VISIONARIES OF THE YEAR
The 2023 New York City Visionaries of the Year Campaign
In October 2014, after months of trying to understand why a lymph node continued to grow in my neck and my symptoms continued to worsen, I heard the three words no one wants to ever hear in their lives: You have cancer. I had to drop out of school at NYU where I was studying Musical Theater at Tisch, move back home to Miami, and do chemotherapy for three months. Because I was 19 at the time, I was treated pediatrically. This meant I was being treated alongside kids who were as young as just a few months old, oftentimes battling diseases significantly worse than my own, with more intense treatment regimens, and lower chances of survival.
Then, on January 25th, 2015, after grueling treatment sessions, debilitating side effects, and months of sleepless nights, pain, and anxiety, I was told that I entered remission. After tears, an “I Survived Cancer” trip to Disney World, and many celebratory glasses of champagne later, I got straight to work. Although the worst was behind me, I knew I couldn’t sit idly by while others continued to fight this horrific disease.
I began working on an event called “Raise Your Voice: A Cabaret for a Cure,” which sought to bring together the current generation of Broadway performers with the future generation – my classmates at Tisch. The benefit ended up raising over $13,000 its first year, and $40,000 its second year. I continued to work tirelessly with LLS by producing benefits for them, performing at, hosting, and MCing their established events, and speaking at various meetings and engagements around the country at various LLS chapters, including their national office.
This December, I became the inaugural recipient of the Jay Porter Fellowship -- a new fellowship offered through his job at United Entertainment Group (Daniel J Edelman network) which will give me time off and resources to fully integrate myself into a philanthropic organization of my choosing, to make an impact. I've decided to use that time and those resources to run for a larger competition, and run for the 2023 New York City Visionary of the Year. The Visionary of the Year competition is a 10 week campaign, starting March 1st ending May 12th, where candidates fundraise to take home the coveted title. All funds from all candidates ultimately pool together to create a 7 figure donation for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at the end of the night.
Despite the advice I received from my colleagues, teammates, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, to focus solely on sponsorship and traditional fundraising, I chose a different path. I wanted to create authentic moments of community, bringing like-minded individuals together to make a lasting difference. I aimed to ignite change that would endure long after my own contributions. The Jay Porter Fellowship empowered me to embark on this philanthropic journey, providing me with the resources, mentorship, and guidance needed to make a meaningful impact. Edelman’s belief in my vision allowed me to reach new heights and lead a campaign that touched lives and raised significant funds for LLS.
Together, with the help of my team of friends, family, colleagues, and mentors, we made a difference. Throughout my Visionaries of the Year campaign, we organized numerous events in various cities, forging connections, spreading awareness, and inspiring change. We took over Club Space in Miami for a bootcamp workout and enjoyed a memorable karaoke party, traveled to Boston for a captivating cabaret celebrating the city's theater luminaries, and joined yoga instructor Brian Swinney at Corepower Yoga for a YogaSculpt Charity Class. We sprinted through 12.0 workouts at our Barry's Bootcamp Charity Class and partnered with the newly opened facial aesthetics and dermatology practice, CONTOR Studios, for a three-day fundraiser where 20% of all proceeds made were donated to LLS. And let us not forget "All in Good Company," the cabaret we produced in New York City, uniting friends from different chapters of my life. We had an unforgettable flip cup game at the Edelman New York offices, and concluded with the grand finale, "Raise Your Voice," featuring exceptional talents such as Peloton Superstar Cody Rigsby, Las Culturistas and Fire Island star, Matt Rogers, Executive Producer, writer, agent, and activist Richie Jackson, Broadway and Television actor Jay Armstrong Johnson, and many more.
In partnership with friends and colleagues, we demonstrated the immense power of authentic philanthropy, proving that true change can be achieved by bringing communities together, sparking awareness, and inspiring action.
The culmination of my efforts came to fruition on May 12, 2023, as my work through the Jay Porter Fellowship and the Visionaries of the Year Campaign concluded. Our collective efforts raised over $80,000 for LLS in a mere 10 weeks, and I was honored to receive the inaugural LLS Advocacy Award for continuously showing dedication to LLS’s policy and advocacy efforts.