ICYMI: 2022 Champions for Justice Donor Appreciation Event Recap and Photos
Colonel Will Gunn delivering the keynote speech.
Bay Area Legal Services Hosted Keynote Speaker Col. Will Gunn and Honored Mike Bedke, Karen Buesing, Hala Sandridge, and Judge Charles Williams
On November 30th, Bay Area Legal Services hosted its annual Champions for Justice Donor Appreciation Event at the Tampa Bay History Center. The event featured Keynote Speaker, Col. Will A. Gunn, the Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and former General Counsel for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The evening’s honorees included Hala A. Sandridge (2022 Judge Don Castor Justice Award recipient), Mike A. Bedke (2022 Gen. James B. Peake Award recipient), and Karen Buesing and Judge Charles Wilson (Special Service Award recipients).
Mike Bedke, recipient of the 2022 General James B. Peake Award.
Mike A. Bedke, a partner at DLA Piper, was presented with the General James B. Peake Award by longtime friend and past Florida Bar President, Gwynne A. Young (Carlton Fields). Mike has served on Bay Area Legal’s Board of Directors and played a key role in Bay Area Legal’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2017, which raised the necessary funds to launch Bay Area Legal’s Major General Ernest A. and Marilyn Bedke Veterans Law Center and its supporting endowment. As part of that program, Mike championed legislative funding to launch the Florida Veterans Legal Helpline, which has served veterans facing legal challenges across the state since 2019. He has also promoted critical services to veterans like Bay Area Legal’s Medical-Legal Partnerships, providing direct service to veterans onsite at local VA hospitals and resource centers in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties. These programs have since served as a model for similar initiatives nationwide. Mike also serves as a member on Bay Area Legal’s Veterans Major Gifts Committee to ensure the future advancement of these crucial initiatives.
About the General James B. Peake Award: In 2017, to honor Bay Area Legal Services’ 50th anniversary, many helped spearhead an initiative to create the Major General Ernest A. and Marilyn Bedke Veterans Law Center. General James B. Peake, former Secretary of the Veterans Administration and Surgeon General of the Army, was a part of the anniversary event to secure funds for veteran programs and has been connected with Bay Area Legal Services since then. Each year, Bay Area Legal Services presents the “Peake Award” with General Peake’s blessing to those who have gone above and beyond to help expand and improve the delivery of legal services to veterans. The award itself is a military challenge coin in a wooden box that has the individual’s name engraved on it. Past award recipients include Gwynne Young (2021); Col. DJ Reyes (2020); Ashley Moody, Ben Diamond, Danny Burgess, Spencer Roach, Christopher Sprowls, Bill Galvano, W. Travis Cummings, and Tom Lee (2019); and George Howell (2018).
Hala Sandrige (left), recipient of the 2022 Judge Don Castor Award, presented by board member Sarah Lahlou-Amine.
Hala A. Sandridge, a partner at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, was presented with the Judge Don Castor Justice Award by longtime friend and peer, Sarah Lahlou-Amine (Banker Lopez Gassler P.A.) Hala started her pro bono involvement with our Volunteer Lawyers Program in 1992. Since then, she has given nearly 200 hours of pro bono service. She has mentored attorneys, taken extended cases, and participated in our Domestic Violence Assistance Project clinic. More than 20 years ago, inspired by her volunteerism as a leader of the Courthouse Assistance Project (CAP), Hala fundraised for the founding of Bay Area Legal's Legal Information Center. She helped secure a substantial annual contribution from her firm, at the time Fowler White Boggs, in addition to a recurring commitment from TECO to launch the Center’s essential service. The Legal Information Center opened in October 2000 and has served more than 124,000 pro se litigants. Like fellow event honorees, Karen Buesing and Judge Charles Wilson, Hala too has served on the HCBA selection committee responsible for recommending Bay Area Legal board members for more than 20 years. She now serves as Chairperson of the committee.
About the Judge Don Castor Justice Award: Judge Don Castor paved the way for civil legal aid in the Tampa Bay community. He was a leader, a mentor, referred to as a man with razor-sharp intellect- warm, gracious and modest. Each year, Bay Area Legal Services honors one individual who also possesses these qualities as the recipient of the Judge Don Castor Justice Award—an individual who has dedicated their time and energy to ensure equal access to justice for all, and not just to those who can afford it, and has shown a commitment to Bay Area Legal Services and the provision of legal aid. Past award recipients include Hala A. Sandridge (2022), Luis “Tony” Cabassa (2021), Tom Elligett (2020), Craig Rothburd (2019), Ed Waller (2018), Hon. Catherine Peek McEwen (2016), Kathleen Koch (2015), Mike Bedke (2014), and Drew O’Malley (2013).
Karen Buesing and Judge Charles Wilson, recipients of the 2022 Special Service Award.
At Bay Area Legal Services’ annual Champions for Justice Donor Appreciation event on November 30th, Karen Buesing and Judge Charles Wilson were recognized for their contribution to legal aid by Bay Area Legal’s 2022 Board Chairperson, Andrew O’Malley (Carey, O'Malley, Whitaker, Mueller, Roberts & Smith P.A.) The special recognition was for their long-term service on HCBA's selection committee responsible for recommending Bay Area Legal board members. Throughout their years of service on the committee, Karen Buesing and Judge Wilson have recruited, interviewed, and made recommendations for appointees to the Board of Directors at Bay Area Legal Services. Karen retired from the selection committee earlier this year, after chairing for many years. In addition to her role on the selection committee, she has been involved with pro bono service through Bay Area Legal’s Volunteer Lawyers Program, providing more than 235 pro bono hours. Karen has also supported many of the fundraising initiatives sustaining Bay Area Legal’s programs, including support through the Pearl Society, the Veterans Endowment, and the ‘Justice Works!’ campaign. Judge Wilson’s reputation and position as a federal judge helped give stature to the application process for our board members. Although he retired from the selection committee a few years back, his impact remains through the esteem of the board.
Thank you to our generous event sponsors:
- Rywant, Alvarez, Jones, Russo & Guyton, P.A.
- DLA Piper
- Mutual of America
- Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
- Hill Ward Henderson
- Truist Wealth’s Legal Specialty Group
- Carey, O'Malley, Whitaker, Mueller, Roberts & Smith P.A.
- Burr & Forman LLP
- Delzer, Coulter & Bell, P.A.
- Fraser Himes, P.A.
- Thaler Law Firm
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