AHLA Foundation raises more than $822K at gala

The American Hotel & Lodging Foundation (AHLA Foundation) raised more than a record $822,000 at its annual gala to fund programs aimed at grooming and growing a diverse industry workforce.

Each year, the Night of a Thousand Stars gala celebrates the hotel industry’s most important VIPs—the property-level talent that makes the industry so unique. Throughout the evening, industry leaders commemorated the 2022 Stars of the Industry Award winners and the diverse individuals that embody the spirit of hospitality, while raising critical funds to support foundation programs.

“As a mission-driven organization, we are motivated by the overwhelming support we have received tonight, especially as our industry still continues to recover from the pandemic,” said Rosanna Maietta, president/CEO, AHLA Foundation. “On behalf of the industry, we have launched an ambitious nationwide ad campaign to showcase career pathways and celebrate those that call the hospitality industry home, like the award winners here tonight as we seek to address the labor shortage crippling our recovery.”

As part of the celebration, David Kong (shown above), former president/CEO, BWH Hotel Group, became the first ever recipient of the Arne Sorenson Social Impact Leadership Award for his extraordinary efforts to advance positive societal change and make the lodging industry.

“Continuing Arne’s legacy, David has dedicated his life to hospitality,” said Chip Rogers, president/CEO, AHLA. “With more than 40 years in this industry, David exemplifies what this night is all about, achieving the American Dream and rising from a dishwasher to a global leader. We couldn’t think of a more perfect recipient as we seek to advance change in our industry.”

The vital funds raised help foundation beneficiaries such as Maria Anzola, current participant in the AHLA Foundation’s Lodging Manager Apprenticeship Program and operations manager, Homewood Suites, Katy, TX.

Several industry organizations were also central to the evening’s success, including two top sponsors, IHG Hotels & Resorts and Qwick.

“Our mission and the AHLA Foundation are similar—to empower more people to work in hospitality,” said Jamie Baxter, cofounder/CEO, Qwick. “That’s why Qwick is extremely proud to sponsor Night of a Thousand Stars, acknowledging the passionate individuals here tonight and supporting the AHLA Foundation’s programs to create a stronger industry workforce.”

“We are honored to support the AHLA Foundation as they spearhead efforts to make this great industry stronger and encourage more talented people to pursue a rewarding and long-lasting career in hospitality,” said Elie Maalouf, CEO, Americas, IHG Hotels & Resorts.

AHLA’s 2022 Stars of the Industry winners were honored for their service to the industry:

North Star Award winner
Cavelle (CeCe) Valcin, manager, guest services, Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach Resort, Clearwater Beach, FL

North Star Award finalists
Wislaine Lormil-Verger, housekeeper, Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area, Lake Buena Vista, FL
David Cox, security officer, Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, Los Angeles

Outstanding General Manager of the Year (Large Property)
Cate Farmer, general manager, Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, Hollywood, FL

Outstanding General Manager of the Year (Small Property)
Benjamin Gray, area general manager, Bethany Beach Ocean Suites Residence Inn by Marriott, Hotel Bethany Beach and The Bellmoor Inn and Spa Hotel, Bethany Beach, DE

Paving the Way Award
Liz Dahlager, EVP, Mereté Hotel Management, Springfield, OR

Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader Award
Laura Butler, current director of housekeeping, Hyatt Centric Faneuil Hall Boston and director of rooms, Canopy by Hilton Boston Downtown