Hundreds of San Diegans Celebrate Top Honors of Local and National LGBT Advocacy at Aston-Brooks Awards Gala Benefitting San Diego Human Dignity Foundation

Hundreds of San Diegans Celebrate Top Honors of Local and National LGBT Advocacy at Aston-Brooks Awards Gala Benefitting San Diego Human Dignity Foundation
November, 2015 Client News
SAN DIEGO – Nov. 10, 2015 – On the evening of Saturday, Nov. 7, 350 attendees gathered at The Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa to honor three LGBT advocates at San Diego Human Dignity Foundation’s second annual Aston-Brooks Awards Gala.

Attendees enjoyed a hosted cocktail reception, silent auction, dinner, a cabaret show and VIP entertainment featuring Broadway legend, Andrea McArdle, who turned heads with her cabaret performance singing excerpts from Broadway hits and the 1970s, including “I Dreamed A Dream” from “Les Misérables,” “Being Alive” from “Company” and closed with her iconic number “Tomorrow” from “Annie.”

The following awards were distributed to three individuals making a difference in the LGBT community here and around the globe:

  • Kurt Cunningham (posthumously) – Richard Geyser Community Leadership Award. Cunningham died in early October 2015, and is the only local honoree. Cunningham was a community activist who dedicated much of his adult life toward the betterment of the San Diego LGBTQ and HIV communities. Throughout his career, he worked closely with Imperial Court de San Diego, Trevor Project and The Center, with his most recent post being the LGBT Outreach Liaison for Mental Health America (MHA) of San Diego County. In this position, he advocated for mental health sensitivity and workplace/school trainings to create safe spaces for LGBTQ employees and students. Additionally, he had stepped up to the task of co-producing the 2016 Y.E.S. San Diego LGBTQ youth conference, a project supported, through grants and fiscal agency, by SDHDF. Councilmember Todd Gloria presented Cunningham’s award to Nicole Murray-Ramirez, who accepted the award on behalf of Cunningham’s family.
  • Wilson Cruz – Lincoln Aston Public Service Award. Cruz has most recently been seen as “Kenji Gomez-Rejon” on FOX television’s ensemble drama, “The Red Band Society,” starring Oscar winner, Octavia Spencer. Early in his career, Cruz won the hearts of audiences playing “Rickie Vasquez” on “My So Called Life.” It was the first openly gay teenager role to air on network primetime television. He has continued to earn fans and critical acclaim on television, film and stage. Cruz played the critically acclaimed role of “Angel” on Broadway and in the West Coast Premiere of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winning musical “RENT.” His portrayal earned him The Los Angeles Ovation Award and Dramalogue award. Cruz joined the board of directors of GLAAD in 1997 in order to assist the organization through a leadership transition, and joined the staff of GLAAD in 2012 as a National Spokesperson and Strategic Giving Officer. In 2008, Cruz received the GLAAD “Visibilidad Award” and in 2014, was honored as one of OUT Magazine’s “OUT 100.”
  • Archbishop Rev. Carl Bean – Sunshine Brooks HIV/AIDS Advocacy Award. As a young singer, Carl Bean brought churches to their feet and dance floors to their knees. From 1964 to 1972, he was the lead vocalist for the Alex Bradford Singers; his hit Motown single “I Was Born This Way” was the first gay liberation dance club hit. Bean founded the Unity Fellowship Church of Christ in Los Angeles in 1982 for gay, lesbian, and transgendered African Americans. Rev. Gerald Green accepted the award on behalf of Archbishop Rev. Carl Bean.

Tears fell and heartfelt cheers roared throughout the room when Councilmember Todd Gloria announced Kurt Cunningham to receive the Richard Geyser Community Leadership Award. As Nicole Murray-Ramirez walked onstage to accept the award on behalf of Kurt, several members of the crowd stood to honor the legacy he left behind.

“The Richard Geyser Award honors a community leader who displays excellence in ethics,” said John Brown, executive director, San Diego Human Dignity Foundation. “Kurt was an honest, truthful, compassionate community leader who displayed all the attributes that Richard Geyser considered important in community work.”

Each of the awards carried a $5,000 grant from the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation to the LGBT/HIV charity chosen by the award recipient or their designate. The charities selected are as follows:

  • The Kurt Cunningham Counseling Services Fund: San Diego Human Dignity Foundation has donated $4,000 to this fund at The San Diego LGBT Community Center and The Rob Benson Foundation has donated $1,000 for a total of $5,000.
  • GLAAD: Wilson Cruz has designated the organization as the recipient for the $5,000 grant in his honor.
  • The Unity Fellowship Of Christ Church’s HIV AIDS Ministry: The organization received a $5,000 grant from San Diego Human Dignity Foundation in honor of Archbishop Rev. Carl Bean.

During the program, Brown also announced that the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation will establish the La Pietra Foundation Permanent Fund, which has a value of $3 million, and is the largest gift SDHDF has received since it’s inception in 1996.

Eugene La Pietra was a founding donor of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AIDS Project LA, The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center, The Lambda Archives, Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos and many more. He has been recognized nationwide as one of the leading philanthropists in the LGBT community.

The formation of this fund and proceeds from the event benefit the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation, one of the nation’s largest LGBT community foundations in the United States, benefiting San Diego’s LGBT community for nearly 20 years.

About the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation
The San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (SDHDF), which will celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2016, is the sole community foundation in the San Diego region dedicated to the benefit of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. SDHDF funds programs and projects that promote equal treatment, tolerance, wellness, well-being, and above all else, human dignity. We work to strengthen LGBT organizations and leadership. The organization nurtures philanthropic giving to support LGBT people and address important issues such as aging, arts and culture, health and wellness, youth and families, and civil rights. For more information, visit Connect on Facebook and Twitter.