Annual Luncheon


he 2019 Fulfilling Families Luncheon benefiting Arms Wide Adoption Services started with a crowded Houston Country Club ballroom listening to KPRC-TV Channel 2’s Chief Meteorologist, Frank Billingsley, talk about the importance of family. Billingsley, an adoptee who recently defeated prostate cancer, spoke intimately about the importance of family, especially during trying times. But there are more than 7,200 children in the Texas foster care system waiting to be adopted, who have no one to turn to.

“In Houston, we’re proud to be #1 in many things – recent job growth, a wonderful, diverse population – but we also have more kids in foster care than any other area in Texas. That’s not something we want to be #1 in,” Billingsley said.

Next, Billingsley turned it over to keynote speaker, Dr. Jay Tarnow, M.D., a board-certified Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and of the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Tarnow spoke on the importance of attachment, how mothers and infants form this emotional bond, and its implications on the development of personality, future relationships, and society as a whole. Guests walked away knowing that in the absence of biological bonds, adoptive parents must mold to their adopted children’s needs to help them feel safe and nurtured. As Dr. Tarnow noted, this takes a special person who can be selfless, incredibly empathic, and can persevere no matter the challenges.

Vikki Finley, Arms Wide Adoption Services’ President and CEO, wrapped up the luncheon by talking about the great successes the organization has had in impacting the lives of children in foster care in need of loving families. Just last week, Arms Wide Adoption Services celebrated the adoption of two 16-year-old twins who had been in foster care more than 11 years. On adoption day, they held up signs that read, “We were in foster care for 4,077 days and today we’re adopted.”

The fifth annual luncheon raised more than $125,000 in support of the organization, thanks to the leadership of Co-Chairs, Michele Mendenhall Buckley and Emily Kelley, and the Luncheon Host Committee. The funds raised will allow Arms Wide Adoption Services to finalize at least 10 adoptions and celebrate more families fulfilled.

Check back for 2020 details!

2019 Speaker

Jay D. Tarnow, M.D.
Board Certified Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist

Dr. Jay Tarnow is a board certified Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist and is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and of the American Psychiatric Association.

Having spent 40 years researching neurodevelopmental disorders from a biological, psychological, and social perspective, he is considered a leading expert in Neuropsychiatry. Dr. Tarnow was the first to define the self- management deficits of ADHD and Tourette’s Disorder and has treated thousands of patients with his Self-Management Program. In the past 10 years he has been researching the use of neurological markers and the human genome to specifically define which medications will work for an individual patient.

Dr. Tarnow has been a consultant to the National Institute of Mental Health and numerous healthcare organizations. He served as the Executive and Medical Director of Houston Child Guidance Center, the Director of Child Psychiatry Training at UT Medical School, and the Director of Pediatric Psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital.  He is currently a Clinical Associate Professor at Baylor College of Medicine and the University Of Texas Medical School.

2019 Emcee

Frank Billingsley

KPRC2 Chief Meteorologist Frank Billingsley has been Houston’s television weatherman for over twenty-five years. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1960, Frank was adopted and raised in Mountain Brook, Alabama. He has recently authored Swabbed & Found, a memoir of his DNA journey to find family and discover the myriad branches of his biological family tree. Frank found that and more, discovering just what makes a family and how we really define family in our lives. Authentic to the core, his book is an inspirational saga of courage and tenacity.

Frank received his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Washington and Lee University and a Certificate of Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State. He began his TV career as a meteorologist in Virginia, then to Mississippi, and eventually Texas. Frank lives in Houston with his husband, Kevin Gilliard. They have one son, two dogs, and now one book. And a whole lot of family.

2019 Event Committee

Luncheon Chairs

Michele Mendenhall Buckley and Emily Kelley

Host Committee

Caroline King Billipp, Sommer Bukowski, Stacy Burgess, Meagan Burgin, Chita and Lane Craft, Allison Crosswell , Emily Burguières Dalicandro , Deneige Dooley, Carolyn Dorros, Cari Gill, Amy Goldstein, Lauren and Rob Gray, Ashley Hanna, Neekie Kashani, Natalie Kirklin, Elizabeth Lester , Blair Richardson Loocke, Kim Lucas, Courtney Lundquist, Kristen and Joe Lyons, Nancy Mendenhall , Sheila Neylon, Janice Nicholson, Linwood Olson, Angela Perry, Missy Pitts, Suzann Cooley Richardson, Caroline Simons, Dawn Swanson, Tara Treleaven, and Ofelia H. Vujasinovic

2019 Event Sponsors

Ruth and Anthony Nocella, Simons Family Foundation, Nancy and Pat Mendenhall / US Capital Advisors, ConocoPhillips, Terri and Graham Moore, Randa Weiner, Gaye Lynn and Stuart Zarrow, H-E-B, Karina and Riz Amanullah / Marla and Paul Oates, Sue Baumgarten, Michele Mendenhall Buckley, Deneige Dooley, Angela and Robert Dunlap, Ken and Vikki Finley, Friends of Arms Wide Adoption Services, Cari and Tyler Gill, Emily Kelley, Elizabeth Lester / Blair Richardson Loocke, Kristen Olson Lyons / Linwood Olson, Meredith Marshall / Natalie Mohtashami, The McKnight Family, Gina and Jim Pearson, Suzann Cooley Richardson, Caroline and Justin Simons, TDIndustries, Inc., and Ofelia H. Vujasinovic

2019 Event Photos