It’s no secret Capital Area Women’s LifeStyle Magazine loves celebrating women. In fact, we partnered with the Aitch Foundation to dedicate an entire evening to do just that. Held Oct. 16, the Inspiration & Influence Awards is a night for the mid-Michigan area to come together to honor local women in the community who are making a positive impact and influencing change for a better tomorrow.
As the night began, arriving guests at Crowne Plaza Lansing West were greeted with cocktails and a networking hour. Then co-hosts Jennifer Hodges, vice president of business development at M3 Group, and Lauren Aitch, president of the Aitch Foundation, took the stage to begin a night that four local women and four Michigan State University students would never forget.
“As the publisher of CAWLM, I receive countless opportunities to meet the wonderful women in our community who are continuously making an impact,” said Tiffany Dowling, CEO of M3 Group. “We have some truly amazing women in this community, and these awards are for everyone else to also be influenced and inspired by these amazing women.”
The night’s keynote speaker was Michigan’s 47th state treasurer, Rachael Eubanks, who inspired the crowd and encouraged them to continue putting their best foot forward as the state of Michigan moves into the future. She touched on her experiences that led her to become the state’s first female treasurer, the inspiration that propels her forward and what the Lansing community means to her. Along with the Inspiration & Influence Awards, the Aitch Foundation also recognized four Aitch Fellows who are making enormous strides in cancer research. The 2019 Aitch Fellows recognized included Briana To, who was awarded the 2019 Aitch Foundation Aitch Fellowship; Deanna Broadwater, who received the 2019 Joe D. Pentecost Foundation Aitch Fellowship; Yueqi Zhang, who accepted the 2019 Joe D. Pentecost Foundation Aitch Fellowship; and Vanessa Benham, who obtained the 2019 Michigan State University Federal Credit Union Aitch Fellowship.
To accepted her award for the work she has been doing on the deadliest form of breast cancer in women and her approach to triple negative breast cancer by finding the role of E2F5 in this cancer subtype that has the potential to save lives. Broadwater was recognized for her work and discovery that fluorescent compounds can be tuned to make therapy with minimal side effects, or nontoxic for detection of tumors through imaging. Zhang was acknowledged for his work to identify novel factors that promote HCC development in females to help lead to better therapeutic methods for cancer patients. Benham was recognized for her work on chemoprevention of obesity-associated cancer.
With more than 30 nominations of area women, an esteemed panel of judges narrowed the Inspiration & Influence nominations down to recipients in four award categories. The first Inspiration & Influence Award presented for the evening went to the Up and Coming honoree Ashley Brzezinski. She is actively engaged with several organizations and seeks out ways to better the Lansing area while mentoring and inspiring future generations. She oversees a weekly K-5 youth program, an adult leadership team and a “Junior Dream Team.” She leads a weekly women’s group, volunteers and tutors in Lansing schools, and hosts a free summer sports camp for 300 kids.
The second honor of the ceremony was the Caring About Women Locally Award, which went to Zaneta Adams, a disabled Army veteran, attorney and dedicated advocate of both veterans’ and women’s causes. She also is the founder of WINC: For All Women Veterans, a national advocacy group that raises awareness of issues facing women veterans.
The Judges Impact Award was given this year to Pamela Miklavcic. She saw a need in the community and with her organization, The Davies Project, she and her team have served 350 families with thousands of rides to medical appointments that would have been missed otherwise. She and her staff are making an impact in families around the Lansing area daily.
This year’s Woman of the Year Award went to Priscilla Bordayo, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Word Up, which addresses bullying and self-confidence. One of her largest advocacy efforts has been with the “sister survivors” of the nationally known Larry Nassar sexual abuse case. She and her organization bring the hope, the healing and the education that’s needed to bring sexual abuse to an end.
The inspirational night concluded with pictures, good wishes and gratitude from all in attendance.