Since 2019, the Staff and Board of Rainbow Families have bestowed a Hero of the Year award, presented during our Annual Family Conference & Gathering.
This annual award honors an individual who has been instrumental in supporting the LGBTQ+ family community and beyond. When considering the recipient, we think of community contributions such as leadership, advocacy, empowerment, support services, health, education, perseverance. The award may be presented in recognition of years’ long service, or exceptional efforts within that recent year.
2022: Naseema Shafi, CEO of Whitman-Walker Health Our 2022 Hero of the Year award was presented in recognition of Ms. Shafi’s leadership and service to improving the health of all LGBTQ+ people, and not only maintaining, but growing, services for our community during the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, she and her team have been instrumental in assisting Rainbow Families by providing guidance, leadership, meeting space for our support groups and education courses and much more.
“On behalf of the entire team here at Whitman-Walker, I am thrilled to accept this honor. Rainbow Families and Whitman-Walker share important and overlapping visions which rely on our community to respond when we are called upon, in order to advance access and equality to all members of the LGBTQ+ communities. The team at Whitman-Walker has done incredible work responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are grateful for this recognition of that service as “heroes”. We hope it goes without saying that we also believe families have been major “heroes” during the past two years. We are part of the Rainbow Families Family. We See You – and We hope to see you in care, too.”
2021: Congressman Mondaire Jones (D-NY) Congressman Jones represents the 17th Congressional District of New York. He has served on the NAACP National Board of Directors as well as the New York Civil Liberties Union. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, he continues his lifelong advocacy for civil rights and civil liberties, and the strengthening of our democracy. In Congress, Rep. Jones fights for COVID-19 relief, a living wage for all, universal health care, racial justice and more. He is the first elected openly gay Black congressperson to serve in the United States.
2020: Ellen Kahn As one Rainbow Families member accurately stated, “Everyone Ellen meets is impressed with her and her vision. She has impacted far many more LGBT families than she’ll ever know”. Ellen’s career has been devoted to improving the lived and legal advancements of queer families – locally and nationally. She too was an original Rainbow Families game-changer, as she took us from being a small group (then under the umbrella of the Whitman-Walker Clinic), to becoming our own 501c3 non profit organization, laying the groundwork for Rainbow Families to provide even greater services for LGBTQ+ families and prospective parents.
2019: Michele Zavos Michele is an attorney who has fought for LGBTQ+ families for 40 years. Her entire working life has been devoted to our community. Michele was among the original founders of Rainbow Families, particularly with its ‘Lesbian Moms Group’ (read more here) She also started the first Maybe Baby group in 1982. Michele has given countless hours, volunteering her time to Rainbow Families and advancing rights for LGBTQ+ families.