What Does it Mean to Give BIG?

Get to Know I Live Here I Give Here’s 2019 Patsy Woods Martin BIG Giver Award Winner and Finalists 

Each year, I Live Here I Give Here selects one community member who inspires others to come together to make a difference in Central Texas to honor at the BIG Give, ILHIGH’s annual fundraising event. The Patsy Woods Martin BIG Giver is an advocate for their chosen cause who has created long-lasting and transformative impact for a local nonprofit and the community at large. 

In May, I Live Here I Give Here’s 750 nonprofit member network was invited to nominate a BIG Giver who exemplifies this honor. The BIG Give Committee and I Live Here I Give Here’s Board of Directors selected three finalists from the nominations and voted on a final awardee. 

We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Max Kerr, nominated by Capital Area Dental Foundation, is the 2019 BIG Giver award recipient! Also among the top three finalists were Whitney Moskowitz, nominated by Partners in Parenting, and Susan Creason Vrazel, nominated by The Missy Project.

Read on to learn more about these BIG Givers, what personally moves them to give back local, and how they inspire others to join them.

Dr. Max Kerr, 2019 Patsy Woods Martin BIG Giver

Capital Area Dental Foundation  nominated Dr. Max Kerr for his dedication to giving back to the community through dentistry and for generous, unsolicited financial support of CADF’s mission to transform lives in Central Texas with healthy smiles. Dr. Kerr has quickly become one of CADF’s biggest advocates, most valuable recruiters and committed volunteers — donating his time and skills to provide free dental care to uninsured or low-income patients. 

Over the past three years, Dr. Kerr has personally donated more than $6,000 and has been responsible for directly recruiting numerous other donors who have contributed more than $13,000 to the foundation. His gifts have translated into thousands of dollars in dental care, allowing CADF to provide treatment for countless Central Texans in need. They have also been instrumental to CADF’s success in the past three Amplify Austin Day campaigns and have allowed CADF to initiate new projects, like Community Dental Days, which has accounted for dental care being provided to 330 uninsured and disadvantaged patients. 

Outside of his contributions to the charity, Dr. Kerr has individually donated countless hours of charitable dental care and life-changing services for dozens of individuals totaling $20,000-worth of treatment.  At his own dental practice, Vista Ridge Family Dentistry, Dr. Kerr inspires his employees on a daily basis to engage in the community and philanthropic work. Most notably, every year, Dr. Kerr opens his practice up during the holiday season to provide free treatment during Free Smiles Days and adopts a patient to provide a total smile makeover.

“When life beats you down and all you can see is the suffocating fog of trying to get by, sometimes all it takes is a hand to reach down and pull you out and up above the chaos to the light above. And, for a brief moment, once you catch your breath, you get to see that heaven is a real place, and that place is here and that place is now,” remarks Dr. Kerr. “I want to be that strong and loving hand.

One of my life’s missions is to positively impact the health of over 1 million people. Personal philanthropy plays a huge role in leveraging my financial potential to make the greatest impact for people that I don’t get to interact with directly. Thank you for helping me get closer to my goal! I am deeply grateful for I Live Here I Give Here and the beautiful community that has created it.

I also believe that we all have a unique song in our hearts, and it is our duty to hear, learn, and sing that song loud and proud. Our collective voices are what make up the symphony of humanity. It is extremely difficult to hear your soul’s voice over pain and fear. So if me and my businesses can give back with money and/or services, reduce that pain and fear, and participate; sign me up!”

Whitney Moskowitz, 2019 BIG Giver Finalist

Partners in Parenting nominated Whitney Moskowitz for her extraordinary contributions to its mission to build a supportive village for all new parents so that they are confident, connected, and have the tools to reach their full potential.

After the birth of her first child in 2015, Moskowitz and her husband attended a Partners in Parenting group. Since then, she’s become an active member, group facilitator, donor, and serves on the organization’s Board of Directors. She lends her passion, talent, and expertise to train other PIP volunteers, assist with marketing and events, and spearheaded the search for a new executive director. She also helped lead PIP’s Amplify Austin Day fundraisers, sharing her personal story with her employer, colleagues, and social media networks to bring in over 20 new donors and thousands of dollars for the local nonprofit. Nominated by other PIP alumni, Moskowitz was selected as 2019 Facilitator of the Year for her dedication in mentoring four groups of families through a 10-week long program.

“‘What do you want to be when you grow up, Whitney?’ My answer was always the same. ‘I want to work with families.’ I let the echoes of that answer define my path for a long time,” states Whitney Moskowitz.  “I finished college with my BA in Psychology and thought I’d continue on to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, but a job offer in sales from a great tech company reshaped my course completely.

Years later, while on that same company’s generous maternity leave, I completed the Partners in Parenting (PIP) program with my husband and newborn daughter. I knew I’d stumbled upon something that resonated deeply within my core, but I still hadn’t quite made the connection as to why. As soon as I was sleeping through the night again, I started facilitating my own PIP groups. I was instantly addicted to building villages and witnessing the magic that occurs between new parents hungry for connection. It took well over a year of volunteering with PIP for me to recognize why this organization felt like home all along. I’d all but forgotten about my childhood self, all-confident and all-knowing that I would somehow find a way to "work" with families...eventually.

 Volunteering with Partners in Parenting introduced me to my own village of philanthropic Austinites, and committed me to this amazing community of givers.”

Susan Creason Vrazel, 2019 BIG Giver Finalist

Susan Creason Vrazel was nominated as a BIG Giver by The Missy Project, a nonprofit on a mission to raise awareness of Brain Aneurysm Disease (BAD) in children through education, outreach, and early detection research. Vrazel has been a vital force in the organization for over 20 years, going above and beyond to share her skills as a school counselor with families and kids who are grieving. 

Vrazel is an active volunteer and donor who encourages others in the community to volunteer and donate alongside her. In addition to counseling, she recruits teams and secures silent auction items for The Missy Project’s annual Golf Tournament, sometimes using her vacation days to help execute the event.  She is also the lead fundraiser for the organization’s Amplify Austin Day campaign.

Always on call and willing to lend a helping hand, Vrazel’s generous spirit has inspired longstanding and meaningful relationships with members.

“Growing up, I was raised to believe we have a moral obligation to help and reach out to other people in hopes of making a positive influence on their lives,” remarks Susan Creason Vrazel. “In my 22-year career as a teacher and then a school counselor, I taught children to learn academia and taught them to think about the needs of others whether it be at school, in their neighborhood, or in their community. When time allowed, I also found it satisfying to participate in different philanthropic opportunities; however my true commitment has been to The Missy Project. 

The Missy Project was established by the Magel family and friends as a result of the Magel’s 12-year-old daughter, Missy, passing away while at summer camp due to a brain aneurysm. This tragedy inspired the family to create a non-profit organization that helps save lives through education, outreach, and early detection of Brain Aneurysmal Disease (B.A.D.). Missy’s sudden death was devastating, and I believe that part of the healing process for all of us began as we contributed our time, energy and talent to the project’s fundraising events over the past 20 years.

It has been a blessing to work with amazing people that support this cause and to witness how this nonprofit has benefitted the lives of others in honor of Marisa “Missy” Magel. Nothing is more gratifying than putting your time into something that has the potential to help others.”

Previous Patsy Woods Martin BIG Giver Award honorees include Brittany Morrison of Hospice Austin, Terrell Gates of Boys & Girls Club of the Austin Area, Julie Stevenson of SafePlace and Any Baby Can, Leo Welder of Austin Sunshine Camps, and David Weaver of Volunteer Legal Services. The award is named after the founder of I Live Here I Give Here, Patsy Woods Martin, who created this organization to inspire the next generation of philanthropists and get more Central Texans to invest in our community.

Make plans to join us at The BIG Give on Friday, September 6 at Hotel Van Zandt. Now in its 12th year, The BIG Give is Central Texas' biggest celebration of philanthropy, featuring event production by Caplan Miller Events, tunes from DJ Mel, light bites and beverages including a specialty cocktail by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, the presentation of the Patsy Woods Martin BIG Giver Award, an exclusive raffle, and more. 

Get early bird discounted tickets online here and in person at the BIG Give Happy Hour tonight, August 7, at Eberly, from 5-7pm.