Gayla has heart: 37th annual charity event benefits area LGBT causesWritten by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Supporting the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has been the mission of the Holiday with Heart Charity Gayla for nearly four decades.
While event organizers are pleased with the progress made in this country and region since 1977 — when the first Gayla took place — they know much more work is needed.
The 37th annual event will be 4-11 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Toledo Club, 235 14th St. Tickets are $75. Billed as the premier social event for the Toledo LGBT community, the Gayla’s mission is to develop financial resources to support the Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan LGBT community.
“Many are shocked that we have lasted 37 years and we are still going strong,” said Rick Cornett, member of the Holiday with Heart board of directors. “The event only gets bigger and bigger each year as LGBT acceptance has reached an all-time high.”
The formal event for ages 18 and older features dinner, a cash bar, dancing, a raffle, a silent auction and networking opportunities. Grand Lubell Photography will provide a photo booth, while Tim Schulien and local restaurateur Pam Weirauch will offer a dessert station.
Jon Paul, aka Amanda Collins, will be MC and hostess. Paul is a makeup artist and cosmetologist who started to do drag performances to raise awareness of AIDS and its effect on families.
This year’s Gayla will benefit two LGBT causes: Why Marriage Matters Ohio and Toledo Mpowerment.
Why Marriage Matters Ohio is a grassroots public education campaign aiming to build support for marriage equality.
“We are eager to help support marriage equality nationwide but want to see it happen here in Ohio first and foremost,” Cornett said. “We now have 33 states with legal gay marriage and I’m ashamed to say Ohio isn’t one of them. When I first came out in 1985 I never thought I would see one state with legal gay marriage in my lifetime. We have come a long way.”
Toledo Mpowerment is a local youth support group for gay, bisexual and transgender men ages 18-29. The agency provides a safe haven for a happy, healthy and educating environment for fun and fellowship while providing education on HIV and safe sex.
Some of the funds raised will also go into the Holiday with Heart Fund at the Toledo Community Foundation. Now standing at about $27,000, funds will be dispersed to local LGBT causes as needed once $100,000 is raised. All funds stay in the region. Last year’s Gayla raised $10,000.
Holiday with Heart committee member Wayne North said the event serves several purposes.
“It serves as a method to generate money to support events and causes that matter to the LGBT community, events that by themselves would probably go largely ignored,” North said. “It provides a very visible public event that allows the general public to see the LGBT community doing something positive, thereby generating public respect, acceptance and legitimacy for the LGBT family. It provides a venue for the various segments of the LGBT community to gather and have a social event and help inspire cohesion and cooperation.”
Cornett said the recent attack on transgender activist Candice Milligan shows the Gayla’s mission is still necessary. Milligan was attacked and robbed Nov. 3 near 13th Street and Madison Avenue in Downtown Toledo. She was released from Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center after spending several days there.
“The local LGBT community has come a long way with gaining acceptance in many areas of Toledo’s society, but we still have a way to go,” Cornett said. “Transgender people are perhaps the most misunderstood group under the LGBT umbrella with little media and education focus on them. We want to support and bring awareness to all who stand under the LGBT umbrella.
“Much still needs to be done within our school systems towardprotecting LGBT youth from bullying and making them feel safe and unafraid to report these verbal and physical attacks.”
Holiday with Heart donated $500 to Milligan to help with her medical bills.
This year’s sponsors include Paramount Advantage; Legends Showclub; Mojo Bar; Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co., LPA; Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick LLP; Toledo Pride Foundation; Hitchings Insurance Agency, Inc.; The University of Toledo; The Flower Market; Grand Lubell Photography; Great Lakes Sound and Lighting; and Pam’s Corner restaurant. Toledo Free Press serves as media sponsor of the event.
For those not able to attend the event, Mojo and Legends are offering $20 tickets for the Little Red Wagon Raffle, which contains more than 20 bottles of Bacardi and Skyy liquors with special barware and items for home bars. Tickets will be sold until Dec. 7.
The Gayla is open to all in the LGBT community as well as its allies. Cornett encourages attendees to get their reservations in early. Reservation deadline is Dec. 3. The event has sold out for several years.
Other committee members are David Bingham, Ed Hoffman, Steve Maenle, Ken-yetta White, Rickie Waugh, Brian O’Connor, Neil Koplitz and Chris Coleman. Billy Mann is a volunteer for the event.
For more information or reservation forms, visit www.HWHcharitygayla.org or call Cornett at (419) 470-3937. O