As 21-year-old Jennifer Hornback graciously accepted the 2012 Mary Varga Award at the 10th Annual Brain Ball, she began her speech with a timely quote by Winston Churchill: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” As she gave her emotional speech, the crowd of over 200 sat motionless as it witnessed unwavering strength manifested in this beautiful, young girl. Commanding her audience with a sweet spirit and a relentless determination, all eyes were on Jennifer Hornback that evening and all ears were open to every eloquent word that spilled from her heart.
Hornback was only 17-years-old when she was involved in a serious accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury. A senior at the time of the accident at Central Hardin High School, Hornback never got the chance to attend her senior prom.
But all of that changed Friday night. Declared by Mary Varga, the inspiring force behind the ball, the 10th Annual Brain Ball immediately transformed into “Jennie’s Brain Ball/Senior Prom.” Dazzling in a beautiful cranberry gown, Hornback was without a doubt the belle of the ball.
Jennie’s Brain Ball/Senior Prom proved to be a grand affair, thanks to the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky (BIAK). Held at the decorous Seelbach, the Wizard of Oz themed affair was meticulously thought out and beautifully executed - from the green Emerald City-esque chandeliers to the bedazzled ruby red slippers for dessert. There was no shortage of detail in this year's ball, and the Brain Ball committee and volunteers are to thank for such a marvelous event.
Sponsored by the Centers For Advanced Neuroscience, Brown-Forman, the Norton Neuroscience Institute, the Frazier Rehab Institute, and the University of Louisville Hospital, among many others, the night began at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception and a silent auction that lasted throughout the night. Guests then ventured to the Medallion Ballroom, better known as Emerald City, for dinner, which included the presentation of the 10th Annual Mary Varga Award and an impressive live auction led by Wave 3’s Kevin Harned and Tim Laird, the master of ceremonies. Guests then followed the yellow brick road down to the Wicked Witch’s Lounge, held in the historic Rathskeller room, to cap off the night.
For the 10th Annual Brain Ball, the Wizard of Oz served as the perfect theme, as the Land of Oz was as magical in Louisville as it was in one of the most celebrated films of all time. As the ball honored and recognized veterans from Iraq and as Jennifer Hornback tearfully thanked her brothers who were serving in Afghanistan during her accident, Friday night was a celebration of Louisville's very own heroes. Thanks to the beacons of hope and determination that shined ever so brightly, guests at the 10th Annual Brain Ball undoubtedly left The Seelbach moved in an indescribable way. Those who attended may find it difficult to describe what happened that night but something most certainly did. There was a magical air in the Land of Oz Friday night and all roads led to to the most beautiful girl in the land: Jennifer Hornback.
Photo: Erika Clark