ICYMI: Community Champion Awards Presented at the Society of Chairs Gala (Part 2)

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Posted By on July 21, 2021

A total of 10 Community Champion Awards were presented at this year’s Society of Chairs Gala in late April. Here are the second five of the honorees — the first five can be found at this link.

Honoree: Alicia Sutton Campbell

Presented by the Free Arts Board of Directors

Alicia has led Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona through some challenging times: navigating the recession in 2012, purchasing and renovating a building in 2017, and navigating the complexities of serving vulnerable children through a pandemic in 2020. Through all of these challenges, the most important thing to the Free Arts staff was continuing to provide therapeutic arts programs to children in homeless shelters and foster care. In early 2020, in the first weeks of the pandemic shutdown, Alicia and her team quickly pivoted programs to include take-home projects, live and recorded videos, and caregiver support services. They also created a new offering called Bravery Boxes — a kit given to every child in Arizona entering foster care during the pandemic — to help them process the frightening things going on around them. Free Arts remained a strong pillar of support to our community during an incredibly challenging year, and Alicia was a fearless and talented leader navigating Free Arts through it all.


Honoree: Kate & Joseph Specter for Arizona Opera

Presented by Linda Herold and Arizona Community Foundation  

Joseph Specter is the president and general director of Arizona Opera, and Kate is his incredible wife. Since Joe and Kate’s arrival to the Valley, they have become our Opera power couple. Joe, the Arizona Opera team, and the board of directors have built incredible partnerships and successfully mounted new works like “Riders of the Purple Sage” and built new audiences for their art. Kate has been all-in with the Arizona Opera volunteers to co-chair their reimagined Gala Luncheon concept, which has become one of the hottest events to attend. And during COVID, when their stages shuttered, they innovated to created several podcasts, keeping opera alive and accessible to both their beloved supporters and a new audience of all ages.


Honoree: Liz Agboola

Presented by Beth McRae

Liz is the CEO of three local organizations and is a mental health and homelessness activist and philanthropist. From Beth: “Liz Agboola has made a noteworthy career in public service. After her family saw an overwhelming need in the community to assist the homeless and those suffering from serious mental illness, Agboola shifted gears toward a future in philanthropic entrepreneurship with an important mission. Since then, she has dedicated her life to serving the underserved. Her nonprofit work is another around-the-clock job. Agboola is on the board of directors for Valleywise Health Foundation, the American Heart Association’s Heart Ball committee and the community board for Dignity Health, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and St. Joseph Westgate Medical Center. She launched Valleywise Health Foundation’s newest mentorship program called Emerging Leaders, linking CEOs in the Valley to future minority business leaders.”


Honorees: Ladies of the Court founders Gena Bonsall & Penny Gunning

Presented by the O’Connor Institute

The proverbial “make lemonade out of lemons” was never more aptly demonstrated than by The Ladies of the Court, the Women’s Board of the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute for American Democracy. Just two weeks before the Legacy Luncheon — which had been planned to the last detail — the Ladies of the Court made the hard decision to postpone the April 3 luncheon to December 18. Yet, that winter date, which seemed so far off, proved to still be within the grips of the pandemic. With grace and creativity, the Ladies swiftly pivoted to an online webcast to feature author Susan Page and Barbara Pierce Bush rather than the traditional in-person benefit. With an added “Home for the Holidays” theme, they added bells and whistles, including an optional chili menu with all the accouterments from Tarbell’s, mailed signed copies of the Barbara Bush biography to each registrant, all festively wrapped in red! Ever conscious of their philanthropic purpose, the holiday webcast generated $250,000 in proceeds for the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute for American Democracy. The Ladies of the Court could write a how-to book: how to succeed no matter the obstacles … undaunted volunteers and extraordinary community leaders.


Honoree: Sandy Bruner

Presented by Diana & David Smith

Sandy Bruner has spent years volunteering in our community. Examples include chairing the annual Women of Pinnacle Peak fundraiser — their “gently used” garage sale marketplace, raising thousands of dollars for the organization’s charities. Co-chairing the HonorHealth HonorBall. And for the past six years, volunteering her time at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. As a hostess and greeter, she welcomes visitors, tourists and works on their fundraising efforts. Sandy and her husband, Jim, have organized and filled tables at charity fundraisers for decades, acting as table hosts for the arts, social service organizations, local chambers, historic preservation efforts and countless organizations. Sandy is a quiet volunteer who graciously serves and supports, and rallies others to support and serve.

Save the Date: Society of Chairs 2022 will be held on Wednesday, April 27, 2022

For more information about Community Champion Awards, please email Andrea@FrontdoorsMedia.com

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Frontdoors Media celebrates the people and groups who give generously and work to build the future of our community. It’s the premier source of information – and inspiration – for those who strive to make the Valley of the Sun a better place to live.