DVLF will honor four individuals, one organization and one business at the 2013 HEROES Awards, held May 19 at the Hotel Monaco.
Joining the longstanding awards will be the new Lifetime Legacy Award, which will be presented to longtime LGBT community leader John Cunningham.
“There are so many people in our community who, year after year, really work hard to advance the mission of the LGBT community,” said DVLF executive director Samantha Giusti. “Some of these people are selfless every single year. We wanted to make sure we recognized our strongest leaders.”
Giusti said Cunningham, who has worked with an array of local community groups, including DVLF, was a perfect candidate for the inaugural award.
“He has been active with so many organizations in the community, quietly as a donor or volunteer, and we are lucky to have benefited from his selflessness,” Giusti said.
Cunningham is a longtime resident of Philadelphia who is a former employee at the Free Library of Philadelphia, past co-chair of the board of William Way LGBT Community Center’s predecessor and current member of the LGBT Elder Initiative.
He co-founded and played an integral part in the development of the AIDS Library of Philadelphia and DVLF.
While DVLF will honor Cunningham’s legacy, he said he has backed the organization because it is leaving its own legacy.
“As I get older, the tendency is to look back over what already has occurred,” he said. “My involvement in DVLF is about our shared future and that’s why it’s what I consider the most important.”
The other honorees include Individual HERO Franny Price, Straight Ally HERO former Congressman Patrick Murphy, Youth HERO Chantel Wilson, Nonprofit Organization HERO The Philadelphia Foundation and Business/Corporation HERO Rossi Wellness Center.
Giusti said candidates are selected through a two-month nomination process.
“When we do HEROES, we look for youth, adults, nonprofits, allies, individuals and organizations with bold ideas who are admired for their integrity and courageousness,” she said.
Giusti said nomination forms are distributed widely to past HERO awardees, grantees, community leaders and organizations, and a selection committee then weighs the nominees, looking for candidates who have accomplished something groundbreaking within the last year, although past achievements are considered.
“They pick the people they feel best represent the community,” Giusti said. “While we consider a person or an organization’s entire history, we place an emphasis on their heroic past year.”
Giusti said Price’s leadership on a community weight-loss program last year, coupled with her strong commitment to the LGBT community in the past 30 years, bolstered her nomination.
“The committee was inspired by her Weigh It Forward program in 2012. She really showed the community to take their health into their own hands,” Giusti said.
Price said she appreciates the recognition, but that the community has brought the “hero” out in her.
“My community has become my family, and everything I have done, I have done for my family,” she said.
Wilson, the Youth HERO, is a 16-year-old ally and member of The Attic Youth Center.
The Attic executive director Carrie Jacobs said Wilson, a member for two years, participates in various leadership programs at the organization and helped develop its 2012 Safe Schools Toolkit. Wilson is also a panelist for the Bryson Institute and sits on the Mayor’s Youth Task Force on School Safety.
“She really is committed and a very positive, creative and passionate young woman, who is a great ally,” Jacobs said. “We are happy that we have her at The Attic and out at the schools speaking for LGBTQ youth.”
Murphy, the recipient of the Straight Ally HERO Award, is an Iraq War veteran who led the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Murphy said he considers his DADT work one of his greatest accomplishments.
“The thing closest to my heart was the fight for true equality in the repeal of DADT and how that set the table for marriage equality,” he said.
Philadelphia Foundation president R. Andrew Swinney said The Philadelphia Foundation’s support of the LGBT community is integral to its mission.
“The LGBT community is part of the overall community that we serve and we are here to improve the quality of life for everyone,” he said. “I am very grateful that we are being acknowledged and it shows that the work we’ve done with DVLF and with the LGBT community in general over the years is recognized.”
To purchase tickets to HEROES, visit www.dvlf.org.