The 20th anniversary gala celebration did not disappoint! This year’s event celebrated the incredible students, mentors, staff, partners, and sponsors who have made EW!DC the largest mentoring and literacy organization in the Washington metro area.
As usual, the student performers were the stars of the show. After an excellent introduction by the emcee, CNN’s senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar, the Amidon-Bowen Elementary School choir gave a beautiful performance of “Lean on Me” as well as “Everybody Wins When You Read With Children!” written by Terence Hope.
An inspiring introduction of the keynote speaker, Michele Roberts, was given by 5th grader George Weary from Savoy Elementary. George displayed confidence and poise as he said, “No matter where I come from, I will overcome any challenge, I will win!” Michele Roberts joined him onstage to share her moving story about mentorship and education. Ms. Roberts, the Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association, is the first woman to head a major professional sports union in North America.
In her speech, Ms. Roberts described how she was able to defy the odds and rise from the projects in the Bronx. “God was good enough to give me a mother who understood that, despite her horrible education, the key to the castle was education. The second reason I made it out was because she gave me my first book. My earliest memory was of my mother reading to me...we didn't have a car, and had no money to travel, but reading introduced me to all kinds of people and places...I read and I read and I read." As she addressed the audience, she added, "we're helping these kids defy the odds.”
The evening held another surprise for EW!DC’s co-founder, Joanie Chase, who was with EW!DC from its inception in 1995 until she left the DC area in 2001. Joanie was reunited with one of her first mentees, Berta Gonzalez. Berta spoke about the influence mentors like Joanie have had on her life and her success. Berta expressed her deep gratitude to Joanie, "She helped make me a brave fighter... I won more than a reading mentor. I won a friend for life.” Joanie was clearly touched by the tribute. After many years, they are reunited not just as mentor and mentee, but as friends.
This year’s live auction was hosted by the exuberant Jeff Lesher. One of the highlights of the auction included two lunches, one with Brianna Keilar and the other with DC’s own Karl Racine. While the bidding was fierce, Karl came out as the champion and now has bragging rights as the most desirable EW!DC supporter. Another surprising highlight of the auction was the bidding war for the Boeing Box Suite at Nationals Stadium. The bids quickly escalated and the Boeing Suite ultimately sold for more than twice its original value. Even though the auction has ended, the money raised will create new beginnings for students in EW!DC’s programs.
Ms. Keilar had the pleasure of presenting EW!DC’s gala sponsors- DIRECTV; RAI Services Company; Sidley Austin LLP; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP; and USAA- with the Principal Sponsors Awards. EW!DC board member, Henry Eickelberg of General Dynamics, was also honored for his tireless efforts to support the gala for the past 16 years.
Mentor of the Year
The evening also included the presentation of the Minnon Friedman Mentor of the Year Award. This year’s award went to Abby Yochelson of the Library of Congress. Also up for the award were Cindi O’Connor of KPMG, and Jean Vallianos of the American Chemistry Council. All three women exemplify excellence in mentorship. Abby’s mentee, Emilia Benitez, presented the award and told the crowd, “I have the best reading mentor! Miss Abby is smart like me. I'm so proud of her for winning...she really deserves it. The votes are in and everybody agrees with me. She rocks!" EW!DC is proud to recognize Abby as this year’s Mentor of the Year.
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