This September, it is our honor to highlight major donor, Lamar Braithwaite.
Lamar is a dedicated member of the Fall Brunch Committee where he serves as a co-chair. Outside of SMYAL, Lamar is a realtor in DC, Maryland, and Virginia with Coldwell-Banker.
What brought you to SMYAL?
I first went to the SMYAL Brunch with my husband-to-be Dale Curtis about five or six years ago. My entire career to that point had been working with youth for more than 16 years, and it really inspired me to see an organization that was working with LGBTQ youth and helping them thrive and flourish. Everyone in the organization was welcoming, and having fun was part of the package.
What about the organization inspired you to become a major donor and get involved on the Brunch Committee?
I really enjoy seeing the positive impact the dollars make, like the Youth Housing program, Little SMYALs, and their microgrants, which are going to sponsor 20 youth-inspired projects. That makes me want to raise more money so SMYAL can do even more good in the community.
Why is the Annual Brunch important for our community? What are some of your favorite memories and what are you looking forward to this year?
The SMYAL Brunch brings together hundreds of local supporters, advocates, and allies to talk about the needs of our local LGBTQ youth and all the programs that SMYAL offers to assist them. Most importantly, it gives us the opportunity to hear first-hand from program participants how our work changed their lives.
One of my favorite memories from the SMYAL Brunch was when Mary told us how she was so grateful to get a cell phone through SMYAL, and without that she wouldn’t have been able to keep in touch with supportive members of her family. I’ll never forget when Demontre sang, “I Believe the Children are the Future,” which has always been one of my favorite songs. It was so moving.
I’m excited about our first-ever virtual Brunch on October 11 and being able to engage not only our “faithful” but also many more people who maybe couldn’t attend in the past.
We know that you previously worked in youth organizations. Can you tell us about that and the impact it had on you and your involvement with SMYAL?
I worked for the YMCA organization for more than 16 years in several locations in Virginia and Maryland, everything from summer camp counselor to program director to associate executive director. That work taught me over and over that working with kids really shapes their future and our future. Giving young people new and exciting opportunities that they normally wouldn’t have inspires them to dream and go further.
When I left my career with the Y, I missed that connection with youth development, and I couldn’t think of any other organization that I wanted to help more than SMYAL.
How are you staying connected to community and causes during COVID-19? Have you picked up any new hobbies?
I’m glad that, while COVID has been disruptive, I can continue to volunteer with the SMYAL Brunch as a co-chair and stay connected with our committee and volunteers. And I continue to advocate with my friends and family via the phone, social media, and safe conversations in person.
As for new hobbies, I’ve been stretching my culinary skills, cooking more often, making more complex meals, trying new tastes and dishes. I’ve also done a few virtual 5ks, bought a new bike, and watched a LOT of binge TV.
We know that you’re a big sports fan, do you have any favorite moments?
Well, of course, one of my favorite moments ever was watching the Nats win the World Series last year. As a major donor, I was able to host a video call last spring with Nats pitcher Sean Doolittle and his wife Eireann, who have been such great supporters of SMYAL. I really miss going to Nats Park for games, but I know we will get COVID under control, and sports will be a reward.