• Washington, D.C.

2018 ONE Gala an Evening of Belonging: New Orleans and Omaha Win Big

There's no better way to kick off the vibrancy of the upcoming holiday season than by attending one of the most anticipated events of the year, the ONE Gala. For the eighth year, ONE, Marriott International's LGBTQ and ally associate network, threw their annual event on November 9, 2018, at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel. The event draws over 200 members and guests each year to an intimate dinner celebration of the group's accomplishments, accompanied by a keynote speaker and announcements of the two ONE Award winners.

Out & Equal CEO Erin Uritus

Attendees of the $95-a-plate Gala were treated to a passionate keynote speech by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates' CEO, Erin Uritus, who hails from the greater DC area. After successfully leading her first annual summit in Seattle, WA last month, where she addressed 6,000 attendees, a more intimate room was a welcomed shift for her message. "With 200 people in the room, this feels more like a big hug," Uritus started out. With soft tone, Ms. Uritus laid out the importance of the work the group does, saying groups like ONE "are the secret ingredient in inclusion."

"We are so fortunate to have someone like Erin join us for this event and share an amazing message," said Brad Benton, ONE Chairperson. "She was so gracious and a true testament to the partnership between Out & Equal and Marriott in our work for diversity and inclusion."

Following the address, attendees were delighted to a three-course dinner, featuring the culinary talents of Chef Todd Chapin and team from the host Renaissance hotel. Wonderful aromas filled the air with either a chicken or salmon dish, or even a vegan + gluten-free offering of a "crazy cake" made from heart of palm. Following was a dessert trio of pumpkin. The entire meal keyed in on sites and smells of the fall season.

The evening continued with a special announcement by Thomas McCarthy, ONE Vice-Chairperson. The group introduced plans for a new award to be given at next year's Gala that pays tribute to member, Sharon Hormby, who was tragically killed in 2017. "Sharon was a valued member of her community, an amazing colleague, and truly embodied ONE's mission," McCarthy expressed, "she always raised her hand to volunteer, whether is was for ONE or for some other element in her life." ONE plans to work with Hormby's family in creating the criteria for the new Sharon Hormby Volunteer Award, and the family hopes to be present at next year's Gala to help award it to the first winner.

Member of the Year, Michael Oberender (left)

McCarthy continued the announcements with the awarding of the 2018 Member of the Year award. This year's winner is Michael Oberender of the New Orleans chapter, winning out over seven other nominees. Oberender is a veteran of the group, having been one of the leaders in the first Atlanta chapter. Upon his move to New Orleans, he teamed up with a fellow colleague to build out plans for a new chapter in their market. Months later, the chapter has held several successful events, with over 50 members and counting. "It's one of the fastest chapters to get stood up," McCarthy later revealed, "they were up and running so quickly under Michael's leadership and have had such a great local impact."

Omaha's Julie Sharp and Rodney Bennett accept Chapter of the Year

Christian Mullins, ONE Director of Fundraising, was then called to the stage to announce the winner of the Chapter of the Year award. Mullins then invited Kevin Walsh, chapter leader of the 2017 Chapter of the Year winner Miami chapter, to the stage to join in the announcement. Out of the four chapters that were nominated for Chapter of the Year, it was the Omaha chapter that walked away with this year's top honor. Chapter leaders, Rodney Bennett and Julie Sharp, accepted the award on behalf of Omaha chapter members. "This is a great success story for Omaha," says Mullins, "Rodney came to last year's Gala as a brand new member and was so inspired to return home and start his own chapter. Within a few months the Omaha chapter had members, plans, and a whole bunch of energy for growth. They've never looked back."

Mullins wasn't done there. The ONE Gala is the group's main source of raising funds for the chapters to help support building awareness of Marriott's dedication to the LGBTQ community and its diversity and inclusion efforts. He led the effort in hotel packages and merchandise prizes up for grabs with their global raffle and silent auction. Raffle tickets were on sale before the event for anyone to purchase their chance at 1 of 12 hotel prizes, including the new Moxy New York, Times Square.

host hotel Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel

Members could also take their chance (and often get in a bidding war) with the silent auction that opened two days before the event. Over 140 hotel packages were available for bids at locations around the world, including several options in Australia. "This by far was our most successful year," exclaimed Mullins, "we had so many members and hotels step up and provide hotel offers for our event. It was overwhelming and so neat to see." He later announced that well over $20,000 had been raised from the event that will go back out to help the chapters.

ONE has yet to announce the date and place for next year's ONE Gala, but the bar has definitely been set even higher. If you would like to help support or sponsor the ONE Gala, please send a message to onemarriott@marriott.com



The ONE Gala is the annual fundraising event held by ONE, the official LGBTQ and ally associate network of Marriott International. The Gala originally started as an annual meeting to celebrate the group’s founding in 2010, but over the years, it has culminated into a premier fundraising event to support the group's mission. Attendees either purchase individual tickets or sponsor a table to the event, and are then treated to a 3-course dinner in a premiere Washington, DC hotel location. Attendees can also purchase raffle tickets and bid on auction opportunities for fabulous hotel package getaways around the world.

Twenty percent of the attendees come from outside the greater Washington DC metro area, and almost 50% of the attendees are invited guests, clients, and partners.

The program provides a year in review, and look forward at future goals and activities and key LGBTQ insights/education from keynote speakers. Past speakers include:

  • Former HRC president, Joe Solmonese (2011)

  • Former PFLAG Executive Director, Jody Huckaby (2012)

  • Maryland State Representative, Heather Mizeur (2013)

  • MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart (2014)

  • Former Deputy Asst Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy, Amanda Simpson (2015)

  • Marriott President & CEO, Arne Sorenson (2016)

  • NCLR Executive Director, Kate Kendell (2016)

  • Maryland state senator, Rich Madaleno (2017)

  • CEO Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, Erin Uritus (2018)

Additionally, ONE Award winners are announced at the Gala for Chapter of the Year and Member of the Year.


ONE is the official lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and straight ally associate network of Marriott International, Inc. comprising Marriott associates and franchise employees. Since its inception in November 2010 by 15 founding members, the group has cultivated a focus to serve as a voice for LGBTQ associates and their allies, as well as to create a supportive network for a community that had no formal representation before within the company.

With over 2,500 volunteer members in 25+ chapters around the world, ONE continues to move forward in seeking new ways to:

  • Develop community among members

  • Increase the diversity mindset to include LGBTQ issues, and

  • Assist in unleashing revenue opportunities with concentrated marketing and sales efforts within the LGBTQ community

ONE embodies Marriott’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion within its own membership. Over 54 percent of ONE’s membership is made up of straight allies. Sixty percent are women and close to 10% of members live outside of the United States.

Associate Networks within Marriott International are ongoing, associate-initiated teams that form around a broad range of common interests. These networks provide the opportunity to informally connect with other associates in order to grow both personally and professionally. These teams are self-directed and funded by their members.

For more information on ONE, please go to our website at www.onemarriott.com and engage with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram at @onemarriott. Statements or articles posted by ONE are not official positions or opinions of Marriott International.


Brad Benton

ONE - Chairperson

E: brad.benton@marriott.com

T: +1 301-380-9588

116 views0 comments