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Thank You to Everyone Who Made Hudson Link's Annual Spring Benefit Dinner Possible! 

Last Thursday night marked the long-awaited 2019 Spring Benefit Dinner at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan. We spent the evening celebrating our students,  supporters, and the incredible work put forth this year. Months of planning,  coordinating, and dedication culminated in a beautiful evening full of heartwarming stories, music, and stunning generosity. 
Kaylea Scott smiling mid-presentation

In recognition of this year's theme - the ripple effect Hudson Link has on students' families and communities -  the night opened up with a stirring speech by Kaylea Scott, stepdaughter of a currently incarcerated Hudson Link alumnus.

Kaylea addressed the crowd, speaking  from her heart and recalling the ways her stepfather had encouraged her to pursue and eventually complete her own college education

"When I first started attending Pace University, I did not like it at all," she shared with the crowd. "But my  father's love for learning became contagious. If he was in prison getting his degree, what was stopping me?.... So I stayed there for all four years. And I am proud to say that next week I will be graduating with my Bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing." The crowd congratulated Kaylea on this amazing accomplishment with a warm round of applause.

Hudson Link presented the 2019  Brian S. Fischer Award for Outstanding Achievement to an incredibly deserving woman:  Topeka K. Sam

Topeka K. Sam receiving the Brian S. Fischer Award from Brian Fischer
In her acceptance speech, Topeka said, 
"W e need to support an organization like this because there are no educational programs in a lot of prisons around this country, especially women's prisons. When I was in, we were given knitting and crochet as a way of transforming ourselves. But if this is a model that can be replicated across the country, it needs additional support.  When I look around this room and I see so many people who are actually committed to the transformative power of education and who are investing in incarcerated people, it is incredible to me...You are giving people hope, second chances, and a new life.

The night was also marked by speeches from Executive Director Sean Pica, Board President Christian French, former DOCCS  Commissioner  and  current Hudson Link board member Brian Fischer, and Hudson Link Alumnus Billy Seals. We also have to send our most heartfelt thanks to our returning Master of Ceremonies, Dominic Carter. 

Supporters who attended our Spring Benefit Dinner in 2017 may remember the painting, created live during cocktail hour by artist Fausto Ramos, whose passage from one released student to another became a Hudson Link gala tradition. Last year's painting recipient Lawrence gave a touching update on his progress during his first year of freedom, including the incredible accomplishment of becoming the director of News Inside at the Marshall Project. 

Peter (left) holding the travelling painting along with previous host Lawrence (center) and artist Fausto (right)
"While I was on the inside," Lawrence shared during his update, "it was a constant thought in my mind that I wanted every day to go by as fast as possible. But now that I'm on the outside, I want every day to slow down. It's because of my loving friends and family that I take these free breaths every day."

Lawrence then presented the traveling painting to one of our newest alumni, Peter. We are already looking forward to hearing about Peter's progress at next year's event. 

Sean Pica with Madeleine Sackler, winner of the Bill Webber Award for Community Service
Finally, Hudson Link was honored to present the Bill Webber Award for Community Service to Madeleine Sackler. Madeleine is an Emmy-winning director with two groundbreaking films, "It's a Hard Truth, Ain't It" and "O.G.",  focused on the realities and injustices within the prison system.

Accepting the award Madeleine said,  "W orking on these two films has been the privilege of my life, and the work that Hudson Link does represents so many of the things that I've come to know and see and believe mean the most to our society, as well as the things that seem to be most lacking. So this means a lot to me, because I have the utmost respect for you, and for the work that you do."

During the gala, Sean announced that Hudson Link will be hosting a private screening of Madeleine's film, "O.G." for our students at Sing Sing later this month. Thank you Madeleine for your continued dedication to justice, and for using your position in film production to elevate the voices of those incarcerated. 

The staff and board at Hudson Link would like to extend our deepest gratitude to everyone who made this night possible. Whether you donated money, time, auction items, or worked during the event, we could not have done it without you. Thank you for enabling us to do the work we love for over two decades. Be sure to check out all the stunning photos from the evening on our Flickr page. See you next year!
P.O. Box 862 | Ossining, NY 10562 | (914) 941-0794 |