Close to 300 people attended the Michael’s On East Feb. 18 celebration honoring the 10 winners of Sarasota Magazine’s 10th annual Unity Awards. Always a moving event—get those tissues ready!—this year’s gathering was no exception. The 2020 winners were Aly Busse, Brock Leach, Jacquelyn Paulk, David Rubin, John Annis, Robert Rogers, Phillip Mockler, KT Curran, Kevin Swan and Gabriel Ortiz. The event began with Shantel Norman and Truality singing the gospel tune Oh Happy Day. After lunch, each winner spoke about the personal journey that led them to work for equality for all people, whether it is for at-risk children, struggling veterans or LGBTQ elders. Swan, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease and started a foundation that has raised $1.5 million to raise awareness about the disease, came to the front of the room in his motorized wheelchair and spoke through a special tablet that read out loud his typed message about the importance of recognizing the dignity of all people. The audience stood and applauded as he finished. To cap off the event, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County presented a check for $1,000 to each of the winners ($9,000 total, since two of the winners worked together) to donate to the nonprofit of their choice. It was a happy day.

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