36th annual Holiday with Heart fundraiser set for Dec. 8Written by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo’s Holiday with Heart Charity Gayla isn’t just a fancy night out that longtime attendees look forward to each year.
It’s also the longest running annual fundraiser benefiting local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) causes in the state.
Taglined “the premier social event for LGBT community and friends,” the 36th annual event will take place 4-11 p.m. Dec. 8 at The Toledo Club, 235 14th St.
Tickets are $75; a group reserving a table of 10 will receive two complimentary bottles of wine.
Attendees can expect an elegant evening with a served dinner, cash bar, DJ and dancing, live entertainment, 50-50 raffle and plenty of networking and socializing opportunities, said Rick Cornett, a member of the group’s board of directors.
“The Toledo Club is a historic and beautiful place for our event and all the Christmas trees and decorations are breathtaking,” Cornett said. “It is a great way to kick off the holiday season for a good cause that benefits the local LGBT community.”
Jazz vocalist Kelly Broadway will perform during the cocktail hour. Grand Lubell Photography will offer Photo Booth Live. New this year is a special guest performance by the Toledo Opera and a Latin Dance Expo by Michelle Brewer.
A DJ will take requests for dancing all night. Drag entertainers MaKayla Sinclair Styles and Rya Chiffon along with male models from Cityboyz Fashion Menswear will sell 50-50 raffle tickets.
Reserving tickets early is suggested as the 300-seat Gayla has sold out for the past several years, Cornett said. Reservation deadline is Dec. 2.
“Since we have outgrown the main dining room upstairs, the dining portion of the evening will take place downstairs on the entire first floor,” Cornett said. “This gives us an additional 50 seats. We did this last year for the first time and it worked out really well.”
All are welcome, said Cornett, who has attended the event since 1991.
“Although this charity benefits LGBT causes, we want everyone to know that our straight allies are welcome to join us,” he said. “The evening is a fun mix of younger and older people who enjoy the diversity the LGBT community is known for. This isn’t an invite-only event.”
Among this year’s beneficiaries will be Rainbow Area Youth (RAY), a local nonprofit peer group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning teens age 13-19.
“We are excited to be benefiting Rainbow Area Youth this year for the first time,” Cornett said. “That organization is a great asset to the needs of LGBT youth. Coming out can be a hard and scary time for someone young who is trying to find acceptance from family, friends, classmates and co-workers. I wish a group like RAY had been around in the 1980s when I was coming out and trying to find my way.”
Last year’s Gayla raised $13,000 for beneficiaries including The Toledo Pride Foundation, the Toledo office of AIDS Resource Center Ohio, The Gay and Lesbian Student Endowment Fund at the University of Toledo and The Holiday with Heart Fund. All funds raised stay local.
“Each year we raise more money than the year before,” Cornett said.
The Holiday with Heart Fund is administered through the Toledo Community Foundation. The fund was established in 2011 in memory of Gayla co-founder Dick Flock. Once an initial $25,000 is raised, the fund will be used to support local LGBT causes year round. So far, almost $19,000 has been raised.
“Once this goal is met we will be able to disperse funds to various local LGBT causes throughout the year,” Cornett said. “This year we dipped into our general fund and assisted Pride Center 419 with a donation of $650 to help them with daily operations. We are committed to keeping all funds raised here in Northwest Ohio.”
The Gayla has become much more than just a fun social evening, said Ed Hoffman, Flock’s partner, fellow event co-founder and committee member.
“More and more it’s taking on the role of a major fundraiser so we have something for the future,” Hoffman said. “There are so many needs out there and many of the needs of the straight community and the gay community coincide. The fact of the matter is, it’s important to all.”
Other committee members are Andrew Larsen, Wayne North, Kennyetta White, Steve Maenle and David Bingham. Full time volunteers include Billy Mann and Rickie Waugh.
Toledo Free Press is a media sponsor of the Gayla.
For more information, visit hwhcharitygayla.org.
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