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Matthew Shepard Foundation Gala to celebrate 25 years of erasing hate

The Matthew Shepard Foundation is gearing up for its highly anticipated annual fundraising gala, scheduled to take place on Saturday, October 14, 2023, at the exquisite Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. With doors set to open at 6 p.m., this year’s gala promises to be a heartfelt celebration of Matthew Shepard’s enduring legacy and a powerful commemoration of the Foundation’s quarter-century-long commitment to combating hate.

Presented by esteemed partners Marriott International, Molson Coors Beverage Company, and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the 2023 gala holds a dual purpose: raising crucial funds for the Foundation’s ongoing efforts while honoring the memory of Matthew Shepard. The Foundation was established in response to the tragic murder of Shepard 25 years ago, and this event pays tribute to his enduring impact.

“Twenty-five years ago, our son Matt was brutally murdered. We needed our friends to be our ‘friends’ when that happened, and they stepped up in so many ways,” shared Judy Shepard. “What we didn’t know we needed was the unconditional love and support of the queer community and its allies. But they were there for us, too, and for Matt. They still are. We are looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and new to thank them while recommitting to our task of changing hearts and minds.”

The gala serves as the Foundation’s flagship event, offering a prime platform for acknowledging the contributions of individuals and organizations that champion empathy, understanding, and acceptance over hate. This year’s honorees include the esteemed recipients of the Making a Difference Award, Billy Porter; the Dennis Dougherty Award for Community Leadership, Chasten Buttigieg; and the Spirit of Matthew Award, Be A Friend Project.

Beyond the accolades, attendees will be treated to a vibrant evening of entertainment led by emcee and auctioneer Debbie Scheer. The event’s highlights include a captivating silent and live auction, surprises marking the 25th commemoration, a spirited after-party, and heartfelt remarks from Judy and Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s parents.

Awards & Honorees

2023 Making a Difference Award – Billy Porter Renowned for his exceptional talents and dynamic portrayal of ‘Pray Tell’ in FX’s groundbreaking series “Pose,” Billy Porter receives the Making a Difference Award. This accolade acknowledges individuals and entities committed to dismantling hate and fostering compassion and understanding.

2023 Dennis Dougherty Award for Community Leadership – Chasten Buttigieg Chasten Buttigieg, an advocate, author, and educator, garners the Dennis Dougherty Award, a tribute to those integral to the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s growth and integrity. Chasten’s impactful contributions resonate, particularly through his books “I Have Something to Tell You” and its rewritten edition for young adults.

2023 Spirit of Matthew Award – Be A Friend Project The Spirit of Matthew Award is bestowed upon the Be A Friend Project, a national organization of student ‘Upstanders’ dedicated to combatting bullying and nurturing kinder communities. This award spotlights young individuals and groups who exemplify Matt’s spirit of inclusivity, social justice, and advocacy.

For those interested in joining the event, tickets and further information are available at matthewshepard.org/gala/.

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