The Bear to Make a Difference Gala an opportunity for community members, civic leaders and corporate partners to come together to support the work of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and those who share our commitment to a future free from hate.

MC: Mike Nelson
Special Guests: Judy and Dennis Shepard

The 2017 Bear to Make a Difference Gala took place on

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Hilton Denver City Center
1701 California Street
Denver, CO, 80202

2017 Award Recipients

Making a Difference Award

Eric Fanning was the 22nd Secretary of the Army, named by President Barack Obama on November 3, 2015, and later confirmed by the Senate. He oversaw the United States Army as the first openly gay person ever to head any service branch in the U.S. military. He was also a key leader in opening military service to trans soldiers — a policy now under serious threat in the new administration.

Eric has invested 25 years in serving the American people. He worked as a Congressional staffer and consultant before joining the U.S. Department of Defense, where he held Army, Navy, and Air Force positions. Poignantly, Eric was not eligible to serve in uniform during those years; he was already 42 and serving as Deputy Under Secretary in 2010 when the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was rescinded, welcoming openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people into the service.

Dennis Dougherty Award for Community Leadership

Daniel Ramos

Daniel Ramos is the Executive Director at One Colorado. Before taking on this role, Daniel served as Deputy Director, Director of Safe & Inclusive Schools, as well as the Political and Organizing Director — managing our safe schools program and leading One Colorado’s work to mobilize, educate, and engage the LGBT community around important issues.

Prior to joining One Colorado, Daniel served as an Organizer for the Stonewall Democrats’ “Elect-Equality” Initiative. As an Organizer in Palm Springs, CA, Daniel worked to execute an aggressive field plan to recruit, train, and manage volunteers to facilitate voter engagement.

Throughout Daniel’s college career, he was involved in many local, state, and national organizations. After years of involvement in the University of Colorado Student Government, Daniel was elected as a Student Body President in 2009. During his term, he advocated for many diversity and sustainability initiatives, including a program that established CU-Boulder as the First Zero-Waste Student Government in the United States.

Also during college, Daniel was active in the Associated Students of Colorado and the United States Student Association, organizations that advocate for access and affordability in higher education. Serving on USSA’s National Board of Directors and Executive Board, Daniel worked as a Regional and National Outreach Officer to develop outreach plans to build membership across the country. Recognizing barriers that exist in higher education, Daniel educated and mobilized students in Colorado around issues like Student Aid Reform and the DREAM Act.

Growing up in northeast Colorado, Daniel graduated from Sterling High School and went on to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with a Degree in Sociology and Spanish and holds a Certificate in the Study and Practice of Leadership as a scholar in the President’s Leadership Class. Outside of work, Daniel enjoys traveling, spending time with his family, being active outdoors, and exploring his interest in Spanish language & culture.

Spirit of Matthew Award

Jaimie Wilson

Jaimie is a transgender singer/songwriter, using his voice for good. Music, he explains, is much more than just a personal passion, it is a way to contribute- to give back: “Being transgender, I have always struggled with trying to make others happy but I want to show that it’s okay to break free. I’m hoping with these words I can bring the community together and encourage others in similar situations to be true to themselves.”

All the time, music is his outlet and his motivation which drives him to attain success. Yet, he also knows that as his story gained greater awareness on social media he wants to help out and not sit back and be silent.

“My motive for being a trans activist is spreading awareness. I am in a position to be able to help others and be visible so I do what I can. I had no support from family or friends so I know how helpful it can be to have someone give out binders, donate to their gofundme campaigns, speak for them when they don’t have the voice. It’s very important to me,” he says. Read more about Jaimie here.

Alyssa Sileo

Alyssa is the team leader for The Laramie Project Project, a theater group from New Jersey that sought out forty-nine groups to conduct performances or hold readings of The Laramie Project this year. They assigned the name of a Pulse victim to each school to dedicate a production in their honor. What’s even more impressive? Alyssa is only 17. Her initiative is now worldwide and she intends on continuing this project into the future. Read more about Alyssa and LPP here.

View photos from our 2017 Gala

You can help make this evening a huge success through an event sponsorship. A sponsorship is a unique opportunity to support the mission of the foundation and align your brand with the values shared by the 400+ Gala attendees. Join MillerCoors, State Farm and Lightsource Creative Communications in supporting the Matthew Shepard Foundation Honors.

Click here to find out more information about our multiple sponsorship options.

Also, if you are interested in contributing an item to the Matthew Shepard Honors Gala Auction, please download our auction donation form. 

A key component to our success at our annual gala is help from passionate supporters like you. Before the event or the day of, there are plenty of opportunities for volunteers to be a part of this great yearly event. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Selling tickets
  • volunteering as a Table Captain
  • Event setup and preparation
  • Gathering items for, organizing and facilitating the Silent Auction
  • Helping attendees participate in gala events

If you’re interested in volunteering for our Annual Honors Gala on October 10, 2015, please contact Development Director Joshua Anderson or submit our volunteer form.

The 2017 Bear to Make a Difference Gala took place on October 14th, 2017. Subscribe to stay in the loop for future MSF events in your area. 

If you have questions about ticket purchases, please contact our Development Associate Brennan Johnson.

The black-tie formal style seems to be the most common attire for our guests, but we don’t have a dress code and encourage you to wear what makes you comfortable!

Bearlesque to Make a Difference

Kick of the Gala weekend in style! Join the Matthew Shepard Foundation on Friday, October 13th at the Denver Wrangler for a special pre-Gala community celebration, “Bear-lesque to Make a Difference.”

Special Emcees: Nuclia Waste & Gabbriella But’zin

Special Guests: Judy and Dennis Shepard

Friday, October 13th
Denver Wrangler

8:00pm: Doors Open

9:00pm: Show Start


Click here to purchase tickets or visit

Thanks to our Sponsors

Matthew Shepard Foundation Honors is produced by: 

Matthew Shepard FoundationBear to Make a Difference Gala