The American Association of People with Disabilities’ (A.A.P.D.) ninth annual Leadership Gala achieved record attendance on March 15, with nearly 700 people at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. (Last year's gala drew 670.) The event also brought in 93 corporate sponsors, about 20 more than in 2010. The organization’s senior director of development and communications David Hale credits last year’s Image Award honoree Stevie Wonder and this year’s homage to Glee with the gala’s growth.
“I think it was a welcome surprise [last year] that we could attain that level of success [with Stevie Wonder], and this year it’s Glee, one of the highest-rated shows on TV,” Hale said. “I think [people are] starting to see that disability is a more central issue and it’s related to pop culture, which really helps our mission in today’s audience.”
Actress Lauren Potter, who plays Sue Sylvester’s assistant and a member of the Cheerios on the show, accepted the award on behalf of her fellow cast members. A.A.P.D. chose the show for its inclusion of people with disabilities and related story lines.
In honor of the Image Award recipients, Hale secured South Lake High School’s Chorale program—a real-world glee club—as the night’s entertainment. Following the performance at the end of the evening, guests returned the nearby cocktail area, where theater-style seating and a projection screen had been setup for the post-party viewing of the newest Glee episode, which had aired during dinner.
For the second year, organizers turned to the fashion industry for the gala’s decor scheme, with designer Norma Kamali creating the Old Hollywood glamour atmosphere. “I like that we can bring a different feel to the event each year [with a different designer] and that we can bring high fashion to Washington,” Hale said.
Deviating from the punk and energetic ambience Betsey Johnson created in 2010, Kamali choose white, black, and silver as the main colors for the stage and tables. The Embassy of Ecuador once again donated a selection of Ecuadorian roses, which Patricia Collet of Graceful Flowers by Patricia arranged in tall black vases accented by sheer silver and white ribbon.
The gala raised $1.3 million from ticket sales and sponsorships.