GMHC Honors Tim Sweeney, Rudin Family at 30th Anniversary Gala
Supporters of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis came together at Gotham Hall in Manhattan on Wednesday to celebrate the organization’s 30th anniversary.
Featuring host Mary-Louise Parker and honoring AIDS Walk sponsor Duane Reade, Gill Foundation CEO Tim Sweeney and the Rudin family, the gala raised close to $600,000 for GMHC programs and services.
"The 30th year is really phenomenal for us, being in our new home and being able to provide more complex, integrated services that are really very customer-oriented and our new building allows that," said GMHC CEO Dr. Marjorie Hill. "The other wonderful thing about this evening is recognizing our past and the history and legacy that GMHC has, and building on that as we move into the future."
Hill said that they were lucky to have had many honorees support GMHC throughout the epidemic, noting that Eric Rudin was a hotline volunteer before he became a board member. She noted that Beth Rudin DeWoody and the Rudin Foundation have also been very generous to her organization.
"Tim Sweeney has shown leadership in the LGBT and HIV/AIDS community for many years and continues to do it at the Gill Foundation. And then Duane Reade has stepped up more recently, but in a big way," added Hill. "They are our first-ever presenting sponsor, which is a minimum of a quarter of a million dollars they are going to give us. In the three years they’ve done that, they’ve already out shot their goal, and have already given GMHC over a million dollars."
"I’m just thrilled to be here and be with the Rudin Family and Duane Reade, but most importantly I’m just grateful that GMHC continues to provide the care that it does, do the prevention that it does, and most of all, keeps an advocacy voice going to keep our attention on HIV/AIDS," Sweeney told EDGE.
Outside Gotham Hall, roughly half a dozen protestors held signs and showed their anger over the Rudins being honored; the family closed down St. Vincent’s Hospital and now plans to build luxury condos in its place.
"New York is always filled with controversy, and we had many of our clients who went to St. Vincent’s, but you know we can’t live in the past, we really have to live in the future, and the future is about providing quality services to patients in and outside of the Village," said Hill.
Richard Burns, former executive director of the LGBT Community Center and Stonewall Community Foundation, was of the same mind.
"I never mind protestors because for me it’s a celebration of voices and diversity of opinion that really makes New York such a rich place," he said. "GMHC is indeed now located on 33rd Street and 10th Avenue. It’s a great layout and I think clients are pleased with the services there, so I think it’s worked out."
The evening was scattershot with celebrities. These included Isaac Mizrahi, BD Wong, former Mayor David Dinkins, chef Alex Guarnaschelli, the Knicks’ Larry Johnson and GMHC co-founder Larry Kramer.
"My son was upset with me for going out tonight, and I told him, this is an organization that mommy will never say no to," said Parker. "It’s made it possible for so many people to live fruitful lives, and it’s a pleasure to be with you. Each year GMHC helps thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS. GMHC restores hope for many people who feel like they are lost forever. And that’s why we’re here tonight."
Ellen DeGeneres and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn shared well wishes via pre-recorded segments. GMHC received a proclamation from the city, while singer T. Oliver Reid performed songs throughout the evening.
Hill honored Kramer and other GMHC co-founders, living and dead, noting that they would be seen for their courage and vision.
"It is on their shoulders that the GMHC of today stands," she said, noting Dinkins took her to her first AIDS Walk. Hill also thanked Delta Air Lines and long-time AIDS Walk producer Craig Miller.
Robin Costa, president of the Duane Reade Charitable Foundation, accepted the Corporate Leadership Award on behalf of Duane Reade. GMHC Board Co-chair Mickey Rolfe presented the Judith Peabody Humanitarian Award to the Rudins.
"They have a long and proud history for philanthropy, always supported those in need, and stayed in the shadows, away from the spotlight," he said. "GMHC has seen their good will for many years and has been the most generous recipient of their largesse."
Rudin DeWoody noted that in the mid-1980s, she was surprised to learn that hers was the first family foundation to support GMHC. She was pleased to discover that her family’s contribution leveraged the organization through the height of the AIDS epidemic.
"Our family is honored to be in the esteemed group with Tim Sweeney and on behalf of my family, thank you very much for the lovely award," added Eric Rudin, who discussed his three years of volunteer work in the early days of the hotline. "I would go home and think, ’Thank God for GMHC.’ It is an amazing organization doing incredible things for people each year. We look forward to being part of this organization for as long as it is needed."
Sweeney, who is GMHC’s former deputy director, received another Judith Peabody Humanitarian Award. He has also previously served as Lambda Legal’s executive director, deputy executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda and program director of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr., Fund.
"For 30 years we have come to this organization and put collective organizations to work to dream of what should be," said Sweeney. "We have overcome stigma, played smart politics, acted up and got arrested, held elected leaders accountable, and changed the course of the epidemic. My life’s work taught me that compassion and imagination can go a long way. Now here in the beautiful Empire State we have marriage. Dreams do come true and there is so much to do, so I ask you to stretch your minds and open your hearts even more."
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