The fourth annual CLASSY Awards ceremony was held on Saturday, Sept. 22 to honor the most influential charities, nonprofit businesses and philanthropies nationwide. Considered the largest philanthropic awards ceremony in the country, this year’s CLASSY’s recognized the contributions of volunteers, professionals and organizations on a larger scale than the previous years.
This year’s awards were hosted by Adam Braun, founder and CEO of Pencils of Promise, and Tiffany Pearsons, founder and director of Shine on Sierra Leone, and took place in San Diego’s Civic Theatre. This year’s attendance was the highest yet and the venue was filled with finalists, nonprofit and tech industry leaders, last year’s winners and the entire StayClassy team.
The co-founders of StayClassy, Pat Walsh and Scot Chisholm, greeted everyone on the red carpet and continued to make everyone feel at home with their opening ceremony welcome speech, which offered much gratitude and a bit of wit to add humor to the show.
“Clearly, the real celebrities here tonight are the nominees. They’ve dedicated their lives to causes that were bigger than themselves. They’ve endured hardships, they’ve lost loved ones, they’ve been injured, impaired […] Yet, they’ve turned it around and used it as motivation […] The 2,400 nominees from this year’s CLASSY Awards have impacted the lives of 346 million people around the world,” said Walsh in his speech.
Liz Ferro of Girls With Sole, nominated for Best New Charity, was excited about the evening and the much needed attention that the awards will bring to her organization.
“Being nominated is a huge thing that I’m excited about. It’s just an honor because we’re so small. I’m just really excited about the whole event itself. I hope that Girls With Sole will gather some sort of attention nationally so that we can go the next level, which is to add chapters in every city,” Ferro shared.
CLASSY Award winners were selected from 2,400 nominations and endured several rounds of judging by a panel of past winners who have gone through the nomination process and understand what it takes. This group of industry all-stars scored each of the Regional Finalists to help determine the 64 Regional Winners for all 16 categories. The number of nominations and categories both rose since last year’s event, going from 2,000 to 2,400 and 12 to 16, respectively.
The winners were:
Volunteer of the Year: Jim Elliot for Diveheart
Environmental Protection: The Reef Ball Foundation
Best New Charity: Taylor’s Gift Foundation
Human Services: The Trevor Project
Most Creative Fundraiser by a Charity: St. Baldrick’s Foundation
Health and Well Being: Free Wheelchair Mission
Animal Advocacy and Services: Halifax Humane Society
Most Influential College Student or College Organization: Swipes for the Homeless
Small Charity of the Year: Team Rubicon
Most Effective Awareness Campaign by a Charity: Invisible Children
Educational Advancement: Cristo Rey Network
Human Rights: National Domestic Workers Alliance
Disaster Relief & International Aid: Medical Teams International
Philanthropic Business of the Year: Raven & Lily
Hunger and Poverty Relief: Project Peanut Butter
Charity of the Year: Wounded Warrior Project
Swipes for the Homeless co-founder and executive director, Tak Nguyen, shared how winning the title of Most Influential College Student or College Organization will help further the organization’s efforts.
“We were really hoping to win because fundraising right now is really tough. We have a lot of really interesting projects that we want to execute, one of them being a conference for all homeless chapters of the United States and that’s going to require a lot of funding and a lot of resources that we didn’t have being a college organization. We’re definitely going to use some of the prize money towards that. We’re excited about that,” Nguyen said.
A special highlight of the night was a video appearance by Maria Shriver delivering her personal shout out to the CLASSY Award winners and finalists for their good deeds. Shriver shared her memories of her mother and how she founded the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 50 years ago. Shriver reminded everyone that Sept. 22 was also Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day and to pay respect by retaining hope for the disabled.
Other highlights of the show included special appearances by MTV’s “The Buried Life” creators Ben Nemtin and Dave Lingwood, Jim Moriarty of Surfrider Foundation, Jim Gibbons of Goodwill Industries International, Doug Ullman of LIVESTRONG and other well-known nonprofit leaders and even tech industry leaders from Google, PayPal and eBay.
The after-party was held at the Marriott Marquis & Marina in downtown San Diego, where finalists, winners and guests let loose to enjoy and honor each organization’s accomplishments, and to celebrate what a difference everyone has made in the past year.
The Fourth Annual CLASSY’s made just as much of an impact as last year’s ceremony and shed more light on these organizations and their efforts. The increased number of nominations, award categories and attendees proves that more people are getting involved and that StayClassy has done their part by bringing even more publicity and recognition to the world of philanthropy.