Founders Award

The Founders Award is presented by the Board of Directors of Lakeside Pride periodically to recognize the contributions of deserving members not only to the organization, but to the LGBTQ community in Chicago and across the country as well. Recipients are recognized for their dedication to our organization's mission, their leadership, and their continuing support that spans many years of service.

Katy Okamoto holding the 2024 Founders Award
Katy Okamoto (2024)

Abdo Timejardine-Zomeño gave the founders speech while Jordan Francisco held and presented the founders award at the Spring 2024 Symphonic Band Concert.

An excerpt from Abdo's speech:

"Every year, we are faced with new challenges, new ways of problem-solving, and an opportunity to better ourselves and our organization. We truly do not do this without the support of our membership...One member, in particular, has gone above and beyond what we routinely offer through the years.

This person has been a member with us for several years, they routinely are one of the first, and last people to leave rehearsal. They’ve helped with rehearsal setups, teardowns, percussion schlepping, organizing our storage unit, and the list goes on. You name it they do it. They are a routine attendee of the annual Pride Bands Alliance conference and helped provide immense support in 2022 when Lakeside Pride had the opportunity to host the conference–our Sweet Home Chicago 40th Anniversary. They also served on the Board of Directors

In addition, this person is a champion of change. They strive to provide support and want to see the organization thrive, and always the one to ask the difficult questions because they know that we all can do better and want to help us do that. One of the primary ways they’ve helped us accomplish this and many other goals is by serving as a Delegate during the annual Pride Bands Conference.

It is with great pride on behalf of the Board of Directors that I present the highest honor in our organization. So, will you all please join me in congratulating Katy Okamoto on being the 2024 recipient of the Lakeside Pride Founders Award?"

-Abdo Timejardine-Zomeño (April 13, 2024)


Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right
Jonathan Alvares receiving the 2023 Founder's Award
Jonathan Alvares (2023)

Scott Malinowski was able to return the favor and give Jonathan's Founders Award Speech. Below are snippets from his speech.

"Lakeside Pride has benefitted from years of effective guidance and oversight from our board, but particularly from the steady guidance and humble leadership of one of our most dedicated board members. There is an individual who has selflessly committed themselves for 8 years of service to these key pillars (listed below) of our message and outreach.

    • Through our rehearsals together, we form a safe space to embrace each other. A brave space where we can be ourselves, form friendships and camaraderie.
    • Lakeside provides each of us an opportunity for service to uplift the LGBTQ community, to celebrate people of color, women and non-binary folks. Lakeside gives each of us the chance to make an impact. If you are bringing in donations for a silent auction, showing up early to a show to help move equipment, you’re helping grow and support others.
    • Our performances provide visibility and promote acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, show partnership with allies.
    • We engage and challenge audiences with new perspectives, highlight injustice and areas for growth and understanding to promote a more equitable society that embraces all people.

[Scott's speech continued] Jonathan is a person who takes on the hard tasks that make this organization sing. His tremendous leadership in pushing for our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives has helped lay the groundwork for meaningful change. [During Jonathan's tenure] Our new Pops ensemble is thriving, opening up new opportunities on the South side. We are working on more outreach and inclusion to broaden our impact and amplify marginalized voices.

In his soft-spoken and gentle way, Jonathan cultivates a team that supports one-another. He has strengthened our board by developing effective subcommittees to share the workload and provide a training ground for new at-large board members to hone their skills and prepare for officer roles. Jonathan doesn’t dwell on the negative, but pushes past it to keep making progress. Through the darkest times of the pandemic as we all struggled to keep our spark and motivation going, he partnered with Amy to establish regular check-ins with board members and artistic leadership to ensure we were ok.

It’s the behind-the-scenes work that makes all of our organization’s triumphs and achievements possible. Think of all the efforts that went into hosting the Pride Bands Alliance conference last Spring, with 350 musicians coming in from around the country to perform as one in Chicago. Jonathan played an integral part, wrangling complex operations, logistics, forging partnerships and marketing this incredible conference. He’s set a high bar for other Pride bands across the nation, and inspiring other bands.

What distinguishes Jonathan as a leader is this commitment, the persistence and drive to make things happen. He exemplifies true servant-leadership, doing the heavy lifting on grant writing, performance proposals, our new Community Impact Report, and an emergency preparedness program that keeps us safe. Late into the night or weekend working sessions at coffee shops, time and time again he has sacrificed to serve each of you. It’s not for glory or prestige, but a calling that he has answered. We are so fortunate to have this model to inspire each of us in our journey.

You have shifted the paradigm for what is possible, and made this organization immeasurably more impactful, purposeful and effective. It's through your determination that a bold new vision for our organization has been formed. 

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and congratulations on being the recipient of the 2023 Lakeside Pride Founders Award." 

-Scott Malinowski (March 25, 2023)


Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right
Scott Malinowski holding a Founders Award
scott malinowski (2022)

In 2022, Jonathan Alvares had the privilege of presenting the 2022 Founders Award to Scott. Below are snippets of Jonathan's speech commemorating Scott's accomplishments. 

"Even though I hadn’t picked up my sax in a few years, and I split a reed in that first rehearsal, Scott offered encouragement and great feedback that really made me want to continue with Lakeside Pride.

During the course of the years, I’ve watched Scott really help the Jazz Program blossom. While we may have started as a bit ragtag, we’re now playing at some of the biggest venues across Chicago. From Jazzin’ at the Shedd, to the historic stage of The Aragon Ballroom, and to the biggest galas in the city - Lakeside Pride’s Jazz Program has become a sought-after musical act.

No matter how difficult these extra logistics take to come together, no matter how much time it’ll take for sound check or to  create video and lighting from scratch, and no matter how much he drives me crazy in the background, the passion behind Scott’s musical vision is clearly what has driven the success of the Jazz Program.

Furthermore, Scott has really helped Lakeside Pride develop amazing partnerships across the city. Whether that be with our resident partner Center on Halsted, or performances with the mayor’s office, Connections for the Homeless, Adler Planetarium, or Uptown United, we’ve professionalized our relationships with key stakeholders throughout Chicago and improved our standing (both organizationally and financially) because of this work.

Finally, Scott has also actively recruited people to step up into leadership roles, including our former Board Chair Bradley Fritz, our former Secretary Eric West, and even Scott’s own husband Chuck as our former Development Officer. He’s also secured new leadership opportunities for BIPOC members across our community to make Lakeside Pride leadership look a bit more like our city, specifically myself some 7 years ago, and also in selecting a Latina as the Jazz Assistant Artistic Director in the wonderful Eliana Riley."

-Jonathan Alvares (March 12, 2022)

Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right
Bradley Fritz
Bradley Fritz (2020)

If I think back over my time with Lakeside Pride, it seems pretty unbelievable. I joined the Fall of 2014 and was elected Chair of the Board just six months later. Over the course of the next four years I was inspired by how the members of the organization supported and engaged with the Board, rallied behind a common vision, and took it upon themselves to make Lakeside Pride the most welcoming and safe place for all Chicago musicians.

Although I had to move away from Chicago, Lakeside Pride still fills my heart with joy. My husband and I made so many friends through the organization, I performed at some truly incredible concerts, and always felt like I was part of something that was spreading love and acceptance through the universal language of music. I was honored to be presented the Founders Award at the 2nd annual Gala, and I look forward to keeping Lakeside Pride a part of my life!

Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right
Kyle Rhoades, 2018
Kyle Rhoades (2018)

When I joined Lakeside Pride as the conductor of the Symphonic Band in 2008, I had no idea what I was doing…and sometimes I still don’t! I’m thankful and fortunate that the Board and membership had faith enough in me at the time to give me a chance to lead the band, and I’ve loved it ever since. As a middle/high school band director, I appreciate every chance I get to rehearse with this group of talented adult musicians. I’m so proud of what Lakeside has become, and I’m excited to see what the future has in store!

Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right
Brandon Strawn, 2017
Brandon Strawn (2017)

When I joined Lakeside Pride in 2008, I was looking for a place to continue playing my trombone after college even though I wasn’t a professional musician. I had no idea it would turn into my life’s passion. Over the last ten years, I have been marching band uniform coordinator, trombone section leader, chamber ensembles coordinator, and finally Member Resources Officer. It is an honor beyond compare to represent Lakeside’s massive and growing membership and make sure that everyone gets the same warm feeling of family from the organization. We mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but that word truly says it all: family. Thanks to Lakeside Pride, I have gained valuable life and professional experience, as well as gained literally hundreds of new close friends and contributed to one of the best non profits I have ever experienced. Keep leading the sound of progress!

Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right
Andrew Favreau 2016
Andrew Favreau (2016)

When I became Board Chair for Lakeside Pride in 2010, I had the opportunity to lead a group of dedicated board members who all saw the potential for the organization to grow and expand. During my time on the board, we reclaimed our history, built a new foundation for the organization, and established a three year vision with goals – all of which we achieved together. It was a very special moment in the history of the organization for all of us.

I’m very proud of my contributions to the organization. The ones that mean the most to me include: Leading the 2013/4 marching band uniform campaign; Securing “Orange is the New Black” star Lea DeLaria for the 2014 Women in Music Concert and managing the event; Releasing the live recording of the 2013 Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band Equality Concert on iTunes; Coordinating Lakeside Pride’s involvement in the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for the Full-Length Feature Film Scrooge & Marley (2012); Researching our history and coordinating our application for Lakeside Pride’s 2011 induction into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame; and building a comprehensive, three-year integrated marketing campaign with media donations valued at approximately $100K.

Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right
Melissa Terrell holding Founders Award
Melissa Terrell (2015)

I was just looking for a place to play my trumpet in 2005 when I found Lakeside Pride. I had no idea how much this organization would shape my life. The people I have met and the experiences I have had, made me who I am today. This organization saves my sanity over and over. Music is my therapy. Lakeside Pride is my home.

Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right
Ty Wells 2014
Ty Wells (2014)

When I joined the group in 1999 I had no idea it would grow into the amazing organization it is now. We practically started from scratch with everything; beginning with creating a staff for the marching, jazz, and symphonic band back then. I was actually the very first Marching Band Director and I remember we had a variety of staff meetings all over Chicago and even the suburbs to make sure things would happen and get done. What I remember most is everyone wearing so many different “hats” and having fun while doing it. We laughed a LOT, enjoyed each other’s company and did our best to reach out to the LGBTQ community to make all feel welcome. It was a wonderful time that I will always remember and cherish.

Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right
Christy Zurcher (2013)

I joined Lakeside Pride after I saw them in the Pride Parade, but not right away. I had back surgery that year, so couldn’t join after I sent in my online inquiry. About a year later, I got a call from one Rhonda Tullis, inviting me to check out the band and so I did. After playing in the marching and symphonic band for one year (2004), the marching band director retired, and someone…I honestly don’t remember who, asked me to consider applying for the marching band director position. Ten years later(2015), I too retired as director of the Freedom Band. I saw the band grow from 20 to 70 at Pride, change our colors, get new equipment, and ultimately choose our beautiful new uniforms. But the most important thing about Lakeside Pride for me will always be the people in it. Most of my best friends I met due to band. We’ve suffered, triumphed, marched, sweat, froze, laughed and cried together in the years I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this group. We are family.

Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right
Sue Jones
Susan Jones (2012)

When I volunteered to become “assets manager” for the band, I was handed a half sheet of paper that listed our inventory. It took all eight years as a member at large on the board to create a 24 sheet inventory, toss stuff we didn’t use (VCRs, really?), donate stuff to other bands and create storage for what we did have.

Other highlights include giving the support van for Pride a grass skirt and coconut bra, building a 9 foot tall Stonewall sign for a jazz concert and a five foot diameter birthday cake for the 15th anniversary of Lakeside Pride. Oh, and a big trumpet. And sousa covers. And jazz cabaret tables. And ... stuff.

Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right

Spotlight Award

The Spotlight award is presented by the Board of Directors in recognition of community members that support Lakeside Pride and do good work for the LGBTQ community.

Majority Leader Greg Harris (2020)

Greg Harris was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 2006 and is Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. Harris serves as State Representative for the 13th District which includes parts of Uptown, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, North Center, West Ridge and Bowmanville. Harris is a gay elected official in the State of Illinois, who is also openly living with HIV, and is the first openly gay person in Illinois to become a member of Legislative Leadership. He is Chairman of the Rules Committee, and serves on the Appropriation–Human Services Committee and Wages and Rates Subcommittee. He is a member of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Leadership Council and the joint Legislative Health Insurance Exchange Committee. He also serves as chairman on the Violence Prevention Task Force and is a member of the Racial and Ethnic Impact Research Task Force, the Quality of Life Board and the House Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment.

Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right
Modesto "Tico" Valle (2019)

Modesto Tico Valle is the Chief Executive Officer of Center on Halsted, the most comprehensive community center in the Midwest dedicated to advancing community and securing the health and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in Chicago.

A native of Chicago, Valle is a longtime community activist and organizer. He founded the Chicago Chapter NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1990 and was instrumental in bringing the AIDS Memorial Quilt to the National Mall in 1996. He has served as both a volunteer and staff member at a number of Chicago-area non-profits including Chicago House, Test Positive Awareness Network and Open Hand Chicago, where he served as the organization’s first Volunteer Services Director.

Valle was named CEO of Center on Halsted in 2007, where he oversaw the opening of the 175,000 square foot community center. Since taking the helm, Center on Halsted has grown into a full-fledged community center with an annual operating budget of more than $7 million. Under his leadership, more than 1,400 community members visit the Center every day. Patrons participate in the wide variety of programs and services offered ranging from the arts, volleyball, cooking classes and yoga to HIV testing, group therapy and job training. Valle was instrumental in bringing several landmark efforts to the Center, such as the first LGBTQ-friendly affordable housing project for seniors and the nation’s first LGBT clinical psychology internship with Northwestern University. In the spring of 2016, Valle lead the launch of the Center’s Youth Housing Initiative, as well as the fall 2017 launch of the Get to Zero campaign.

Valle attended DePaul University and Notre Dame’s Seminary School. In addition, he holds certificates in nonprofit management from Harvard Business School and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He was recently appointed to the CenterLink Board of Directors and has served on the board of the NAMES Project Foundation, Equality Education Project, City of Chicago LGBT Health Council, Illinois Violence Prevention Authority Board, City of Chicago Employment Task Force, Welcoming Committee NATO, Illinois HIV/AIDS Advisory Council, Board Member of Horizons Community Services and the Chicago Children’s Choir. In recognition of his work, Valle has been named Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine, inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, honored by the national NAMES Project Foundation and the Norman Bobins Leadership Award and he received a Red Ribbon Leadership Award from the State of Illinois.

Middle image of the Lakeside Pride eighth notes in blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green flanked by a black line on the left and right