Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber’s Diamond Awards were the night’s best friend

By : Jeremy Williams
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ST. PETERSBURG – The Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber of Commerce’s Diamonds in Diversity continues to shine brighter with each year as the annual awards gala took over the Hilton Bayfront in St. Petersburg Jan. 21.

Hosts Miguel Fuller and Holly O’Connor of HOT 101.5’s “Miguel & Holly Show” kept the show on pace, and the powerhouse vocals of Jennifer Real kept the show in tune, along with musicians Nathan L. Mitchell and Jonathan Thomas, as the elite of Tampa Bay was dressed to the nines.

Last year’s winners took the stage to present the Diamond Award to the recipients this year, for the most part.

2015 winnerSt. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman presented the Community Champion of the Year award to Sonny Hotchkiss of The Hotchkiss Group. Last year’s Community Champion winner Kevin Beckner stepped aside to let Kriseman say a few words to the crowd and present the award since he was unable to attend last year.

Other winners included Julian Sanchez MD of the Moffitt Cancer Center as Business Person of the Year, who graciously received his award from last year’s winner Sharon Herman. Hamburger Mary’s won Business of the Year and Equality Florida won the Non-Profit of the Year.

Equality Florida’s Mark Puskarich accepted the award on behalf of the leading LGBTQ rights organization accepting it for the 49 lives lost at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

The evening also saw not one but three scholarships awarded to the three student finalists from the Chamber and Balance Tampa Bay’s Mentorship Program.

Danielle Crawford was awarded the Diamond Scholarship Award, a $2,500 scholarship for being the top student in the mentorship program. Runner-ups Anthony Ruiz Wilson and Kyle Toler both received scholarships for $1,500. Wilson’s scholarship was from a donation from Diversity Chamber friends George W. Kubat and Maureen A. Walsh. Toler’s scholarship came from a donation from Metro Tampa Bay CEOLorraine Langlois.

While Beckner did not get a chance to present an award, he did get his chance in the spotlight. Showing off his auctioneer talents, the former Hillsborough County Commissioner led the live auction.

The live auction and silent auction, along with a generous gift of $1,000 from Largo Commissioner Michael Smith and husband Eric Hutton, helped the event raise nearly $10,000 for the Diamond Scholarship fund.

Once the desserts and wine were finished off, the crowd gathered at Enigma St. Pete for the official after party.

Photos by Danny Garcia.

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