The Reaching New Heights luncheon for Cumberland Heights reached new heights indeed with a record-size crowd showing up for the annual women’s fundraiser at Hillwood Country Club. Co-chairs Grace Clayton and Kathleen Estes joked that they’d like to take all of the credit for the sold-out event, but they knew the real draw was keynote speaker Jeannette Walls, the best-selling author of The Glass Castle, The Silver Star and Half Broke Horses.
Fans of The Glass Castle — which appeared to be just about everyone in the room — were thrilled to hear Jeannette recount many of the memoir’s most remarkable stories along with several other tales from her unconventional childhood. Alternating between humor and poignancy, Jeannette took the audience on a journey from her troubled upbringing to her discontented young adulthood to the place of peace and acceptance she found once she learned to embrace her past. And at an event benefiting Cumberland Heights, which provides treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, Jeannette’s heartfelt words about her alcoholic father resonated with everyone in the crowd, particularly a story about how, as a child, she hunted for an imaginary monster called Demon with her dad in the Arizona desert.
“He couldn’t battle his own demons, but he gave me the tools to battle mine,” she shared.
Jeannette proved to be as down-to-earth, funny and warm as she comes across in her books, chatting and posing for photos with women before the luncheon and long after it concluded. For someone who has been wildly successful in her career, it’s obvious Jeannette’s true passion is finding ways to use her past to help others. Prior to the luncheon, when asked how it feels to share her story with a roomful of women who have battled addiction or been touched by it in some way, she said, “It doesn’t get any better than that. That’s what it’s about. That’s what storytelling is about … It’s connecting with people and having your story mean something.” Her story certainly meant something to this crowd and to Cumberland Heights, which raised $140,000 at the luncheon for the women’s program, funds that will go a long way in offering redemption and hope to countless women across Middle Tennessee and beyond.