Thursday, December 8, 2011

Embracing Our Differences Luncheon

Everyone stood and wildly applauded when Gabrielle Holt finished speaking yesterday at the Embracing Our Differences luncheon at Michael's On East.  This high school superstar was the shining light of the day.  So poised and well-spoken.  We were all so impressed with her intellect and compassionate spirit, not to mention her mega-watt smile.  This young lady is certainly going places.

 After eight years, Co-Existence's Embracing Our Differences exhibit, on Sarasota's bay front has attracted over one million visitors, including almost 100,000 children through their education program.  The luncheon, though very informative, was also a celebration of the impact it has made on our lives. 

Debbie Hebert, a teacher at Booker, spoke about the curriculum she developed for teachers regarding the program.  She shared with us that sometimes it is easier for children to speak out their feelings through their art. 

This year's EOD co-chairs are Carol Buchanan and Graci and Dennis McGillicuddy.  Carol and Dennis both spoke vividly regarding what this program has meant to them.

We watched a powerful video taped during last year's exhibit with various school children.  It was quite moving.  Sometimes I forget that people have to be reminded that though we are different on the outside, we have the same needs and wants on the inside.  As one very small child at Venice-Nokomis United Methodist Pre-School said, "A smile is beautiful in any color" and drew an impactful picture of faces in many colors - green, red, blue, yellow with big smiles.  Simple, eloquent, meaningful - all from a four-year-old. 

Others seen in the crowd and not pictured below were Dr. Michael Meriwether, Gerri Aaron, Ina Schnell, Laurey Stryker, Helen McBean, Carolyn Michel, Harry Leopold, Janice Zarro, Barbara Ackerman, Nancy Roucher, Florence Jensen, Sam Savin, Helen Faigen, Dan Bailey, Sarah Pappas, Phil and Julie Delaney, Molly Morgan, Mary Beth Bos, Barbara Zdravecky, Dennis Stover, Kathryn and Bob Carr, Alice Rau, Jim Braun, Ilene Fox, Richard Dorfman, Jim and Tamara Ley.

Debra Jacobs and Dennis McGillicuddy

Executive Director, Michael Shelton and Julie Milton

Gabrielle Holt

Nate Jacobs and Audrey Coleman

Pam Daniel and Victoria Leopold

Judi Gallagher and Margaret Callihan

Suzette Jones and Suzanne Atwell

Eva Slane and Joan Nixon

Jewel Ash, Jeremy Lisitza, and Marian Moss

Lois Stulberg and Bunny Skirboll

Lynn Robbins and Nancy Bailey
Renee Armbruster and Graci McGillicuddy

Christine Jennings and Jeanette Hyde

Renee Hamad and Beth Knopik
Isabel Norton and Carol Butera-Dutton

Carolyn Johnson and Eleanor Merritt Darlington

Gila Meriwether and BJ Creighton

Judy Cuppy and Lee-En Chung

Jocelyn Stevens and Roxie Jerde 

Judy Cahn and Flora Majors

Bob and Dottie Garner

Scott Anderson, Cheri Ziegler, and Steve Ziegler

Some kind of peanut butter mousse heaven!  You know I partly judge an event by its dessert and this was a yum, yum, yummy one!


  1. EOD offers full package to connect classrooms through the Annual Embracing Our Differences Exhibit. From inspiring local kids to visually portray their feelings and express themselves in words to engaging teens as docents through the Riverview H.S. Co-Existence Club -- this "exploration" offers meaningful connections. Add to that employing teachers to create curriculum and training now 500 to deliver it effectively to students. The Patterson Foundation Cultural Connections with K-12 Students is dedicated to working with partners to make unique community experiences an integral part of how we prepare students -- EOD exemplifies this goal. Bravo.

  2. Great to see you, Debbi! I was so inspired from the message at yesterday's luncheon. I had a 'quotation' in the 2006 exhibit and think they should promote an 'alumni' club. Everyone - kids, adults, locals and other - could continue our support annually (at whatever level appropriate) and continue to watch the impact of this amazing project grow.