ICYMI: 2023 Champions for Justice Donor Appreciation Event Recap and Photos

2023 Champions for Justice Donor Appreciation Event

The 2023 Champions for Justice Donor Appreciation Event was held at Le Méridien Tampa.

Bay Area Legal Services Honored Harley E. Riedel II, Esq., Representative Traci L. Koster, Dick Woltmann, and The Late David T. Knight.

Reflecting on a night of gratitude and celebration at our annual Champions for Justice Donor Appreciation Event! On November 29th, we came together to celebrate the incredible contributions that fueled our mission in 2023.

The evening’s honorees included State Representative Traci L. Koster (2023 Gen. James B. Peake Award recipient), Harley E. Riedel II, Esq. (2023 Judge Don Castor Award recipient), and Richard 'Dick' Woltmann.

Rep. Traci Koster and Michael A. Bedke.

Rep. Traci L. Koster (left), and board member Michael A. Bedke (right).

State Representative Traci L. Koster was presented with the General James B. Peake Award by last year's award recipient, Michael A. Bedke (DLA Piper). Rep. Traci Koster has championed the legislative funding for Bay Area Legal's Florida Veterans Legal Helpline, which has served veterans facing legal challenges across the state since 2019. In addition, she has led the call for increased funding to better serve this critical need in Florida, which has the third-largest veteran population in the nation.

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 Mike A. Bedke (2022), 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).

Harley E. Riedel II, Esq., recipient of the Judge Don Castor Award.

Harley E. Riedel II, Esq., recipient of the 2023 Judge Don Castor Award.

Harley E. Riedel II, Esq., a partner at Stichter Riedel Blain & Postler, P.A., was presented with the Judge Don Castor Justice Award by board member and longtime friend, Andrew M. O'Malley (Carey, O'Malley, Whitaker, Mueller, Roberts & Smith P.A.) Harley Riedel was instrumental in founding Bay Area Legal's Don M. Stichter Endowment in memory of his late partner at Stichter Riedel Blain & Postler, P.A. The endowment supports the preservation of homeownership and independence for low-income seniors. Harley's contributions have significantly strengthened the important work being done by our Senior Advocacy Unit.

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).

Tori Simmons and Dick Woltmann

Board member Tori Simmons (left) and Bay Area legal Services President/CEO Dick Woltmann (right).

Celebrating a Milestone: Guests applauded the remarkable 47-year tenure of Bay Area Legal's President/CEO Dick Woltmann, who announced his retirement earlier this year. Dick was presented with an award in recognition of his decades of service and leadership by board member Tori C. Simmons.

Dick Woltmann joined Bay Area Legal Services in 1976 as a staff attorney with the goal of establishing an Elder Law Unit (now known as the Senior Advocacy Unit). In 1980, recognizing unrealized opportunities to improve and increase client services, Dick applied for the then-open position of CEO and was selected for the role. Over four decades later, Dick’s commitment to the organization has changed its landscape. Under his leadership, Bay Area Legal Services has been transformed from a small, low-budget firm to one of the largest law firms in the Tampa Bay region with a statewide reach and a wide base of supporters, both local and national. As of 2023, the organization has eight branch offices and numerous programs with a specific focus on certain populations, all aimed at helping the most vulnerable. Dick’s four-decade-long tenure as CEO has fostered a welcoming, mission-focused workplace environment with a single goal: to provide high-quality legal services to our low-income clientele facing ever-changing challenges and needs.

Announcing: The Richard C. Woltmann Endowment Fund

Bay Area Legal Services is proud to announce the opening of The Richard C. Woltmann Endowment Fund. This opportunity was made possible thanks to the incredible generosity of a longtime Bay Area Legal supporter and past board member who wishes to remain anonymous. Click here to learn more about this initiative.

In Loving Memory of David T. Knight

This year's event was held in honor of David Knight, a dedicated litigator and a champion for good within the legal community. He was an essential leader in the cause for access to justice throughout his impressive career of nearly 50 years as a commercial litigation attorney.

The Late David T. Knight

The Late David T. Knight

David served for several years on the Board of Directors and the Development Council at Bay Area Legal Services, and served as Board Chairperson in 2014. David was instrumental in the fundraising effort for Bay Area Legal’s 50th Anniversary Gala, which ultimately launched our Major General Ernest A. and Marilyn Bedke Veterans Law Center and Veterans Endowment. He was one of the visionaries to organize and implement the Sustaining Law Firm drive, the largest annual fundraising effort for Bay Area Legal, and has played a key role on Bay Area Legal’s Major Gifts Committee. Always willing to share his expertise, David was regularly involved in our Volunteer Lawyers Program. For more than a decade, he not only accepted cases to handle pro bono but also recruited his colleagues in the legal profession to assist.

Click here to learn more about David's legacy.