On May 4, the Pacific Pride Foundation (PPF) held its extraordinary biennial fundraiser, the Royal Ball. About 400 supporters of the LGBTQ center gathered at the Rosewood Miramar Beach for a wildly entertaining evening. Two years in the making, with prices ranging from $350 for a basic ticket to $50,000 for one of the royal boxes, the event is expected to raise about $300,000.
Many guests heeded the invitation’s call to dress in black tie or “your most regal silver, gold or glimmering attire,” with tuxes and gowns abounding, and plenty of bling, royal robes, crowns and tiaras. Guests mingled on the Grand Lawn overlooking the ocean and in the Chandelier Ballroom and its foyer, patios, and lawn. On one side of the exquisitely decorated silver ballroom, top level sponsors entertained in elegantly-appointed royal boxes, replete with sofas and armchairs, while other VIPs relaxed at premier dining tables with stunning floral and candle arrangements – all the work of Merryl Brown Events.
Instead of the traditional sit-down dinner, long speeches, and auction, the event featured dining at one’s leisure from buffet stations throughout the evening, a short program, lots of mingling and dancing, and an incredible floor show.
During the program, Executive Director Colette Schabram shared how PPF reaches more than 10,000 people annually with its youth leadership development programs, advocacy for seniors, work on hate crimes, and HIV education and prevention. Each year, PPF serves more than 100 families, couples, and individuals in therapy, tests 1,200 people for HIV, distributes 5,000 safe sex kits, supports 250 youth, and trains 1,500 people on LGBTQ best practices. PPF’s programs, Schabram emphasized, save lives and heal families.
She cautioned that LGBTQ people remain targeted minorities and that the battle for equality is far from won — pointing to last week’s release by the Department of Health and Human Services of a new regulation allowing health-care providers to opt out of medical care based on religious beliefs.
To drive home the needs of LGBTQ youth, Schabram cited alarming statistics: 30 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual teenagers will attempt suicide this year alone, and half of all transgender teenagers will attempt suicide before the age of 20. She concluded by declaring that PPF will remain on the frontlines locally to increase safety for the LGBTQ community.
Luis Oviedo, who participated in PPF’s PROUD Youth Program 10 years ago, and his brother, Emilio Villafranco, a current program member, shared, in a moving and articulate manner, the difficulties they have encountered because of their sexual orientation and their immense gratitude for the support they received from PPF.
A wildly entertaining floor show followed, with the 4-man singing group Elevate performing Culture Club, Queen and Elton John hits and a plethora of scantily- attired Elan Artists dancers performing on stage and on the dance floor. Guests danced into the night.
A major component of the PROUD Youth Program is its PROUD Youth Groups, which are therapeutic social support groups for youth ages 12-17 meeting weekly in Santa Barbara and monthly in Santa Maria. On average, about a dozen youth attend in each location. Another key component is its (90) Days of Summer Program — a life-skills-building program for youth ages 12-17. Separate programs run weekly in North and South County focused on a specific facet of LGBTQ advocacy and leadership development.
Next month, eight youth, selected on the basis of their advocacy work, will participate in WorldPride NYC, which honors the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. They will volunteer and march at this extensive event, and then return to lead the (90) Days of Summer Program.
PPF has been serving Santa Barbara County for 42 years and has long had offices in both Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, but last year moved to a new location in each city. This year, counseling services were added to the Santa Maria location.
For more info, go to http://pacificpridefoundation.org.
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