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The Buffalo Pride Brunch

Tracy and Tim Rodemeyer with their daughter, Alyssa, in Los Angeles last weekend.

LA may have money and stars but we’ve got a lot of heart

The 16th annual Buffalo Brunch honoring individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses that help celebrate and embrace the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community of Western New York is this Sunday at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens on Transit Road in Depew.

I got a new perspective on the event by attending the GLAAD media awards dinner in Los Angeles last weekend. Different world; same vision.

GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) exists to amplify “the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality.”

Yes, GLAAD had Ellen Degeneres to open the event instead of me. (I’ll be emceeing on Sunday.) And yes, they were able pull in Betty White and a cadre of Hollywood celebrities from Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick to Jesse Tyler Ferguson, to Benicio Del Toro, to Gilles Marini, to Molly Shannon, to Marissa Jaret Winokur. Sure, their honorees were Chaz Bono and Josh Hutcherson. And okay, fine, Cher made a surprise appearance.

It’s Hollywood; I get it.

Oh yeah—their first auction item, a trip to Asia, went for $20,000. Then, when the auction was over, the auctioneer said, “Just for fun, let’s raise another $100,000; text us on your cell phone and let the pledges begin at $10,000!”

They got the money.

But then, in one of the most moving moments of the evening, Max Adler and Grant Justin of Glee introduced the Rodemeyer family of Williamsville, New York, whose son Jamey committed suicide in September after repeated bullying at school. They showed Jamey’s “It Gets Better” video from Youtube. They showed Lady Gaga’s tribute to Jamey. And then the Rodemeyer family came out and spoke eloquently, passionately, with both dignity and humor, about the need to educate people, to promote humanity, and to end bullying and prejudice. It was stunning.

I met the Rodemeyers that night for the first time. They are remarkable people. They are also normal, everyday Western New Yorkers. And that small fact reminded me that our brunch at Salvatore’s is every bit as important as the GLAAD dinner in LA. Their resources are more vast, but our need is just as profound and our heart is just as big.

We both exist to amplify “the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively.” We both promote understanding, acceptance, and equality.

Community Service Awards will be given at Sunday’s brunch to recognize efforts (past, present, and future) to advance those ideals. In addition, the brunch is the primary fundraising activity for embraceWNY, which provides community grants and sponsorships, as well as educational scholarships, for local post-secondary students receiving an education locally.

This year’s honorees are:

• Mother Ellen Brauza, a priest of the Episcopal Church here in Western New York, and an advocate for LGBT rights, especially for marriage equality.

• Joe Guagliardo, better known as Joe Marcella, who is to be recognized for his contributions to the LGBT community.

• AIDS Plus Fund of WNY, [a.k.a. Buffalo Gay Bingo and Serendipity Shoppe], a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 with a mission to assist and support fundraising efforts for HIV/AIDS-related services affected by funding cutbacks.

• Kenilworth United Church of Christ, one of the first churches to call an open lesbian pastor to lead the congregation, for its efforts to build bridges and understanding between the LGBT community and the community at large.

A commendation will be given to New York State Senator Mark John Grisanti, in recognition of his support of the LGBT community.

Sure, Hollywood has glamour and billions of dollars. We’ve got heart. And maybe GLAAD had filet mignon at their dinner, but we’re sure to have cannoli at Salvatore’s!

For information on the Buffalo Brunch, visit