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Center on Halsted gala puts Chaka Khan, honorees on center stage
Video links below
by Melissa Wasserman

This article shared 4 times since Sun May 19, 2013
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Center on Halsted hosted its annual Human First Gala and performance at the Hilton Chicago May 18.

The untraditional black-and-white-tie gala, which raised funds to support the Center on Halsted and the LGBTQ community it serves, was also a celebration of the advancing community and the individuals and businesses contributing to the progress. The meaning behind the gala and its title is each individual, despite sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, physical ability, ethnicity or age is, above all, human first.

"In the end, we're striving to be recognized as humans first," said Center on Halsted's CEO Modesto "Tico" Valle. "That's our work, that's our mission. We strive to be recognized as human first and we do that in many ways at the Center."

More than 800 guests including corporate and foundation sponsors of the Center, civic and city leaders, local and national elected officials, major donors and supporters, as well as members and allies of the LGBT community attended the gala with a cocktail followed by a sit-down dinner. Raffle tickets were also sold throughout the evening.

Among the political guests were Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.

"There was this feeling to the evening about family and that we've come along way and we're recognizing the whole family as we're heading toward full equality," said Valle. "It is an opportunity to bring community together and to really celebrate all the accomplishments and recognize some very important people in our community. That to me was really the feeling last night. The only sadness is that we weren't celebrating full [marriage] equality. There was definitely an energy in the room that we think it's soon to come."

This year's Human First Award recipients were couples Sarah Schmidt and Julie Matthei as well as Jonathan "Yoni" Pizer and Brad Lippitz for their efforts in progressing marriage equality; and Richard Turner, who has been active in AIDS/HIV and LGBTQ issues, in addition to corporate and philanthropic communities. Allstate Insurance Company was honored with the Community Spirit Award for its support of agencies nationwide around the issues of domestic violence and fiscal literacy.

"The individuals that were honored were very much from the community and they have all been wonderful allies to Center and to many, many causes in the community," said Valle. "The whole atmosphere and the whole group embody giving back, hard work, hope and community."

Willard S. Evans Jr., president of People's Gas and North Shore Gas; Laura Ricketts, director of the Chicago Cubs, chairperson of the board of Chicago Cubs Charities and co-chair of the Human First Gala; and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy each presented awards to the Human First Award honorees.

Prior to each acceptance speech, videos familiarizing attendees with the honorees played on large screens. Schmidt and Matthei's and Pizer and Lippitz's videos displayed each of their families at home. Valle said this was the first time kids were featured in the videos and it added a valuable component to the evening. Kids from the two families were also present at the event along with honorees' parents to help celebrate.

"I love the fact the little boys were up there with their dads to accept the award and celebrate that and when you look at our movement, especially with the leadership among the lesbians, Laura Ricketts and Sarah and Julie and others, that's pretty powerful too. When the honorees bring their moms and dads to celebrate with them, we've truly come a long way. We still have a ways to go, but still, 20 years ago you couldn't bring your parents to celebrate honors like this. That's just so beautiful," Valle said.

Ricketts and Charles A. Schrock, chairman, president and CEO of Integrys Energy Group co-chaired this year's event, while Billie Jean King (who did not attend) served as honorary co-chair. Other honorary co-chairs were Amina Dickerson, Anne L. Kaplan, Abby O'Neil and Carroll Joynes, and Maria Bechily and Scott Hodes.

NBC Chicago Reporter Natalie Martinez emceed the event. For introductions and following remarks, Valle and Marcus Brady, chairperson of the board for Center on Halsted, both took the stage.

Chicago native and Grammy winner Chaka Khan headlined the event. Guests got up to dance to the live concert. DJ Matthew Harvat followed her performance, ending the evening.

"Chaka is a legend in our community and a diva and she really put on a show for all of us," said Valle. "She rocked the house. The headliner is always like the gravy of the evening because the honorees are the headline, so it was wonderful to see that we had a headliner that everyone could kind of connect to and everyone stood on the floor and really enjoyed the evening with Chaka."

Center on Halsted Human First Awards 5-18-2013, video links:

Awards to Sarah Schmidt and Julie Matthei .

Awards to Brad Lippetz and Yoni Pizer .

Executive Director Modesto 'Tico' Valle speech .

Chaka Khan links to all 5 videos from Center on Halsted gala: . . . . .

Windy City Times interview with Chaka Khan: .

This article shared 4 times since Sun May 19, 2013
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