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October 26, 2012 - Circles of Change Honors Tolerance and Friendship

What: Building Bridges’ 7th Annual Circles of Change Awards Breakfast

Where: Seawell Grand Ballroom at the DCPA

When: Friday, October 26, 2012

Time: 7:30 a.m.

Ticket Prices: $85, $30 for students

Beneficiary: Building Bridges (formerly Seeking Common Ground)

Honoree(s): Tim Sweeney of the Gill Foundation, Susan Sygall of Mobility International, and Maria Trujillo of Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition and a Building Bridges Alumna.

Executive Director: Erin Breeze

Staff: Amani Rohana, Middle East Coordinator, Erin Breeze, Executive Director, Gal Yaakobi, Middle East Coordinator, Jen Sarche, Deputy Executive Director, Marisa Ellman, Associate Director of Development and Community Relations, Rawan Zaitoun, Middle East Program Director

Speaker: Tim Sweeney of the Gill Foundation

Catering: Epicurean

Sponsors: Innovators Circle: Sabrina Merage Foundation, Zinn Mediation Associates; Visionaries Circle: Anonymous, Change Management Pro, Judy and David Koff, Nancy Reichman and Charlie Gwirtsman, Grousbeck Family Foundation; Change Makers Circle: Cynda Collins Arsenault, Hogan Lovells, KRG Capital; Peace Makers Circle: Colorado State Bank and Trust, Elaine Selsberg and Dan Recht, Gill Foundation, Lockton, Lohf Shaiman Jacobs Hyman & Feiger Pcm Mimi and Keith Pockross, Rothgerber, Johnson and Lyons LLP, Tobey and Justin Borus; Supporters Circle: Abrahamic Initiative, Barry Rosenberg and Lee Fisher, D. Wexler & Sons, FirstBank, Jacquelyn Eisenberg and Sean Nelson, Mary and Glen Burbridge, Mary Anne and Rick Shube, Sage Hospitality, The DeBoskey Group and Wellshire Presbyterian Church.

Attendance: 450

Attire: Business

Special Thanks: Event sponsors, board members, event planning team, volunteers and interns

Event Coordinator: Marisa Ellman, our Associate Director of Development and Community Relations

Planning Committee: Alyssa Brookstein,, Arriana Belkin, Elaine Selsberg, Erin Breeze, Gabe Dayley, Gillian Greenberg, Jennifer Kagan and Marisa Ellman

Board of Directors: Ben Stetler, Chuck Jacobs, Elaine Selsberg, Emily Love, Erin Breeze, Executive Director, Nancy Reichman, Chair, Tobey Borus and Zenat Belkin

Blacktie Photos by: Marcelo Mainzer

 Dr. Gene Bolles with honoree Susan Sygall and Judy Bolles
Dr. Gene Bolles with honoree Susan Sygall and Judy Bolles

"Sometimes all you have to do to find common ground is cross a bridge over a river of misunderstanding, often though, you have to build the bridge too." -- Anonymous

Building Bridges, formerly Seeking Common Ground, has been building bridges between young people, who have been taught to fear each other, for almost 20 years. After 18 years of programming, nearly 2,000 alumni from Israel, Palestine, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and the United States have had the opportunity to attend one of the Building Bridges programs and learn an increased sense of empathy for people they thought were different from themselves. Participants demonstrate new confidence, as they acquire the skills to speak their minds and to act as leaders in their home communities. They feel more hopeful about the future, and inspired to take part in social change projects. And finally, the participants build foundational relationships with people they would not likely have had the opportunity to meet, some of which last a lifetime.

On Friday, October 26th, Building Bridges celebrated the 7th annual Circles of Change breakfast. Over 400 friends of Building Bridges braved the cold weather to meet at the Seawell Grand Ballroom of the DCPA and honor three changemakers who work to make our world a better place. Before the awards presentation, however, Building Bridges took a few moments to show a film documenting the work of two alumna and current staff members: Gal Yaakobi and Rawan Zaitoun. The video began with Rawan and Gal as teenage participants in the Building Bridges for Peace program in 2000. It portrayed how the program allowed them to meet the ‘other’ in a physically and emotionally safe environment that provided a forum for them to have voice, learn how to listen, challenge stereotypes, and explore commonalities while more fully understanding differences. The film ended with the two young women, now still dear friends, and still working to invite more of their respective communities to meet on common ground.

The breakfast was also the stage for Darek Okubo, executive director for the Agency for Human Rights & Community Partnerships for the City and County of Denver (an appointee of Mayor Michael Hancock) to mark the day via proclamation. The awards portion of the event was introduced by Building Bridges executive and deputy executive directors Erin Breeze and Jen Sarché.

This years honorees were:

  • Tim Sweeney, president and CEO of the Gill Foundation--one of the nation’s largest funders of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights work. For more than 30 years, Tim has worked to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression.
  • Susan Sygall, co-founder and CEO of Mobility International USA,--a globally recognized expert in the area of international development, educational exchange and leadership programs for persons with disabilities.
  • Maria A. Trujillo, Building Bridges alumna and executive director of the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition--a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking and harnessing the power of the community to combat this horrible crime. 

Last to rise to the podium was Erin Breeze, Building Bridges executive director, who closed the ceremonies with gratitude by congratulating the honorees and adding, “Thank you for inspiring each of us to work even harder in our own ways to create a more just, inclusive world."

She went on to say, "As you have heard from Maria, Jaala, Gal and Rawan, at Building Bridges we equip teens with the skills to see the root causes of hate, discrimination and violent conflict so that they can transform their worlds. This isn’t an overnight experience. It’s a practice. We find that once teens have experienced what it is like to truly understand and be understood by those they thought were different from themselves, they become advocates for the 'other.' They find hope, hope that we can build communities that are just and inclusive of all. "

Ms Breeze closed by touching on a comment made by Mr. Sweeney that resonated with attendees who are so supportive: “the personal is political and individual actions can make a difference.”


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