On Oct. 13, 2018, OPALGA will host its twenty-second annual Gala at Oak Park’s Nineteenth Century Club, and the planning is already well underway for an event unlike any other. Kendall Alexander, co-chair of the Gala, says this year’s theme is particularly meaningful for the organization, which has been promoting full equality for and positive attitudes toward the LGBTQ community since 1989 in the near west suburbs.

“This year’s theme is Electing our Future because this is a very important election year and we want to make sure that people remember to vote in November. There is also a sense that we’ve accomplished so much, but we need to remember that it’s not done.”

The Gala serves two purposes: to help raise funds for OPALGA’s annual youth scholarships and to gather together to have fun.  Last year, OPALGA awarded $16,000 to area youth who have demonstrated some sort of activism in the community. For Colette Lueck, OPALGA co-chair and co-chair of the event, the dual purpose is built into the celebration. “We’re planning the Gala to both honor the history of LGBTQ people in the U.S. and to anticipate the future.”

With an eye toward future activists, Lueck says that first and foremost, the evening is a way for the group to honor its commitment to youth. She stresses that LGBTQ youth face a lot more challenges than their peers and the scholarships are a way of letting them know they can succeed. “The scholarships are not just about money. They help the youth in our community know that a group of people have their backs. When you’re that age and you’re struggling, the support can be as important as the money.”

Lueck also calls the night “the best party in town.”  The evening includes a d.j., dancing, an auction and a photo booth. Tickets are available at www.opalga.org, and early bird pricing of $75 per ticket is available until Sept. 1. After that date, the price rises to $95.

In addition to the fun, the Gala also honors allies and business who aid the OPLAGA mission. The Founders Award, named in honor of OPLAGA founder Mel Wilson, recognizes contributions to the community. Nominations for the 2018 award will be accepted through 5 p.m. on June 21 at www.opalga.org

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