Leaders Inspiring Hope to be Honored in Greater Hartford

Leadership Greater Hartford (LGH) will be “celebrating leaders who inspire hope,” at the organization’s annual fundraising gala this fall, personified by honorees selected to receive the prestigious Polaris Awards.  Although their individual stories differ substantially, the common thread is one of commitment to community and taking on tough challenges to provide opportunities for individuals encumbered by obstacles.  Their impact has been unmistakable, making a difference not only in individual lives, but across the community.  Being honored for their work, as described by LGH:

  • Ronit Shoham is the driving force behind many remarkable projects for young people and others in need. She is a whirlwind of activity who has helped catalyze such initiatives as the creation of the Miracle League of Connecticut (which enables children with physical and mental challenges to enjoy playing baseball), Jonathan’s Dream Re-Imagined (rebuilding one of America’s first inclusive, accessible play spaces) and The Underground (a safe and secure location for teenagers to congregate, communicate and grow together).
  • Cheryl and Jamie “Bear” McDonald are not only owners of one of the fastest growing restaurant businesses in the state, they personify dedication to both quality and the community. Starting with Bear’s Smokehouse in Windsor, South Windsor and Hartford, they have opened three other restaurants this year. And their community focus includes a commitment to hire ex-offenders, raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour for “non-tip” employees and significant support of many local charities.
  • Iran Nazario is a high school dropout and former gang member who overcame many hardships, including jail time, to become an inspirational nonprofit leader in Hartford. Today he is president of the Peace Center of Connecticut and was most recently with COMPASS Youth Collaborative Inc., positions that have allowed him to work with young people to prevent gangs, reduce violence and find peaceful paths forward.

The Polaris Awards gala, to be held on October 18 at The Bushnell, is Leadership Greater Hartford’s annual signature fundraising event that recognizes “guiding lights” in the local community. Each fall hundreds of diverse leaders from every sector in the Greater Hartford area come together to network, to celebrate and to be inspired by the unsung heroes who strengthen community leadership connections in our region, officials explain.

Founded in 1977, Leadership Greater Hartford (LGH) is “one of the largest, most diverse, and effective community leadership organizations in the country,” the LGH website points out. The organization’s mission is to “develop, connect, and inspire diverse leaders to build strong and vibrant communities.”  Event proceeds directly support Leadership Greater Hartford’s important work to strengthen the local community by training and connecting aspiring and established leaders.


Photo: (L to R) Ronit Shoham, Cheryl and Jamie “Bear” McDonald, Iran Nazario