Alameda’s ‘Women Who Dare’ Honored

Photo courtesy Al Wright

More than 200 Girls Inc. supporters, participants and staff attended the 16th annual Women Who Dare awards ceremony and fundraiser last Saturday at the Al Dewitt O’ Club. Hosted by Girls Incorporated of the Island City, the event recognized women and teens who exemplify risk, resiliency, and reward, the theme of the event. The event also showcased the transformative power of Girls Inc. programming in an era when 78 percent of girls are at risk for body image issues, 30 percent are at risk of teen pregnancy and 20 percent are at risk of abuse.

Michele Ellison, editor of The Alamedan, Dr. Tanya Moore, a biostatistician for the city of Berkeley, and Lt. Liz Hunter, the second active-duty female diver among all active-duty Coast Guard divers were the adult honorees. Teen honorees included Edylwise Romero, founder of the community service club at Alameda Science and Technology Institute; Gabriella Gustafsson, an athlete and debate club member at Encinal High School; and Cecilia Nava, a multi-sport athlete at Alameda High School. The awardees it turned out, were role models for each other: Nava aspires to join the Coast Guard and was thrilled to spend time with Hunter.

The event was the result of a "tremendous amount of work over several months … by development staff, program staff, and volunteers," according to Interim Executive Director Christine Chilcott. These efforts were evidenced throughout the day as attendees were feted with a well- run cocktail hour featuring a live band, a catered lunch, a lively pledge drive, and a raffle including an array of prizes donated by Alameda businesses.

While the awards received top billing, girls from Girls Inc.’s Best Foot Forward (BFF) program may have stolen the show when they were introduced and then presented the day’s honorees. ABC7 News Anchor Amy Hollyfield read bios of each BFF girl, which included light-hearted interests such as Pokémon, Taylor Swift, and being fashionable.

The girls, ages 6 to 12, then read prepared introductions based on interviews with the recipients to which the audience responded with thunderous applause after hanging onto every word of each young presenter. Following her introduction, BFF participant Zaynaub Waliuddin, noted that she "wasn’t nervous" because she had "prepared so much," before running off to play with her friends.

Participants from Girls Inc. programs were involved in all aspects of the event. For example, Sarai Fisher delivered calmly and with poise what amounted to a teen keynote speech. Fisher encouraged all in attendance to not "just know the words, strong, smart and bold, but believe in them" and live them.

The ceremony came to a somewhat dramatic conclusion when, just shy of the event’s $40,000 fundraising goal, Chilcott lead an unscripted final pledge request. A number of generous Alamedans pushed the pledge amount over the top in response, and an elated crowd gave the loudest ovation yet as the goal was met and an animation of a girl summiting a mountain appeared on a big screen in front of the room.

Chris Ringewald is an Alameda Sun intern. He can be reached at editor@alamedasun.com.