2023 Annual OPALGA+
Scholarship Fundraiser Gala

Saturday, October 21, 2023   6 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Nineteenth Century Charitable Association
178 Forest Avenue, Oak Park
Presented by Kendall Alexander, Attorney

If you could not attend the gala, please consider supporting the scholarship fund at whatever level you can by using the “PayPal Donate Now” button on the side of this page or sending a check to OPALGA+, P.O. Box 1460, Oak Park, IL 60304.

We’ll eat, drink, mingle, dance and, no doubt, be inspired! Come celebrate, support some amazing students and raise funds for 2024-’25 scholarships at the 2023 OPALGA+ Scholarship Gala “TRANSCENDING.” 

Young LGBTQ+ people face unique challenges in high school and college. Students with LGBTQ+ parents have distinct experiences shaped by their families. The OPALGA+ Student Scholarship Fund provides financial support for the post-high school education of local students who have demonstrated service and advocacy to the LGBTQ+ community and/or the larger community. Scholarship amounts awarded each year depend on your generosity. In 2023, we awarded $40,000 in scholarships and have awarded over $170,000 since inception ten years ago. 

The exciting evening features:

  • Emcee WGN meteorologist Tim Joyce
  • Drag performances (NEW for 2023)
  • Open bar (NEW for 2023)
  • Piano entertainment downstairs (NEW for 2023)
  • Raffle prizes from local businesses
  • Live auction
  • DJ and dancing
  • Mel Wilson OPALGA+ Founders Awards
  • Panel discussion with 2023 scholarship winners

All dinners include open bar, salad, rolls, family-style desserts, coffee/tea and a choice of three entrees:

  • Panko-herb crusted SALMON with seasonal vegetables, rosemary spaetzle and lemon butter sauce; or
  • Hanger STEAK with fried potatoes, cauliflower and a demi-glace sauce; or 
  • VEGAN and gluten free saffron risotto with seasonal vegetables and fried leeks.

Please note:

  • Parking is available in the nearby paid garage on Forest Ave.
  • The evening’s attire is business chic or whatever you’d wear out on the town. You be you! 
  • Please arrive between 6pm and 6:30pm for cocktails, schmoozing and to get your pre-printed name tag with your table number on it. 
  • Dinner begins promptly at 7pm. 
  • Funds raised from the raffle, auction and the evening’s donations support the scholarship program. The funds previously paid to attend the Gala cover the cost of the evening. 
  • Please be generous when purchasing raffle tickets, bidding on auction items and/or making donations that evening.
    • We invite you to purchase raffle tickets ($5 each or 5 for $20). 
    • Live-auction bundles can be paid for with cash, check or credit card.  
    • Donate directly to the scholarship fund by going to





Meet the 2023
Scholarship Winners

John Caceres (they/he), Oak Park

  • High school: Oak Park River Forest High School, Oak Park
  • College: Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois

Vic Coutee (he/they), Chicago

  • High school: Pritzker College Prep, Chicago
  • College: Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois

Marty Cowherd (he/him), Chicago – Jan Grillos Memorial Fund Recipient

  • High school: Noble Johnson College Prep, Chicago
  • College: University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Emily Gonzalez (she/her), Chicago

  • High school: Pritzker College Prep, Chicago
  • College: Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois

Annie Larson (she/her), Oak Park

  • High school: Fenwick High School, Oak Park
  • College: Georgetown University, Washington D.C.

Taylor Montes-Williams (she/her), Oak Park

  • High school: Oak Park River Forest High School, Oak Park
  • College: University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

Venus Obazuaye (they/them), Forest Park

  • High school: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Aurora, Illinois
  • College: University of Illinois Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Lissette Torres (she/her), Chicago

  • High school: Prosser Career Academy, Chicago
  • College: Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois