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A number of our friends tease us about the number of formal events we go to each year. but if one supports worthy causes and wants to support friends and community advocates, it actually takes an effort NOT to go to many events. Tonight, on a reminder from our dear friend Cindy Cutler (a former Legends honoree), we attended the Greater Hampton Roads Retail Alliance Gala that honored top retailers from both the Virginia Peninsula and the so-called "Southside" - i.e., the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Suffolk - and, most importantly, our dear friends, Claus Ihlemann (another past Legends honoree and Equality Virginia "Outstanding Virginian" and his husband, Robert Roman, the owners of Decorum Furniture.
Not only are Claus and Robert great supporters of LGBT equality - the are presenting sponsors at the 2016 Pride fest event in Norfolk on June 18, 2016 (the husband and I are also sponsors, but on nowhere near that level) - but their philanthropic efforts extend to ACCESS/AIDS Care, Hope House, Tidewater Arts Outreach and many other causes that seek to enhance the greater Hampton Roads community. Their constant refrain for what they do is "Pay it forward."
The husband and I consider ourselves lucky to count this year's lifetime achievement winners as friends. Moreover, the set the stand for other to emulate, including their willingness to live their lives honestly and authentically, making no apologies for who they are. The same goes for our friend Cindy Cutler, mentioned above, a formidable "straight ally" to the LGBT community.
As I have advise in the past for those coming out - especially those coming out later in life - the key to thriving is to get involved and surround yourself with inspiring people. Each of us has the ability to create change and to make sure that it gets better for those coming after us.
As for the event itself, it was well done, with a masquerade theme - many guest sported formal wear and stylish masks - we wore masks from Venice - and to liven up the evening, performers from the based Hurrah Players (which among others, first launched actor Grant Gustin ) providing well done renditions from Phantom of the Opera. In short, it was a wonderful evening.