Elixir is Back

Mazzoni Center's annual gala brings health and sports icons together for one night

It’s been an important year for the Mazzoni Center. Not only did the center host national health leaders during a summit, but it’s also getting ready for the annual Elixir: The Cure for the Common Gala on May 18. The theme of this year’s event is “Celebrating our Allies;” Mazzoni Center will recognize a few individuals whose actions, contributions and support have made an impact on the health and well-being of the LGBT community.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius – who took part in a forum earlier this year – will receive the Peter Mazzoni Award for her leadership and commitment in addressing specific health issues that impact LGBT Americans, and improving their access to quality care. Secretary Sebelius will accept the award via video from her Washington D.C. office, while Joanne Grossi, regional director for HHS in Philadelphia, will represent the agency on her behalf.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will receive the Peter Mazzoni Award (courtesy of the White House)

“Knowing that we have allies on the federal level, like Secretary Sebelius, gives us the opportunity to address the needs and health concerns of our community,” says Nurit Shein, the center’s executive director. “Under her leadership, the Department of Health and Human Services has made significant changes in both prevention and care that have advanced the well being of LGBT individuals. The Peter Mazzoni Award is our way of acknowledging the Secretary for her support, and celebrating what it represents for our communities.”

Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Joe Valentine will also be honored at the event – he’ll receive the Mazzoni Center Ally Award. Valentine received attention in 2005 when he revealed that he had been raised by two lesbian mothers.

“I just wanted to give them some sort of recognition for this,” he said at the time. “I feel in my heart they did a great job with me, and I thought it would be nice to just have them see that I appreciated it.” Valentine has since become a role model for youth with gay and lesbian parents throughout the country, and has donated his time and name to several organizations promoting fairness and equality for LGBT families.

Jim Donovan, CBS 3 Eyewitness News consumer reporter, will be the master of ceremonies. And the newly crowned Mr. Gay Philadelphia – Sean Green – will also be attending.

Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Joe Valentine will receive the Mazzoni Center Ally Award (courtesy of the Cincinnati Reds)

“Mazzoni Center was founded by volunteers who were both community members and allies, and we have been fortunate over the years to receive an increasing amount of recognition and support from individuals and organizations outside the LGBT community,” says Shein. “Without their involvement we would not have been able to grow the organization and to make the significant gains for our communities that we have seen in recent years.”

Guests at this year’s Elixir event will enjoy cocktails, a selection of hors d’oeuvres and buffet, musical entertainment by DJ Carl Michaels, plus a silent auction. Guests who purchase VIP tickets will also enjoy complimentary champagne and free valet parking, as well as cocktails, appetizers and live jazz by the Behn Gillece Duo. All VIP guests will automatically be entered into a special drawing, and will mingle with honoree Joe Valentine and some of the event’s honorary committee members.

“In addition to celebrating the work of allies who have made a difference,” says Elixir Co-Chair and Mazzoni Center Board President Kelly Harris, “our goal with this event is to raise funds for and awareness about those members of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities in our area who continue to need our support and direct services, whether in primary medical care, mental health, legal or social service programs.”

Elixir, May 18, 7 p.m., Loews Philadelphia Hotel, 1200 Market St., 215-563-0652.