Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Judy Shepard to be Keynote Speaker at Wingspan Annual Dinner

Renowned human rights activist Judy Shepard will be the keynote speaker at Wingspan’s Annual Benefit Dinner in September 2008. Shepard is the executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, established in memory of her son whose brutal murder sparked international outcry about the tragic violence faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people. The goal of the Matthew Shepard Foundation is to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance.

“We’re excited to bring Ms. Shepard to Southern Arizona,” says Carol Lohmann, Wingspan board president. “For the past decade, she has been a leading voice in LGBT people’s struggle for freedom, equality, safety, and well-being.”

In 1998, while a student at the University of Wyoming, Matthew Shepard was brutally attacked because he was Gay. On October 12, four days after his attack, he died. While the Shepard family mourned in private, the tragedy set off an unprecedented public outcry, with vigils held across America. The incident galvanized millions of people, and focused the nation’s attention on the growing epidemic of hate crimes.

“This year marks the tenth anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s tragic murder,” says Oscar Jimenez, Wingspan anti-violence programs manager. “Unfortunately, this violence continues to affect our community. Earlier this year, our nation was reminded of this pervasive violence when Lawrence King, only 15 years old, was gunned down by a classmate in Oxnard, California, because, like Matthew Shepard, he was Gay. We still have much work to do to ensure that LGBT people can feel safe in our communities.”

In 2008, Wingspan celebrates its 20th year serving Southern Arizona’s LGBT community. Adds Lohmann, “It’s only fitting that we celebrate such a milestone by presenting a dynamic speaker who presents message of hope and what each of us can do to make a difference.”

Judy Shepard will speak at Wingspan’s Annual Benefit Dinner, September 20, 2008, at the Tucson Convention Center. Tickets go on sale August 1. In its 11th year, the Annual Benefit Dinner is Wingspan’s largest annual fundraising event, which attracts 1,100 of Southern Arizona’s social, political, and business luminaries. For more information, go online to Wingspan's website.

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