Cision PR Newswire


NEW YORK, Sept. 19, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- On Tuesday, September 12th, UNITAS, a nonprofit dedicated to combating human trafficking through education, training, intervention and providing resources for survivors, hosted their annual Illuminate Fundraising Gala at the iconic Edison Ballroom in NYC to power their vital work in New York and beyond. Supporters of the cause raised over $370,000 through the live and silent auctions and donation drive. Auction items included unique experiences such as courtside seats at the Miami Open Tennis finals, exclusive F1 Miami Grand Prix race day tickets, and Azul Villa Esmeralda, a 6-bedroom villa in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

"The UNITAS Illuminate Gala brings together a vast network of supporters, educators, law enforcement agencies, humanitarians, founders, and partners for a night of unity and solidarity against human trafficking," said Tonya Turner, President and CEO of UNITAS. "We greatly appreciate the overwhelming support and are grateful for such an impactful evening. The funds raised during this event will empower the expansion of the Anthem Award-winning LIGHTS curriculum and provide critical survivor resources. The evening showcased the profound impact we can make when we unite against darkness. We eagerly anticipate the growth and expansion of our UNITAS network in the upcoming year."

The event was nothing short of extraordinary. From a captivating blue carpet opening to VIP media experiences and non-stop entertainment, the night was filled with excitement with custom produced performances with special mashups by Candice Glover, the distinguished R&B singer and Broadway sensation who also won American Idol season 12; Matt Giraud and Haley Reinhart, standout American Idol finalists; and the Sing Harlem choir, celebrated for their showcases on platforms ranging from America's Got Talent to The Kelly Clarkson Show and collaborations with industry giants such as Andy Grammar, Ariana Grande and Madonna; and the talented Impulse Band, a renowned 12 piece band that has traveled the world and performed with chart-topping artists including Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Prince, Boys II Men, Seal, Christina Aguilera, and more.

Beyond the music, guests were inspired by the powerful words of award-winning speaker Lila Lazurus and mesmerized by the enchanting aerial, ballerinas, and butterfly dancers, symbolic of freedom and transformation. The evening came to a brilliant close with an animated after-party featuring "Casino For A Cause," where every chip played contributed to the UNITAS mission.

Esteemed guests such as Wendy & Edward Osefo, Jeff O'Donnell, Taylor Phillips, Zaina Gohou, Donny Deutsch, and more attended, making the night even more spectacular. UNITAS recognized the incredible contributions of Eric Gonzalez and David Weiss, Mandy Ansari and Alliance Connection with Luminary Awards. Eric Gonzalez, Brooklyn District Attorney, and David Weiss, Chief of the Human Trafficking Unit at the Kings County District Attorney's Office were honored for their work in expanding services for victims and bringing traffickers to justice. Mandy Ansari received a social responsibility award for her dedication to mental health and humanitarian efforts. Alliance Connection, as a long time supporter of UNITAS, was honored for contributing complete event services, producing and directing the Illuminate Gala, and donating strategic marketing and public relations services.

In addition to supporting survivors, UNITAS' primary goal is to prepare and educate youth about what exploitation looks like to empower them with the knowledge to recognize and prevent harmful situations.

Through LIGHTS, UNITAS' award-winning, narrative-based prevention curriculum, the nonprofit aims to reach over two million people annually by 2027 in collaboration with the New York Department of Education. The annual Illuminate Gala is vital to the success of UNITAS and provides the organization with the means to reach and protect the most vulnerable within our communities.

To learn more about UNITAS and how you can make an impact in the fight against human trafficking, visit:

View event photos here.

Since 2015, UNITAS has reached over 153,000 children with prevention education and trained over 204,000 parents and professionals in the U.S. and southeast Europe. Their Anthem Award-winning prevention curriculum is now being rolled out in partnership with school districts, including the nation's largest (NYC), where it is on pace to empower over a million students annually by 2025. UNITAS is committed to preventing human trafficking through education and training and providing opportunities for survivors to thrive.

Media Contact:
McKenzie Pickett, Alliance Connection

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