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The Ritz "Together Building Community" Wrap Up

Springfield, IL (March 25, 2023) CORAL is happy to announce that this year’s Ritz event was definitely a successful evening of gayety and enjoyment for all who attended. There are far too many people to thank for the festivities of the night. With Pole Barn Chic providing the stage décor and table centerpieces to Lisa Cotton for all the work that she put into creating the puzzle that tied our activities to our theme; CORAL had many hands helping with this event.

The Ritz committee involved eleven members with Bert Morton and April Poole as the co-chairs of the event managing the necessary steps along the way. The other members were Jim Barr, Brian Sylvester, Lori Carlson, Lisa Cotton, Carolyn Austin, Harry Carlsen, Tiffany Lapp, Rodney Shoemaker, and Rob Weis. While all of the members of the committee were given the chore of bringing in sponsors and advertisers, some had additional duties as well. Lori Carlsen was in charge of maintaining the organization of the payments and seeing that invoices were issued. Rob Weis designed the awards program for the evening making sure the evening went smoothly. And Brian Sylvester added CORAL specific content to the paper program to show everyone all that was accomplished for the previous year.

As for accomplishments, this year’s Ritz saw several records broken from previous events. There was a record number of tables sold for the night at 43 with 370 seats paid for as well. There were 13 new sponsors this year. They were: Pole Barn Chic

Illinois Department of Human Rights Lucky Horseshoes

District 186 SIU School of Medicine

Blue Cross Blue Shield Rainbow Café

Camelot Heritage Behavioral Center

Logan County Pride Decatur Audubon

Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault

And 34 new advertisers placed ads in the program as well. Out of 27 organizations that CORAL considers partners, 20 of them were present for the evening.

Perhaps our proudest moments of the evening came when we announced this year’s awardees of honor. Our certificates of achievement went to David Clodfelter, for all the years that he has been present with his camera to catch history in the making; Heartland Metropolitan Community Church for always being the faith-based support of the LGBTQ community; and Acorn Equality for 23 years of financially supporting organizations and youth for furthering their missions. Our community service awards went to Penny Harris, executive director of Fifth Street Renaissance/SARA Center, and John Kerstein, of Keller Williams Realty. Both are long time supporters of the LGBTQ community who have given back ten-fold over the years. And lastly, we had the pleasure of presenting the Ruth Ellis award to Illinois State Representative and Majority Leader Greg Harris. While he had reservations in giving his acceptance speech, he did make a very memorable statement when he quoted Abraham Lincoln’s comment, “I may walk slowly, but I never walk backwards,” meaning that we all must fight to maintain our current freedoms.

The evening ended with dancing and socializing. CORAL is very happy that we were able to see many of our old friends as well as so many new ones that we hope to enjoy far into the future.

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