SAVE celebrated its 25th year anniversary of its founding and held its Champions of Equality Gala on Friday, June 8 at the Penthouse Riverside Wharf on the Miami River.

The attendees were a who’s who of local LGBT activists, allies, and politicians. 

The event was completely sold out, with 600 people attending to show their support and respect to one of the longest running LGBT rights groups in South Florida.

Tony Lima, the Executive Director for SAVE began the awards ceremony by saying, “I want to invoke the spirit and leadership of all the executive directors that came before me—Because of all these leaders and the board who supported them, and the staff who supported them, and for the work we have done so far.  We are here tonight, at this beautiful celebration in the sky to really revel in the strides that we have made over the last 25 years.”

A brief historical overview by Damian Pardo followed about the inception of SAVE which spans back to the Anita Bryant era, when she spearheaded anti-LGBT campaigns all around the nation. 

LGBT activists arose in opposition to Bryant’s “Save our Children” foundation - and led political protest in Coconut Grove. Eventually these protests evolved into South Florida’s first Pride festivals. Pardo kept emphasizing just how important the work is now, especially in this political climate. He also reiterated how SAVE’s work has evolved and expanded into other marginalized communities. 

Pardo also briefly spoke about SAVE’s prejudice reduction canvassing that began in 2015.     

The award ceremony started with Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel J. Oates, being the first recipient.

Mark Gilbert, the board chair of OUTshine Film Festival is SAVE’s 2018 Equality icon.

Eric Woolworth, president of Business Operations of the Miami Heat, who was unable to attend, was also given recognition for all of his contributions to the LGBTQ community and for creating the Loud and Proud Dance party. 

For people’s choice award, thousands of online votes culminated into a tie between Victor Gimenez and Lynare Robbins.