The idea dropped at 1 a.m.
“All of Jack’s texts are at 1 a.m.” jokes Sally Brown, wife of Longhorns football coach Mack Brown, about text messages from country artist and family friend Jack Ingram. “And Mack is up to get them.”
Inspired by a long tradition of good works shared by golfer Ben Crenshaw, musical legend Willie Nelson and late coach Darrell Royal, Ingram wanted to pool the fund-raising firepower of the Browns with that of Ingram and his wife, Amy Ingram, as well as Matthew McConaughey and his wife, Camila Alves McConaughey.
“We had just finished another charity tour,” Sally Brown says of Austin’s gala circuit. “One after another. Why not do it all in one weekend?”
Thursday and Friday, the amalgamated “Mack, Jack & McConaughey” bows with concerts, a golf tourney, fashion show and side parties. Among the celebrities performing at ACL Live will be John Mellencamp and Kris Kristofferson. Five children’s charities close to the hearts of the three couples will benefit from the inaugural event.
Looking chic and summery under the rotunda of their Old Enfield home, Sally Brown adds that they are not trying to replicate the beloved Ben-Willie-Darrell affairs.
“We are just using them as models,” she says. “Because the kids can’t do it themselves. They can’t go out there and do these benefits.”
The McConaugheys are the juice behind the j.k. livin foundation, which helps high school students in several cities choose healthy, active lives. The “j.k.” stand for “just keep” as in the movie star’s “just keep livin’” catch phrase.
The Ingrams are invested in Grounded in Music, which encourages musical learning among underprivileged kids in East and South Austin.
The new Sally and Mack Brown Rise School of Austin, which blends special-needs students with others in an educational environment, will soon break ground on a new campus at the Rathgeber Village. The local project grew out of a football relationship.
When the Browns were still at the University of North Carolina, their team played the University of Alabama in a bowl game. They got to know Gene and Ruth Ann Stallings socially. They also met Johnny Stallings, their son born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart defect.
“Gene loved that boy,” Sally Brown says of the former Alabama coach. “The first Rise School was in Tuscaloosa. When Gene called Mack to congratulate him on the UT job, he said to me: ‘I need you to start a Rise School in Austin.’”
Trouble was, she knew virtually nobody in Austin at the time. Then she met a young couple whose daughter would benefit from the school. Businesswoman and philanthropist Donna Stockton Hicks helped stage the first of several stunning benefit luncheons for the local Rise School.
“Once you get Donna involved, it gets going,” Sally Brown says. Patti Huffines, wife of banker and former UT regent James Huffines, was another early energizer.
Sally Brown’s involvement in CureDuchenne started when she encountered a couple whose son suffers from a rare type of muscular dystrophy.
“By 5 or 6, they are losing muscle,” she says. “By 12, they are in wheelchairs. By 18, they’re usually dead. The parents are raising money to pay scientists to work on cure. They feel they are incredibly close. The couple just found out their second son has Duchenne as well.”
Heart surgeon Chip Oswalt introduced the Browns to HeartGift, which ferries Third World children with heart problems to Dell Children’s Medical Center for corrective surgery.
“You meet the kids and families,” Sally Brown says. “They are just saved. It’s a quick and tangible result.”
Camila McConaughey organized a small, sold-out fashion show that will be held Friday at Neiman Marcus for participants not interested in the golf. Big names from across the state — Joe Jamail, Don Evans, Steve Hicks, Roy Spence, Beau Armstrong and Val Armstrong — already have assisted the MJ&M charity consortium.
“The thing people will be most excited about — just like the Ben-Willie-Darrell — will be the music,” Sally Brown says. “After the concerts, the songwriters will break out into suites at the W Austin and pick. People can go sit with any of them.”
Sally Brown, who studied architecture and raised a family while remodeling a series of Austin houses, is not always comfortable in the spotlight.
As for the inevitable grief the family of a Longhorns coach receives …
“I just don’t listen to it,” she says. “Edith Royal told me early on: ‘It’s like a roller coaster. It will go up and go down. Just ride it.’”
Mack, Jack & McConaughey
When: Thursday and Friday, April 11-12
Where: Barton Creek Resort (golf), ACL Live (concerts and gala), Neiman Marcus (fashion show-sold out)