From homeless to Harvard: Empowering Women to feature Liz Murray
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Apr 04, 2013 | 2603 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Empowering Women
EMPOWERING WOMEN committee members pose with Ellen Epperson Wiberly and Armen Epperson at Epperson’s Jewelers after viewing a necklace designed specifically for this year’s event. From left are Lea Stuart, Billie Dupre, Janey Cooke, Wiberly, Epperson and Margaret Schenck. Banner photo, STEPHEN CRASS
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Empowering Women ticket holders will take a journey from homelessness to Harvard with guest speaker Liz Murray, as part of the annual fundraiser benefiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland.

Janey Cooke, event chairman and organizer, said Murray was chosen for her powerful story.

“Liz came from a home that was extremely dysfunctional. Her parents were dependent on drugs. Her mother was bipolar,” Cooke said. “Liz declared at 15 if she was going to have any kind of life at all, she was going to have to make it on her own.”

After speaking with her high school principal, Murray resumed her education. According to an Empowering Women press release, Murray earned her high school diploma in just two years.

“... [She] won a scholarship to Harvard University that would turn her bleak circumstances into a future filled with limitless possibility,” read the release. “With sincerity, maturity and graciousness, Murray takes audiences along on her personal journey from street smarts to classroom triumphs ...”

Cooke said Empowering Women once again sold out a month before the event set for Thursday, April 18.

The anticipated crowd is approximately 300. The event will be held at Museum Center at Five Points in downtown Cleveland. A public discussion will be held with Murray at 6 p.m., and is open to all ticket holders. The program will commence at 7 p.m with television news anchor Cindy Sexton as the special event emcee.

According to Cooke, auctions, awards, speakers and a surprise are sure to entertain this year’s guest list.

“We have a surprise lined up, but I’m not really at liberty to say [details],” Cooke said. “I will tell you this, Karen Mills, a comedian, will be making an appearance.”

Mills was one of the recipients of last year’s awards.

Of particular interest is a custom-designed necklace by Epperson’s Jewelers made especially for Empowering Women.

Ellen Epperson Wiberly said the piece is completely unique.

“It is 14 carat with ruby beads, rhodolite garnet and pink tourmaline,” Wiberly said. “... You are not going to see someone else wearing this piece.”

Wiberly said custom-made pieces usually take about four to five weeks from inspiration to completion.

She said the necklace was a team effort.

“I usually do a sketch. All of the design work is done on the computer, then our jewelers set the stone and I put the piece together,” Wiberly said. “On all of our custom pieces, all of the people in our shop have a hand.”

Guests will have the chance to win the necklace by ordering the event’s signature drink, Sunset Ruby Pizazz, created by Shannon Ritzhaupt. Every glass will come with a number. Guests may buy multiple glasses of the drink.

Additional activities include the triple-tiered silent auction and the live auction.

Interested guests can purchase a booklet of tickets for the silent auction. Tickets and buckets next to the auction items will be color coordinated. Guests may then place as many of their tickets as they want into the buckets — provided the colors match.

Items in the tiered auction include, but are not limited to. the following:

- One-hour private ballroom dancing lesson for six with Freddie Mora of Luv2Dance Studio.

- Council Fire round of golf for four.

- Aroma package for one lady, including creams candles and jewelry from Accent Mark.

Cooke also revealed several of the live auction items:

- Wine and Hors d’oeuvres by Ahmed AlShabibi with Collins Brothers Concert

- A guided turkey hunting trip for two or three with Ross Tarver to be held at Cathy and Mike Boettner’s 65-acre Howling Cow farm. A country breakfast and photos will be included.

- Enjoy $1,000 worth of USDA choice beef cut to your specifications.

- A full-length mink coat donated by Pioneer Credit Company.

- A poolside dinner party for 10 at Chanticleer at the home of Lee and Bonnie Hathcock in Anatole.