Sexual abuse of a minor can involve a lengthy process, according to child sexual abuse survivor Gwen van de Pas, keynote speaker at The Ark Gala held Sept. 21 at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds. She was a preteen swimmer in Holland when she met the man who became her assistant swim team instructor, caring confidante and sexual abuser. “He made me feel safe,” said Van de Pas. “After a year, things got physical. I never said no. When he went on to abuse me, I let him. I never thought of him as an abuser.” The traumatic experience was included in “Groomed,” a feature-length documentary she directed that lays out the steps perpetrators often take to “groom” victims — target, befriend and prime them — for sexual abuse. Van de Pas was flattered by the abuser’s attention as a child but found it “disgusting” as an adult. “I was so touched by the work that I saw at The Ark. It was incredible to see the work. What I went through as a child is what a lot of children at The Ark go through. What they do matters tremendously.” The gala, normally held annually, had not taken place since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was attended by 510 supporters, and its net profit was more than $130,300. The 2019 gala had 501 attendees and cleared more than $141,000.
The 2023 event opened with a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres and background music by Manuela Shull’s piano students. KIII-TV News Anchor Rudy Treviño served as the master of ceremonies. The presentation of colors ceremony was handled by the Naval Health Clinic Color Guard with Ariana Jones singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Councilmember At Large Mike Pusley represented Mayor Paulette M. Guajardo in presenting a proclamation designating Sept. 21 as “The Ark Gala Day” in Corpus Christi. Most Rev. Wm. Michael Mulvey, STL, D.D., Bishop of Corpus Christi, delivered the invocation. Guillermo “Bill” Ibarra was the auctioneer and oversaw the liquor basket raffle. The generosity of everyone who contributed to the gala’s success is deeply appreciated, especially the following sponsors:
Stork: Valero Corpus Christi Refineries.
Giraffe: American Steel & Supply Inc., Camacho Waste Services and Camacho Demolition, Diocese of Corpus Christi, Driscoll Children’s Hospital, Gignac Architects, The John G. & Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation, LyondellBasell, Members First Credit Union, Michael E. Rektorik, and Valdez & Bristol Industrial Insulation Inc.
Leopard: Children’s Physician Services of South Texas, St. Thomas the Apostle – Apostle Bible Study, Tortilleria Guadalajara, Allison Flooring America, Bourlon Law Firm, Carr Riggs & Ingram CPAs and Advisors, Chick-fil-A Calallen, The Dayton Family, HII – Mission Technologies, Humpal Physical Therapy, Huncho Energy Services L.L.C., IBC Bank, IBC Insurance Agency, June Natural Wellness, KM Premier Real Estate, Knights of Columbus St. Jude Council 11238, Noe Lira M.D., Lone Star TRS LLC, Thelma Lopez-Lira M.D. P.A., In Memory of Jose Carlos Monte, Pepsi-Cola Corpus Christi, Johnny and Christi Perales, Rally Credit Union, Manuela Shull, Silent Angels, The Silvas Family, Walmart #791 – Alice, Walmart #464 – Calallen, Walmart #490 – Flour Bluff, Walmart #5898 – Saratoga, and Weichert Realtors The Place of Houses.
Major donors for specific purposes were PROFIRE Protection Inc., keynote speaker; Danny L. Smart and Dawn Dorsey-Smart (In Memory of Miriam Jeannine Street), Five Star Painting CC, and Jack R. and Kathleen D. Baker, invitations; and Barbara’s Flowers, centerpieces. Many thanks go out to the live auction item donors: Independence Ranch Hunting, two wild hog hunt packages; Michael and Jennifer Brady, stay at Wyndham Resort in Las Vegas or two other resorts; “Sew Gulls” quilting group, “Exploding Heart” double-sided colorful quilt; Window World Coastal Bend, fiberglass entry door with oval glass shape in its center; Dr. Mark A. Dodson (Corpus Validus Clinic), four Emsculpt Neo non-invasive fat reduction and muscle growth body shaping sessions; Dr. Haysam Dawod, two seats at Dallas Cowboys/Washington Commanders Thanksgiving football game; and The Ritz Family, Cowboys gear (tailgating canopy, round outdoor table, chairs, wood bench, flag, snacks and drinks).