girls here. This is home for me, so it felt like it was time to focus on North Texas,” Aikman says. With everything from building schools and job training to health services, United Way’s impact on communities runs deep and global. “I’m gonna be able to look back on this and be proud of what we’ve done.” 

Counterclockwise from top left: Niña Barbier-Mueller Tollett, Ann Barbier-Mueller, Bridget Barbier-Mueller, Oliver Barbier-Mueller and Katelyn Barbier-Mueller

Katelyn & Oliver Barbier-Mueller 
With casual new fundraiser Hope Fest, these newlyweds find their calling in a philanthropic Dallas dynasty.

As a special education teacher at Cornerstone Achievement Center and a former instructional specialist at Connecting Point of Park Cities, Katelyn Barbier-Mueller saw firsthand how much good the organizations could do for children and adults with special needs. She also saw how many resources were required to achieve their goals, and she knew both groups needed support. So early this year, Katelyn and her husband, Oliver—whose parents, Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, have long been involved in Dallas’ art and charity scene—decided to debut an annual fundraiser to help give back to the organizations Katelyn loves so much. Thus was born Hope Fest, a come-as-you-are affair with live music, raffle items and reasonably priced tickets (from $60) that attract a crowd of all ages. Sponsored by Harwood International—Oliver’s family’s real estate development firm—the event took place Sept. 30 and also benefited Love Like You Mean It, a charity that aims to change the treatment of women and girls in India. It didn’t take a village to pull off planning Hope Fest, but it did take a family: Oliver and his brother, Alexis, offered their bar and restaurant, Happiest Hour, as the venue; Alexis’ wife, Bridget, helped get the word out on social media; and, of course, the Barbier-Mueller matriarch, Ann, contributed her time and expertise. “There’s one quote she told me in the very beginning when I was panicking about everything,” Katelyn says about her mother-in-law. “She said, ‘Even if you can give each organization only $500, that’s $500 more than they had the day before.’ I’ve tried to keep that mindset—as long as we’re able to give back even just a little, it makes a difference.” 

Jamie Benn Tyler Seguin

Jamie Benn & Tyler Seguin

Jamie Benn & Tyler Seguin
The Dallas Stars teammates use their popularity and reach to shine a spotlight on MS Society and The Boys and Girls Club.

Working under the umbrella of The Dallas Stars Foundation, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin continue to give back in big ways to the Dallas community that calls them its own. “We are so fortunate to play a game we love and have been put in a position to reach out to certain charities that are meaningful to us,” says Benn. For the 28-year-old team captain, that means spending time raising money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society with everything from event appearances and donations to the organization to game ticket giveaways to families affected by MS. Seguin is committed to the Boys & Girls Club of Collin County to which he recently donated, besides helping build a ball hockey court for children. “A lot of kids can’t go to games and some aren’t familiar with the game,” says the 25-year-old center. “This sport means so much to me, and I hope it touches some of these kids too.” Adds Seguin, “For me, this all started with one of my close friends, who is a paraplegic [after a car accident]. ... Around the time I got to Dallas, I knew I had to start giving back to people who needed it,” he says.

Brittany Underwood
Akola Project has become the unprecedented model of the world’s first luxury nonprofit.

When Brittany Underwood was a 19-year-old sophomore at Southern Methodist University, she was looking for a summer adventure. What she got was so much more. “I ended up in an Ugandan village and had never witnessed extreme poverty,” says the 33-year-old mother of two. Deeply affected by her experience with the women she encountered, she created her jewelry business, Akola, in 2007. Akola, which means “she works,” initially employed women in Uganda to handcraft beaded necklaces, earrings and bracelets for a living wage, with 100 percent of the profits going back into the program. Soon, however, Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz got involved; she launched Akola at every one of the luxury department stores across the country, an unheard-of practice. The line became a top 10 jewelry seller in the first year and now also employs Dallas women. In October, Akola made its first HSN appearance, and this month its luxury line, designed by Guy Bedarida, former head designer for the American branch of Van Cleef & Arpels and former creative director and head designer for John Hardy, makes it debut. Akola Academy has 12 different development categories to help women achieve their goals. “This isn’t just about income,” says Underwood from her Dallas office. “Income without the education on what to do with those funds is almost irresponsible.”