Toledo Pride: 35th annual Holiday with Heart fundraiser set for Dec. 1Written by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark your calendars for Dec. 1, say organizers of the Holiday with Heart Charity Gayla, who are already starting to plan this year’s annual fundraiser benefiting local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations and causes. Taglined “the premier social event for GLBT community and friends,” the 35th annual event will take place at the Toledo Club, 235 14th St.
“We are very, very proud of the fact we have lasted three and a half decades,” said Rick Cornett, a member of the group’s board of directors. “All of the other LGBT fundraisers and events have folded over the years.”
The Gayla will feature dinner, dessert and coffee as well as dancing, a live DJ, cash bar and plenty of networking and socializing opportunities, Cornett said.
“I love the fact this is a formal affair and everyone is all decked out,” Cornett said. “The historic Toledo Club is a beautiful backdrop for a holiday event like this and the Christmas trees and decorations are breathtaking.”
All are welcome, Cornett said.
“This isn’t an invite-only event,” said Cornett, who has attended the event since 1991. “We draw a wide range of people, younger and older, lesbians and gays as well as our straight allies and supporters.”
The past two years have featured a fashion show and drag entertainers, but organizers are looking into going a different entertainment direction this year, said Wayne North, another member of the board of directors.
“We are reconfiguring how we use the Toledo Club facilities. This will be a surprise,” North said. “We always try to add something unexpected to the event to keep the interest high.”
Cost and time are to be determined, but reserving tickets early is suggested, Cornett said.
“The event has sold out every year we have been at the Toledo Club,” Cornett said. “We encourage everyone to get their reservations in early, as we are limited to seating of 300 at the Toledo Club.”
Last year’s Gayla raised $10,000, with $4,000 donated to University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC) infectious disease specialist Dr. Joan Duggan to assist in her research and treatment of HIV/AIDS and $2,000 to the Pride of Toledo Foundation to assist with Toledo Pride 2012.
“We are looking forward to continuing our working relationship with [Toledo Pride],” Cornett said. “Toledo Pride is the best thing that has happened for the local LGBT community in years and we want to help keep it going.”
The committee deposited the remaining $4,000 into its Holiday with Heart Fund administered by the Toledo Community Foundation. Once an initial $25,000 is raised, the funds will be available for emergency and critical LGBT causes, North said. So far, about $10,000 has been raised.
“We have only held one fundraising event per year and we try to have our money distributed within the first quarter of the following year. If a pressing issue affecting the LGBT community should arise between events, we have not been able to help,” North said. “The $25,000 goal is just a minimum initial target. I hope we eventually will be able to grow the fund significantly. This fund also provides an opportunity for memorial giving in honor of members of the LGBT community.”
Beneficiaries for this year’s event have yet to be chosen, but the group’s emphasis is local causes.
“There are many needs within the LGBT community of Northwest Ohio,” North said. “Holiday With Heart strives to fund locally rather than putting our donations into a large national pool, which would dilute the dollars used locally. Attending and supporting Holiday With Heart helps the local community. The event also brings the community together socially and helps focus the need to work together. We also hope that members of the heterosexual community will support our program to help create greater cooperation and understanding.”
Holiday With Heart evolved from an annual holiday gathering of 16 friends in 1977, Cornett said. The event started raising money for local charities in the early 1990s and in 2008 was granted nonprofit status and became known as the Holiday with Heart Charity Gayla.
“Guests enjoy Holiday with Heart because they get a chance to spend an evening with friends in a safe atmosphere,” North said. “It is an upscale event in the LGBT community. The Holiday With Heart event also gives credibility to the LGBT community in Northwest Ohio.”
Cornett, along with fellow board members Andrew Larsen and Ed Hoffman, will be riding in the Toledo Pride parade at noon Aug. 11 in a royal blue 1965 classic car along with drag queen MaKayla Sinclaire Styles. Holiday with Heart will also have a vendor table at the Toledo Pride festival from 1-7 p.m. Aug. 11. Members will collect names and addresses for the group’s mailing list and pass out special Holiday with Heart bracelets.
Holiday With Heart will also have a tree in the Toledo Club’s annual Holiday Parade of Trees fundraiser, in which decorated Christmas trees are displayed and then auctioned to raise money. Holiday With Heart’s tree will raise money for the Ann Wayson Locher Memorial Fund for HIV Care at UTMC.
Toledo Free Press is a media sponsor of the Gayla. For more information, visit www.hwhcharitygayla.org.