What an extraordinary night!
Our 2011 Orlando Gala exceeded all expectations and proved once again that Central Florida is leading the way in helping to secure full equality for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Walking into Saturday's gala, we had already raised an incredible $76,000, surpassing the ambitious goal set by our Orlando Steering Committee. By the end of the night, the total reached a record breaking $100,000 from 300 friends and supporters in attendance. This success has catapulted Central Florida into one of our biggest events in the state.
This year's gala program began with a message from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (see below). Our Executive Director, Nadine Smith, gave a stirring State-of-the-State, highlighting the amazing victories of the last year and the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Scott Maxwell accepted the 2011 Voice for Equality award with his signature wit and style. He spoke to the room about the homophobia that still permeates the legislative process in Florida. Kissimmee Commissioner Cheryl Grieb accepted her Voice for Equality award by telling a story about the KKK marching through St. Cloud when she was a young girl. Earlier this year St. Cloud joined Kissimmee in creating domestic partnership benefits for their LGBT employee's, in strong part because of Cheryl's transformational leadership in Osceola County.
We wrapped up with a stirring call to action from Host Committee Member Richard Russell. The inspired crowd gave an additional $20,000 that night.
Special thanks to: Dr. Edwin Wilson and Edward Woodill for hosting a gorgeous Sponsor's Reception; our bar sponsors Stardust Lounge and Revolutions Night Club; to Walt Disney World Resort and RBC Bank for a fantastic lighting display; and to Jonathon's Flowers for the gorgeous floral arrangements.
Maybe the biggest thanks of all is due to our 2011 Orlando Steering Committee. This team made history this year and they did it in style. Because of their efforts and the generous support of our donors, we will have the funding for organizers on the ground in our communities, training for students working to end bullying in schools and staff in Tallahassee blocking attacks on our community during the upcoming legislative session.
Thank you all for being a part of Equality Florida. We are winning, because of you.
Danny Humphress & Kathryn Norsworthy
Co-Chairs, Orlando Steering Committee
PS: This years gala was with packed special guests: Orange County Commissioners Lui Damiani and Jennifer Thompson, Kissimmee Mayor Jim Swan, Sherrif Jerry Demings and former Police Chief Val Demings, State Rep. Scott Randolph and Susannah Randolph, Orlando Commissioners Phil Diamond and Sam Ings, Kelda Senior from Sen. Bill Nelson's office, Mark Van Arnam, national campaign staff at Obama For America, and 2010 Voice for Equality Award Recipient Linda Stewart. Thanks to all of our elected officials and special guests who came out to support equality.