Activist and volunteer Zachary Mallory, 19, is the recipient of the 2016 Spirit of Matthew Award, an annual tribute given by the Matthew Shepard Foundation. The award highlights a young person who is advancing the work of the Foundation by promoting diversity, acceptance, and understanding through their words and actions.
The award will be given to Mallory, who resides in Independence, Missouri, on Oct. 8 at the Foundation’s 15th annual Honors Gala in Denver at the Westin Denver Downtown. Tickets are available for this special evening.
“We were overwhelmed by the truly impressive nominees this year for the Spirit of Matthew Award. It was easily the most competitive pool of young advocates that we’ve ever seen.” said Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. “The nominations included so many worthy young people who are doing incredible work that promotes the goals of the Foundation. But ultimately it was impossible for the committee to overlook Zachary’s efforts in support of LGBTQ people’s health and safety.”
The award is given in memory of Matthew Shepard. He is remembered by family and friends as a person who was absolutely unwilling to let the world’s powers and leaders settle for less than what their people and the human race deserved. He saw an endless amount of work yet to be done for human rights and human dignity and never hesitated to share his thoughts and aspirations with anyone he might meet. He never doubted he could play an important role in changing a person’s life for the better.
The Spirit of Matthew Award was established in Matt’s name in an effort to encourage the restless, creative, impatient desire for change that Matt showed in his all too brief life. He was murdered in 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming, in what has become one of the nation’s most infamous hate crimes. Bearing his name is the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Protection Act of 2009, which expanded federal hate crimes protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The winner of this year’s Spirit of Matthew Award, Zachary Mallory, has been involved in numerous efforts that promote LGBTQ equality and provide support for mental health and suicide prevention. He has been open about his own struggles with bullying, mental health, and suicide attempts. Zachary’s volunteer efforts include those with GLSEN, the American Red Cross, and the Crisis Text Line as a crisis counselor. He also founded a gay-straight alliance. With GLSEN, Zachary took part in the rally in Washington, D.C., for passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act. He also started his own effort dubbed the VoiceMatters Project, which advocates for mental health and suicide prevention. Zachary hopes for VoiceMatters to be a legal non-profit by 2017. Mallory anticipates starting his undergraduate studies, in communications, this August.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation will honor several people at its Gala. Its annual Making A Difference Award, which has been given to the likes of George Takei, Nathan Lane, and Alan Cumming, will be presented to Jonathan Capehart, Pulitzer prize winning journalist and editorial board member of the Washington Post. This year’s winner of the Dennis Dougherty Award for Community Leadership is Morris W. Price, Jr., vice president and executive director of City Year Denver, the national AmeriCorps nonprofit working with Denver Public Schools to ensure students in grades 3-9 are working at grade level in English and math proficiency.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s longstanding mission is to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion and acceptance. Through local, regional and national outreach, we empower individuals to find their voice to create change and challenge communities to identify and address hate that lives within their schools, neighborhoods and homes. Learn more about Matthew Shepard’s story here. Donate to the Foundation here.