10th Anniversary Pride and Passion Fundraiser Breaks Records for Greater Boston PFLAG
WALTHAM, MA – May 2, 2012 – Corporations, celebrity chefs, and a multitude of contributors together made this year’s Greater Boston PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Pride and Passion fundraiser the most successful ever. As a result, the organization’s proven, life-changing Safe Schools and Communities youth empowerment and bullying prevention program will reach even more schools and help them become safer for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) youth and allies; parent education and support programs will expand throughout the state; and communities become more inclusive.
Greater Boston PFLAG’s 10th anniversary fundraiser, Step Up! Stop the Bullying and Keep Our Kids Safe, underscored the serious, and sometimes tragic, circumstances that make the organization’s work so urgent, and the response was the best yet by every measure. More than 700 supporters attended the festivities, and live and silent auctions, ticket sales, individual donations, and corporate sponsors brought in more than $400,000 for Greater Boston PFLAG's safe schools and family support and education programs. The April 25, 2012 event, held at the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal on the South Boston waterfront, included a taste-around donated by 15 of Boston’s best chefs, dance performances, award presentations, and testimonials.
The event’s returning master of ceremonies, David Brown of WCVB Channel 5, introduced co-chairs of the event, Wendell Chestnut and Joan Parker. Chestnut is a senior vice president at Bank of America and a prominent leader in Boston’s business and civic community.
Parker, a distinguished educator and longtime Greater Boston PFLAG supporter well known for her community activism, spoke of a visit she made with Greater Boston PFLAG Executive Director Pam Garramone to a middle school. “I had the privilege of watching her and a team of volunteer speakers conduct an interactive dialogue with an assembly of students,” she said. It was an extraordinarily powerful, transformative experience that I want every high school and middle school student to have. That’s why we are here this evening,” she continued, “to ensure a continuation of our allegiance to create a safe environment where all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender expression, can flourish and grow.”
Greater Boston PFLAG provides resources, education, advocacy, person-to-person support and other programs to LGBTQ youth in Massachusetts and their families. “Step Up! was a remarkable coming together of individual donors, small businesses, corporations, and volunteers in support of our programs,” said Stan Griffith, board president. “Research and certainly our first-hand experiences make it clear that LGBTQ kids are suffering—they are more than 4 times more likely than their heterosexual peers to attempt suicide—as a result of bullying and other, more subtle but also hurtful, forms of discrimination. But we also know first-hand that there are effective ways to address and lessen bullying. The support we received to continue our work with LGBTQ youth and their schools, families, and communities is tremendously gratifying.”
Mitchell Adams and Kevin Smith were honored with the Cornerstone of Equality Award for their long-standing commitment to public service and philanthropy, safe schools, and the cause of full acceptance and equality. Adams and Smith, who were married in 2004, were senior officials in the administration of Governor William Weld. They were honored for creating a life together dedicated to public service, philanthropy, ending discrimination, and raising visibility and respect for LGBT people. Griffith described the couple as “brilliant, accomplished, courageous, committed, and generous.”
The spirit of the event was upbeat and festive, yet the urgency of Greater Boston PFLAG’s mission became soberingly evident as the four recipients of the 2012 Elise Frank Scholarship Awards each spoke of the discrimination they had faced. “Our scholarship committee read 86 essays,” said Garramone, “and I can tell you that we read some horrific stories. But we also read about students who stood up to the bullies, who stood up to their teachers, and who fought to make their schools safer for LGBT people and allies. Part of the money we raise tonight will help us reward more amazing youth like these.”
Those receiving scholarships were Olivia Harvey of Chelmsford High School; Oliver Joseph, Stoughton High School; Willie Rogers, MATCH Charter Public School; and Brandon Sides, Acton Boxborough High School.
In addition, the Cambridge Youth Dance Program led a Flash Mob and performed a selection of their original production, “Bridges. Not Walls.” Deborah and Gabe Peeples movingly recounted how Greater Boston PFLAG staff and programs had helped both of them overcome fears and a sense of isolation. Betty DeGeneres—LGBT-rights activist, author, and mother of Ellen—brought the evening to a spirited close.
“We are grateful to everyone who brought their passion for Greater Boston PFLAG and its work to the program. We also owe special thanks to some very generous individuals and corporate champions,” said Director of Development Lelia Elliston, who recently joined Greater Boston PFLAG, “in particular BNY Mellon as our Presenting Sponsor, and Bank of America and Fidelity Investments as Step Up! Benefactors.”
Next steps? Elliston says “I am looking forward to building on this year’s success so we can break records yet again at the Pride and Passion event in the spring of 2013.”