Imagination Stage’s Annual Gala: BE A HERO

Imagination Stage’s Annual Gala: Be a Hero will be on Saturday, March 11 at Planet Word Museum in Washington, DC. 

This highly-anticipated event is Imagination Stage’s biggest fundraiser of the year, with all funds raised supporting the DMV’s largest organization focused on youth development through the arts. For children and young people of all ages and abilities, Imagination Stage plays a unique and positive role in nurturing such critical life skills as communication, creativity, and collaboration via its many programs and partnerships with educational, social service, and law enforcement organizations such as Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), DC Public Schools (DCPS), Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, Metropolitan Police Department, and Street Outreach Network, among others.

At the gala, Imagination Stage invites supporters to take their own hero’s journey exploring Planet Word’s one-of-a-kind, interactive exhibits and to celebrate the heroes, big and small, in their lives. Sponsorships start at $1,000. Individual tickets are $250 and may be purchased here.

The evening begins at 6:00 p.m. with a VIP cocktail reception. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and the event proceeds with a silent auction, remarks, exploration of the museum, The Imagine Award presentation, and a live fundraiser. 

Shawn Yancy will serve as Mistress of Ceremonies. Ms. Yancy is an Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist and a primary weekday news anchor at Washington, DC’s NBC4. Prior to joining NBC4, she was a primary news anchor at DC’s FOX 5 News. Ms. Yancy has served on the boards of a number of local non-profits, and in 2010, founded her own non-profit, Girls Night Out by Shawn Yancy Inc. It is dedicated to empowering and improving the lives of underserved women and children. 

The Imagine Award is given each year to someone who, through their work or their advocacy, exemplifies service to theatre and to children, and who is a role model for our children. This year’s Imagine Award will be presented to the inspiring Luis Cardona, the Administrator for the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services Positive Youth Development Program. Mr. Cardona is a former gang member and ex-offender who turned his life around after being shot five times and losing many of his best friends to the life of gangs, drugs, and crime. Mr. Cardona has 31 years of experience as a peacemaker, national and international prevention and intervention specialist, practitioner and trainer of healing informed practice working with the National Coalition of Barrios Unidos, the National Compadres Network, and The Professional Community Intervention Training Institute. 

All proceeds raised during the silent auction will directly support Imagination Stage’s  Institutional Diversity and Equity Advancement (IDEA) Fund and all funds raised during the live fundraising portion of the event will support Imagination Stage’s Learning Through Theatre (LTT) programming. The IDEA fund supports specific efforts to live our shared organizational goals in inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.  LTT is a multifaceted program that uses a live theatre production as the centerpiece of a wide range of educational activities developed specifically for MCPS and DCPS Title I schools and students from low-income households. 

Recently, DCPS’s LTT program took place at Planet Word. Over two weeks, 1,500 DCPS third grade students saw Imagination Stage’s production of New Kid by Dennis Foon at Planet Word. After the show, an Imagination Stage teaching artist led a workshop, and the children explored the museum using a curriculum that ties the play to the museum’s mission. Themes included literacy, language arts, and world languages. The partnership between Planet Word and Imagination Stage made for an arts-packed, learning-filled day for DCPS third graders.

Imagination Stage’s Annual Gala: Be a Hero is chaired by Claire Durán and Ashley Etienne. Ms. Durán is the Owner and Creative Director of Claire Durán Weddings and Events, Inc. Ms. Etienne is a CBS News Contributor and former Communications Director for Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Gala Sponsors




Diane and Arnold Polinger


Jessica Boger and Greg Rapawy


Ashley and Matthew Bronczek

Claire Durán Weddings & Events, INC

Shawn Davis-Wilensky

Julianna Goldman and Michael Gottlieb

Matthew Killian

Kristin and Hanan Kivett

Lynne J. Lightfoote, MD

RAST Foundation- Robert, Anna & Sophia Trone

Margo and Michael Sadow

Joyce Wasserstein and Theodore Segal


Pennie and Gary Abramson

Dr. and Mr. Kim and Corey Barnette

Constance and Robby Brewer

DC Water

Melissa and David Hurwitz

Alia and Bruce Johnson

Jason Najjoum

Carolyn and Frank Schugar

Jessica Springsteen

Janet Stanford and Leo Stone


The Bernard Family Foundation

Darren Braude - NFP

Chelsey Christensen and John Groth

Circle of Friends

DC Action for Kids

Dr. Kim Barnette's Spelman Tribe

Linda and J.J. Finkelstein

Kathy Fleming

Bonnie Fogel

Foley & Lardner, LLP

Sally and John Freeman

Nancy Greenspan

Gigi and Jeff Godwin

Barbara J. and Thomas Gottschalk

Claudia and Tom Henteleff

Louisa Imperiale

Lerch, Early & Brewer

McLean School

Jan Donohoe McNamara and Charles McNamara

Tena Nauheim

Nancy B. Ordway

Malina and Mike Patel

Julie and Frank Allen Philpot

The Honorable Lily Qi and Phil Peng

Amber and Warren Romine

Jacqueline Schaffer-Bochner and Bruce Bochner

The Talapatra Family

Debbie Vodenos and Sam Boxerman

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