Last Thursday, the LightHouse gathered hundreds of friends, supporters and community members at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in downtown San Francisco for the LightHouse Gala: A Celebration of Blind Ambition. At the gala, which was LightHouse’s largest-ever, we honored blind pioneers, role models and citizens for their audacity and ambition. It was a celebration, a fundraiser and an invitation for our community to partner and become more deeply engaged with the work of the LightHouse.
With over 300 people in attendance, it was an evening of community and camaraderie. Emcee Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to summit Mount Everest, set the tone for our daring evening. LightHouse student Jorge Ellington and his band started the evening right with live Latin Jazz. We honored seven blind leaders throughout the night, and capped off with presentations from our agency’s Holman Prize for Blind Ambition.
We were proud to present our new LightHouse Awards: to acknowledge longtime leaders from the field of blindness, who have had a great impact on the community. This award honored trailblazers in education, technology and policy. LightHouse Newel Perry Award was presented to Cathy Skivers by Bryan Bashin. The LightHouse Dr. Isabelle Grant Award was presented to George Kerscher for his work to made electronic books accessible. Erin Lauridsen, Director of Access Technology presented the award to Dr. Kerscher. The LightHouse Chris Buckley Award honored Scott LaBarre and Maryanne Diamond for their work advocating for the Marrakesh Treaty to make books accessible to the global blind community without exception. Benentech’s Jim Fruchterman presented the award.
Ceremonial medals were given to the 2017 Holman Prizewinners, who were honored for the completion of their year-long projects which furthered the cause of blindness across six continents in the fields of adventure sports, entrepreneurship and cultural exchange. Holman prizewinner Penny Melville-Brown recounted her perilous, near death car accident and subsequently meeting and marrying the love of her life. Ojok Simon spoke of teaching over 45 blind people the art of beekeeping this year, and brought honey from Uganda to share with all. Ahmet Ustunel imparted his kayaking adventures in Turkey, and the technology he crafted to aid blind kayakers navigate independently.
Julie Cabrera, an Enchanted Hills camper who grew up to be a counselor helped us raise funds to rebuild the Wing Creek Chapel and accessible nature trail at Enchanted Hills, which were destroyed in last year’s Wine Country wildfires. The evening supported the life-changing programs of the LightHouse with a portion supporting to Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind. The event raised over $180,000. Thank you to our sponsors.
EXPLORATION SPONSORS – Individual
- Jennifer and Ken Bunt
- Walt Disney Company Employee Matching Gift Program
AUDACITY SPONSORS – Individual
- Drew Kebbel
- Sharon and Richard Sacks
- Herbst Foundation
- Merchant’s Exchange (Julia Morgan Ballroom)
- Patson & Co
- U.S. Bank
ADVENTURE SPONSORS – Individual
- Jennison Asuncion
- Lisa Carvalho and David Mager
- Gena Harper
- Jerry Kuns
- Josh Miele, Liz Ruhland and Fred Ruhland
- Fred and Kristine Silva
- One Market Restaurant, Michael and Leslye Dellar
- Google/ Laura Allen
- Maze & Associates
- Mutual of America
- U.S. Bank
OPPORTUNITY SPONSORS – Individuals
- Barbara Lassen
- Joan Dove
- Chris Downey and Rosa Downey
- Eric and Jacalyn Mah
- Michael Nuz
- Alice Wingwall and Donlyn Lyndon
- Stanley Yarnell and Victor Rowley
- Bauke Family Foundation
- Disability Rights Advocates
- Fitness SF
- Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP
- Turner Construction