Inspiring Women

Collins Tuohy, adoptive sister of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, addresses the Inspiring Women audience. Joining Tuohy are, from left, Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh, cofounders of Silpada Designs; Mayor Peggy Dunn  of Leawood; and Sue Mitchell, Oher’s tutor.
Collins Tuohy, adoptive sister of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, addresses the Inspiring Women audience. Joining Tuohy are, from left, Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh, cofounders of Silpada Designs; Mayor Peggy Dunn of Leawood; and Sue Mitchell, Oher’s tutor.

Dynamic speakers help make CEF luncheon a big success


by Jill Ragar Esfeld
jill.esfeld@theleaven.org

OVERLAND PARK — What can motivate more than 700 women to come together in one place?

Good food, good friends and inspiration.

All three were on the menu at the 2012 Inspiring Women luncheon, benefiting the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF).

Abbot Barnabas Senecal, OSB, of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, started off the afternoon by singing grace.

As guests enjoyed an exceptional lunch, they were given an overview of the CEF mission to assist under-resourced Catholic schools through scholarships.

Dessert was served accompanied by an outstanding lineup of speakers.

“We had a great mix — very diverse group of speakers,” said CEF executive director Michael Morrisey. “And we felt like one complemented the other very nicely.

“We’ve had nothing but great feedback.”

The afternoon’s first speaker, Mayor Peggy Dunn of Leawood, talked about her life journey, saying she has led what many would call a “charmed life,” but noting that every life has its challenges.

“Faith,” she said, “is the vital ingredient in facing tragedies and adversities when they come along.”

Dunn praised her Catholic education and told the audience both she and her husband credited it with laying the foundation for their successes.

“Appreciation of our Catholic education made us choose that for our children,” she said.

While discussing the difficulties of raising children in today’s world, Dunn compared the process to making a lay-up in basketball.

“You often need an assist,” she explained. “I believe Catholic education to be the assist.”

Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh, cofounders of Silpada Designs, were next on the program.

Kelly started off their presentations by endorsing the mission of CEF: “We really believe that, with education, you have so many more opportunities in life.”

She then recounted their journey from being room mothers together at Holy Cross School in Overland Park to owners of Silpada Designs, the world’s largest sterling silver jewelry home party company.

Co-owner Walsh joined her friend in describing the start of their business relationship as “just two moms selling jewelry.”

“When we started,” she said, “our intent was not to build an international company; we were just having a blast.”

The desire to share their joy and success is what inspired the two to create Silpada which, in 15 years, went from being a basement business to an international company.

The entrepreneurs said their educations gave them the tools they needed to succeed, and they support CEF’s mission to make sure every child has access to a Catholic education.

“Life takes a lot of hard work and to have an education is a blessing,” Walsh said. “Through CEF, [children] have this blessing.”

That message was reinforced when the event’s final speakers, Collins Tuohy and Sue Mitchell, took the stage.

The story of the Tuohy family, as portrayed in the Oscar-nominated movie “The Blind Side,” was well-known to audience members

Tuohy, the adoptive sister of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, talked about the movie’s accurate depiction of her family as they helped Oher progress from a homeless, troubled youth to an academic and athletic success.

“The message was 100 percent accurate,” she said.

That message was all about the power of education in changing a life.
Tuohy was joined by Mitchell, better known as “Miss Sue” and portrayed by Kathy Bates in the movie.

Mitchell tutored Oher from a .6 GPA to a 2.05 in high school and finally to a 3.75 in college.

“There are so many Michaels out there,” she said. “All they need is somebody to care.”

“Whatever you have given to CEF, time or money,” added Tuohy, “it is going to a good cause.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann wrapped up the event by thanking the speakers for their inspirational stories and their support of strong faith and education.

“That’s what CEF creates, the opportunity to help our young people,” he said.

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