By Stacey Gualandi/January 8, 2012
“Anything is possible. You can have an idea, a spark in your soul, and you can make something happen.” Sharon Blynn
Let the Awards season begin!! Yes, it’s that time of year again when Hollywood gets underway with not one, not two, but too many-to-count award shows. It begins with the People’s Choice Awards and by February 26th, we’ll be exhausted when we finally hear “and the Oscar for Best Picture goes to…” But there is one awards show each year that should not go unnoticed or be lost in the crowd.
The Braveheart Women Awards honor women from all walks of life: women who are courageous, collaborators, philanthropic, innovative, entrepreneurial and compassionate.
At the recent ceremony in Los Angeles, seven women, from as far away as the Middle East, came together to be recognized for their achievements. I had the privilege to meet many of the winners — or “Precious Gems,” the theme of this year’s event.
Stars of film and television were on-hand and in awe of the honorees. One woman in particular who dazzled the crowd, Sharon Blynn, is actually a part of The Women’s Eye family. We recently profiled this ovarian cancer survivor and founder of BaldisBeautiful.org and are so proud that her story and work were recognized on this special night.
Sharon was given the Courage Award for “turning her experience with illness into an opportunity to promote self-acceptance.” And she certainly needed some courage. During her speech, Sharon confessed that she woke up that morning with a kidney stone, “but there was no way I wasn’t going to get to wear this gown!!”
“Precious gems are a nod to valuable nuggets of information we can learn from each other…” Suzanne Sena
She walked humbly down the red carpet, arm-in-arm with her twin sister Elisa, who was holding back tears. I asked Sharon what she hopes people will learn from her, and she said simply, “Anything is possible. You can have an idea, a spark in your soul, and you can make something happen from a true intention. Just don’t let fear get in the way.”
Sharon isn’t the only one facing fear head-on. Philanthropy Award winner Kelly Stone co-founded with her sister Sharon Planet Hope, an organization that provides help and hope to homeless and abused children.
Now she devotes her time to support Lupus LA, as she herself is dealing with the disease. “I was fortunate enough to be on the giving side for a long time, and now I’m on the recipient side. I feel inspired.”
Also providing help to abused children through music and art therapy is Lynn Mabry, co-founder of Elevate Hope Foundation. She received the Innovation Award. “I was molested at 12-years-old. Music was fundamental in my healing. I believed that it could work for other children, and it has.”
Janice Bryant Howroyd was recognized for her innovative approach to woman and business. She was honored with the Entrepreneur Award for creating the largest minority women-owned employment agency in the U.S., ACT1 Group. In her acceptance, she thanked the father of Compassion Award winner Kat Kramer for directing “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” a film that made a huge impact on her as a child.
Now Kat continues her father Stanley’s socially conscious legacy as producer and founder of Kat Kramer’s Films that Change the World. “If we don’t take action to make change we can’t wait around for someone else to do something. If we all try to make a difference, it would be a world event. Everyone here tonight is making a difference in their own way.”
And that is all Ellie Drake, Founder and CEO of Braveheart Women, could ask for. She says she started Braveheart to empower women to live passionate, purpose-filled lives, both personally and professionally. “Nineteen years ago I came to this county from Iran not knowing what my own path was. Tonight I’m a part of something that celebrates other women’s paths. I feel freer than I ever have.” Right now, there are over 400 thousand members; by the end of the year, Ellie is hoping to top one million. She’s well on her way.
The night came to a close with an emotional Collaboration Award for Hana Avni and Itaf Awad. Hana is Israeli, Itaf is Palestinian; together they hope to be an example of unity for their respective countries as well as commitment to peace in the Middle East. They both agreed they will never give up.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.” Actress Suzanne Sena, the star of the “Onion News Network”, has seen her share of award shows as a host covering Hollywood, but she says getting to MC and produce this year’s Braveheart Awards was gratifying and life-changing.
She says the theme of precious gems is all about the greater good. “Precious gems are a nod to valuable nuggets of information we can learn from each other; the precious nature of the work these women have been doing; and the truly precious moments that WE decide will make up our futures.”
So will I be watching all the award shows this season? Yeah, most likely. But one gem I learned from the Braveheart Awards that I won’t get from watching all the others is something Sharon Blynn quoted so eloquently in her acceptance speech: “If you ever feel helpless, help someone.” And that’s just what I’m going to do.