The Cowboys hold their Annual Kickoff Luncheon at AT&T Stadium in the week before the start of the regular season, and it is a great opportunity for fans, team sponsors, and Cowboys alumni to see the new edition of the team. Awards are given to players for their prior years' performance, and a Cowboys Legend is honored with the Tom Landry Legends Award.
However, beyond the awards, the hype videos, and the usual glitz and glamour of any event involving Jerry Jones and the Cowboys organization, there is a truly great cause that lies at the core of the event.
The Courage House at Happy Hill Farms is a boarding residence for deserving but under-privileged kids, which in tandem with the North Central Texas Academy provides those kids with stability, education, and opportunity to achieve levels of success academically, socially, and spiritually that they would likely never experience otherwise.
Unfortunately, Mr. Ed Shipman, the founder of Happy Hill Farms passed away just last week, but as the event's Master of Ceremonies, the incomparable Brad Sham would put it, "The Shipman Family does not want this to be an Ed Shipman Memorial Luncheon." But his fingerprints and legacy were all over the event.
His grandson and Director of Development at Happy Hill Farms, Lucas Shipman, shared the history of the school and the legacy of Mr. Shipman in a one-on-one with Blogging The Boys at the event.
"Fourty-Two years ago, my grandfather had two girls show up on his door step, and the rest is history. Since then we've been helping kids from all kinds of backgrounds get the education and loving family atmosphere that they need to be successful, productive citizens. About 25 years ago, my father and uncle took over the the operations of the farm as far as the campus, and that freed up my grandfather to do what he loved to do... To go out into the community and tell people about our kids, take them to events, and invite people to partner with us in this mission to raise good neighbors."
In terms of the Farm's relationship with the Cowboys, Shipman spoke of the growth of the program and how the Cowboys have helped facilitate the Farm's ability to meet a growing need.
"Our program is growing, we're at 200 right now, we want to get to 275 soon, and the need is growing. You can flip the nightly news on and see there's a huge need to help kids. And so we're so thankful for the Cowboys organization, and the Jones family. We've had such a wonderful relationship with them, and for this platform they've allowed us to have to invite everyone in this community to partner with us to help these kids, so we're so very thankful."
In addition to Shipman and his sister, Dean of Faculty at NCTA, Amanda Schwausch, members of the NCTA 6-man football team (they're 1-0 on the season), and student body represented Happy Hill Farms at the Luncheon. With the football players getting a chance to mingle with the Cowboys players and coaches, and the choir opening the procedings with the National Anthem.
Head Coach Jason Garrett spoke about the cause and the man whose legacy it carries.
"I was fortunate enough to know (Shipman) for probably over 25 years. I remember going out to the farm years ago, when I was a player, just seeing the impact that he made... The thing I keep thinking about, is in 1974 it was a farm, farm land out there, and now over 40 years later the number of individual people who have felt the impact on their lives is just so significant. The word I've been thinking about since he passed away was he was one of those transformative figures. He's transformed lives, he transformed my life, and a lot of peoples in big and small ways. Everybody he came across he just had a positive impact on. We all were so fortunate to know him, and you can tell by the smiles on all these faces."
In addition to speaking about Mr. Shipman and Happy Hill Farms, Coach Garrett also spoke about the significance of the event to the Cowboys as a football team.
"There's certainly a cycle to our year, We've been in training camp, and playing the preseason games, and when you get to the Happy Hill Farms Luncheon, you get to a time when you're cutting your team down, and you're deciding who your 53 guys are, and your practice squad guys are, and you're starting preparations for Week One. I told our guys this morning after the walk through, It's hard to get a ticket to the Happy Hill Farms Luncheon. Put your suit on the right way, and make sure that necktie fits right, and appreciate the opportunity we all have. Again, this is a special year for all of us because of the relationship the Cowboys have with Happy Hill Farm, and the role that Ed Shipman has had in all of our lives, so we want to celebrate him today, in the context of kicking off the Cowboys' season."
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