It’s been a busy year – and will continue to be – for Scottsdale residents and well-known philanthropists, Billie Jo and Judd Herberger.
“If you could see my dance card, you’d go dizzy,” said Billie Jo.
This year alone, she and Judd were inducted into the Herberger Performing Arts & Broadcast Hall of Fame.
Scottsdale Arts named a new award after the couple called the Herberger Award for the Arts, which the organization will present at its annual gala fundraiser, Starry Night: An ARTrageous Gala, on Dec. 7.
And leading up to the Starry Night gala, Billie Jo and Judd will attend Noche para los Niños on Nov. 7, a one-night benefit event for Phoenix-based nonprofit Kids in Focus, an organization that uses photography to impact and change the lives of Phoenix’s at-risk youth.
But the Herbergers are more than merely guests at the Noche para los Niños fundraiser: They’re Kids in Focus’ 2019 Honorary Chairs.
“We love all of these organizations that help children as they’re growing up and develop them into becoming people that have confidence and have skills. This definitely is one of those organizations. Plus, it’s creative, and we love the arts,” Billie Jo said.
Returning for its second year, Kids in Focus’ Noche para los Ninos transforms Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park in Tempe into a Dia de los Muertos celebration for adults.
Described as a “delightful feature of the senses,” Noche para los Niños promises a night of live music by Nate Nathan and the MacDaddy-O’s; an array of culinary delights, including bites from Blanco Taco, Postino, Rachel Johnson Catering, Schmooze, and more; libations from Pour Masters and Roxx Vodka; and experiential acts, including contortionists, jugglers, stilt walkers and tarot card readers.
Guests, who are encouraged to arrive in festive Day of the Dead attire, can also participate in a silent auction and raffle. Items up for bid include once-in-a-lifetime experiences and photographs taken by the children in Kids in Focus programs.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the people who already know about Kids in Focus and who are there to celebrate the whole concept of it,” Billie Jo said.
“I’ve invited our photographer, who photographs all of our parties here at home and on our boat in California, and I’ve invited a lot of interesting people who aren’t aware of this organization who will hopefully see the way we’re feeling about it. The energy of the night sounds like it’s going to be fabulous.”
Karen Shell, Kids in Focus founder and executive director, said the organization is “unbelievably blessed” to have Billie Jo and Judd serve as honorary chairs.
“They bring some much credibility and generosity to our event,” Shell said.
Noche para los Niños co-chair Bobby Barnes said Billie Jo and Judd are “truly amazing people” in the community.
“I have known them both for years, and they truly are two of the kindest people,” he said. “They have a strong commitment to the arts, but more importantly, they support our community. While they are probably best known for their support in the arts, the support of children’s causes is very important. I am proud to have them serve as the honorary chairs of this event. It truly makes a statement.”
Billie Jo and Judd have supported over 20 mostly arts-related organizations throughout the Valley over the decades.
“We don’t know anything else,” Billie Jo said with a laugh. “We love being the only two people to carry on an amazing legacy, and we are so proud. It’s just so important to us. It makes every day meaningful and happy, and it’s fun to go to the grocery store and somebody goes, ‘Oh, I know you, you.’ It’s like you’re a movie star in another world.”
Billie Jo, a California native, moved to Phoenix in 1969. and met Judd, who moved to Scottsdale in 1947, 20 years later in 1989.
Since, the couple has financially supported major arts institutions, like the Herberger Theater Center, Scottsdale Arts, the Phoenix Art Museum, Ballet Arizona, the Phoenix Theatre Company, the Arizona Opera, the Phoenix Symphony, and Valley Youth Theatre.
“We’re very active with Valley Youth Theater,” Judd said. “Their alumni are scattered throughout the performing arts communities of L.A., New York; Emma Stone is one. So, it’s wonderful.”
Judd’s passion for the arts was sparked when he was merely 8 or 9 years old.
“I attended the first symphony orchestra to ever play in Phoenix at the Phoenix Union High School auditorium that my mother organized,” he recalled. “[The arts] is something that I’ve grown up with.”
Billie Jo and Judd said Kids in Focus is doing “tremendous, life-changing work for underserved children” and that the organization is a “perfect fit” for them.
“With Kids in Focus, I think it’s very important for children too, for the first time in their life, have an adult and their peers actually ask them questions about things that they’ve created and made them feel important for something that they are part of and that they have actually made happen,” Judd said of the nonprofit.
Judd added: “Some of these photographs are terrific, and I’m sure that when adults and their mentors and their friends say, ‘Explain this to me,’ that they have a sense of importance, maybe the first time in their life.”
Barnes said he is also impressed with the Kids in Focus kids’ photography.
At last year’s fundraiser, he even asked all the photographers for their autograph.
“They beamed with pride,” he recalled. “I didn’t really know anyone at the event, so I bought one of the books featuring the kids’ bios and photography. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The photography the kids created was amazing.”
Colleen Katz, Noche para los Niños co-chair, has been a Kids in Focus mentor for the past two years and has seen first-hand the program’s impact.
“The exhibit of their work is magic,” she said. “The kids have gained confidence and pride and are in awe that the community around them has come out to see their work. This fills my heart to see such a positive change in, really, a short amount of time.”
Katz, too, is grateful for the Herbergers’ participation in the event.
“I grew up in Scottsdale and the family name Herberger was always linked to the arts. They were influential in building this community to honor and showcase art in a multitude of ways. When they agreed to do this for Kids in Focus, to me, it meant the world that, upon hearing about what KIF did, it was worthy of their time and name. I am very grateful to them,” Katz said.
Billie Jo’s interest in the arts was instilled in her at a young age.
“The love of the arts began when I was a young girl growing up out of Los Angeles. My mother was very similar to Kax Herberger over in California, and so I was able to be exposed to the arts at a very young age all through my life. For me, I’ve never known anything different,” she said.
Billie Jo’s hope for the future of the arts in the Valley is continued growth.
“I hope that everything continues to be stabilized and continues to grow and offer new and interesting things,” she said.