A look behind premier experience building with Emmy-award Winning Special Events Co-founder Danny Ward
Each year, Danny Ward and his Ward & Ames Special Events Company team are tasked with creating a meaningful experience for the Memorial Hermann Foundation to produce the annual Memorial Hermann Circle of Life fundraising dinner. Memorial Hermann Trauma Center in Houston, is the nation’s busiest Level 1 trauma center that is also proud of having the lowest mortality rate in the nation. As well, Memorial Hermann is the home of Lifelight, the only hospital-based air ambulance service in Houston, Texas. Galaxy Party Management band, Simply Irresistible Dance Experience, has had the honor of performing at this powerful celebration for the last five years and is confirmed to perform again this year. We chatted with Danny Ward, co-owner with his wife and partner Nancy Ames, of Ward & Ames Special Events, who produces this annual event, to learn what is important to him when developing a premier event experience such as this.
Hermann Memorial Gala Highlights
- Hosted annually in Houston each spring
- Raises $2M – $3M annually for Hermann Memorial Healthcare
- Widely acknowledged as one of the most important fundraising events in Houston each year
- 1,700 – 2,000 guests attend
Q. Creating an event experience for a celebration as important and large as this one is a massive undertaking. How do you approach it?
A. “Creating an experience like the one we produce for Hermann Memorial requires a strong design acumen as well as keen production skills especially in the disciplines of in-house video creation/production as well as production lighting, staging, audio and special effects expertise. Once we identify our client’s experiential mission requisites, we set out to craft the overall experience. Weaving brand thematics and supporting clients mission goals guides us along the way.
“We also strongly consider technical and production logistics to build an event of this size for Hermann Memorial Healthcare. With 1700 – 2,000 guests each year in a 40,000 square-foot ballroom to comfortably accommodate tables for our guests, staging, entertainment, dancing etc., we factor all of these logistical aspects when designing the experience.”
Q. What innovations do you employ to support Hermann Memorial’s goals and inspire guests for giving?
A. “For the 2018 gala, we created a powerful in-house produced video and “live” re-enactment segment portraying a Memorial Hermann Life Flight® medical rescue, treatment and recovery presented by actual Memorial Hermann doctors, nurses and staff. It was a combination of a live “onstage” re-enactment andvideo showcasing Memorial Hermann’s “Action Ready” team. Our wish was to inspire our guests by the life-saving work these heroes provide every day.”
Q. Why do you choose Simply Irresistible Dance Experience each year for this gala?
A. “Entertainment is one of the most important elements for each experience, and who we select to perform is based on a number of factors including style, material selection, budget, whether or not we need the band to have dancers, wardrobe changes, and other factors. The exciting experience dynamic provided by Simply Irresistible is the reason we choose them and now for several years.
“Simply Irresistible is one of our favorite dance bands in the US. They are invaluable to building the experience for our client. Band Leader Ronnie Garrett is terrific. Over the last few years, we challenged Ronnie to add singers, costumes and to keep varying and updating performance material. We also have incorporated other production elements such as adding elevated band staging areas, silhouetted dancer Go-Go cages, other production enhancements in new lighting technology and special effects. Now, their annual performance includes 40 artists including singers, musicians and dancers.”
Q. What types of things do you consider when you build events?
A. “We think about the things that make a difference between our guests having a good and memorable time or not. We make sure program spoken word remarks are not too long, run the evening timeline to stay ontime, get guests to the dance floor at the critical point in the evening, and, of course, choosing the right entertainment.”
Q. What would you say to others considering Simply Irresistible Dance Experience?
A. “We are happy. They help us to achieve our goal. And we will keep using them.”
About Ward & Ames Special Events
- A national Emmy Award-winning full-service special events design, production, and management firm
- Been in business 30 years
- Founded by Danny Ward and his wife, Nancy Ames
- Creates experience focused special events in and outside the US with a corporate client list including HESS, Kohler, Emirates, Google, Comcast, Liberty Mutual Insurance and the PGA Tour. Their healthcare clients including: MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Hermann Healthcare, Texas Children’s Hospital, and Houston Methodist. They have also produced for the last five US Presidents, in and out of office over the last 30 years.
- A key in their work is the creation and production of video content for clients in-house
- More on Ward & Ames at wardandames.com