Honoring ‘Great Dameness’ at 10th Anniversary celebration
By Doug Rainey, Delaware Business Now
Tears and laughter filled the room Wednesday, April 24 at Hockessin Memorial Hall as 250 women and men joined together during an anniversary celebration and fundraiser for Great Dames, an organization that has helped thousands of women move one step closer to fulfilling their dreams. The event honored its first group of Great Dames Icons and also awarded scholarships to three young women. US Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester joined the celebration.
Founder and President Sharon Kelly Hake kicked off the evening by talking about why she started the organizations with her daughters, Heather and Deirdre. “I met too many women who did not feel valued. I knew this could be changed if they formed deep connections with other women who could help them activate their own special great dameness.I can’t imagine a higher cause than to make people feel valued.”
She also talked about her hopes for the future of Great Dames She announced the new Great Dames Action Fund and set a goal of raising one million dollars for seed grants, programs, and scholarships to help women fulfill their dreams. She also said the organization plans to work with 10,000 women over the next decade through intergenerational mentoring.
An anonymous donor has agreed to match all donations up to $25,000 by May 1.
Three women who have dedicated their lives to helping others feel valued were named Great Dame Icons: Dr. LaVerne Harmon, president of Wilmington University: Anna Welsh, founder of Little Bags Big Impact; and Bebe Coker, revered community mobilizer.
Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki introduced Dr. Harmon whom he described as one of the most authentic and effective people he knows.“She is a woman who believes we are here for a purpose, and it is very lucky for us that she found her purpose.”
Media star and successful serial entrepreneur, Jen Groover, introduced Welsh whom she described as a teenager who believes fully that everyone can be a change maker no matter their age. “I cannot begin to tell you how much I am in awe of this young entrepreneur has made such an impact on literacy and the environment because of her passion for giving back.
Dr. Tony Allen, Provost, Delaware State University, introduced Coker as a woman who for 50 years has never missed an opportunity to stand up for what is right. “You can’t just talk about her actions and life; you have to see it and feel it. If not for Bebe Coker, I am not sure what this community would look like.”
Three aspiring dames were awarded scholarship in honor of the icons, funded by the new Great Dames Action Fund. Dr. Harmon presented a scholarship to SarahOcampowho moved here from Ecuador when she was seven. A vocal advocate the Latino community, she was descried as one of the most giving students TeenSHARP has worked with this year. “Despite tough financial circumstances, she has worked very hard to help her family while also working toward her dream of attaining a higher education.”
Another TeenSHARP student, Tatiana Romero, was awarded a scholarship in honor of Bebe Coker. Originally from El Salvador, Romero, she aspires to become a medical doctor. She was described as a “starter and striver who despite a grueling academic workload has helped other students excel in the United States by more effectively learning English.”
Anna Welsh was also presented a scholarship to honor her as a Great Dames Icon. She is the founder of Little Bags. Big Impact, a social venture that provides quality books to children in underserved communities, among other altruistic endeavors.
The evening concluded with dancing to the music of local band Club Phred with special guests Rock and Rock Hall of Famer Felix Cavaliere, one of the founders of The Young Rascals and Tom “Bones” Malone, who played trombone for the Late Show with Dave Letterman. Both musicians stepped in at the last moment when Mark Farner, former lead singer and guitarist with Grand Funk Railroad. was forced to cancel because of illness.The dance floor was crowded as the Great Dames celebrated to Young Rascals chart toppers like “Good Lovin” and “People Got to Be Free.”
“While we were dancing to the Rascal’s Beautiful Morning, it struck me that this was truly a beautiful evening,” said Kelly Hake. “I cannot express enough my gratitude to our sponsors, donors, board and especially, our Great Dames community, and their friends and families. They made this a very moving and impactful night. We can’t wait for the next decade.”