Women Veterans hold hands and sing on Stage at the PVA Igniting Change Gala. They are dressed in formal attire and smiling with their arms raised.

PVA Celebrates Women Veterans & Changemakers at Igniting Change Gala

Post Date: April 16, 2024
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Paralyzed Veterans of America Celebrates Women Veterans, Accessibility Changemakers at Igniting Change Gala


WASHINGTON, DC (April 15, 2024) Paralyzed Veterans of America concluded its Igniting Change Gala on Friday evening at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The flagship event celebrated Women veterans, influencers, and innovators who strive to create an inclusive world in the areas of accessibility, employment, and medical care.


The black-tie affair featured entertainment by award-winning country music artist Martina McBride and brought together industry, government, and public sector guests to honor those leading the fight for disability civil rights. Sports broadcasting icon Hannah Storm served as event emcee, with former NASA Astronaut Wendy Lawrence as keynote speaker. Adding to the excitement of the evening was country music artist/U.S. Army Veteran Jenny Grace, who performed at a pre-Gala reception.


Countless other special guest speakers were also onsite, including sports industry pioneer, actress, and author Bonnie-Jill Laflin; Executive Vice President of Penske Walt Czarnecki; and Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration Dilawar Syed.


“Despite being the fastest-growing U.S. Veteran population, women Veterans often grapple with feeling forgotten and overlooked when seeking support for their unmet needs,” said Robert Thomas, PVA National President. “PVA not only recognizes this disparity but is committed to empowering and helping women Veterans navigate their unique challenges and flourish in their everyday lives. PVA’s Igniting Change Gala was created to do just that.”

The evening’s honorees included Senator Elizabeth Dole, who was presented with the prestigious 2024 Gordon H. Mansfield Congressional Leadership Award. Senator Dole was selected for her extensive history of advocacy and support for the healthcare of Veterans and their caregivers. Her dedication to the well-being of the nation’s heroes and their families has left an indelible mark on the community, embodying the spirit of the Mansfield Award.


The Target Corporation received PVA’s 2024 Inclusivity Award. The award was bestowed to Target for their commitment to creating a welcoming culture for all guests and its commitment to inclusivity. The retailer supports diverse populations in a number of ways, including business councils for employees and product offerings for Veterans and other people with disabilities.


“Target is committed to building a sense of belonging for all our team members and guests — including our Veterans, women and people with disabilities,” said Justin Burns, Senior Vice President of Assets Protection and Executive Sponsor of the Military Business Council for the Target Corporation. “Collectively, we’re inspired by incredible organizations like PVA, which share so many fundamental values with Target. We are grateful to have you beside us as we work to make sure belonging is felt by all.”

Similarly, PVA presented its 2024 Innovation Award to L’Oréal USA – the largest subsidiary of the L’Oréal Groupe. A leader, not only in beauty, L’Oréal’s engineers have kick-started a revolution in technology aimed at helping many with limited fine motor skills get back their independence. Further driving greater inclusion in the beauty industry, L’Oréal USA actively supports the veteran community through various community initiatives led by VALOR, its employee-led resource group dedicated to veterans.


“The positive impact to the disability and Veteran community by all of the PVA strategies is far and wide, and we are very humbled to be a part of this memorable night and a member of the PVA honorees for 2024,” said Nicholas K. ladevaio, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at L’Oréal USA. “This award is a result of the work of so many amazing people in L’Oréal – we do the work together. And this night is about all of us together, to honor our amazing women veterans, who continue to serve, continue to make us proud and continue to humble us with your dedication and commitment to the veteran and disability community.:


The night’s fourth and final award, the 2024 PVA Veterans Career Program Award, was bestowed upon Windstream. A communications and software company, Windstream exemplifies the spirit of workplace equity, which has been at the heart of PVA’s mission since it launched its Veterans Career Program in 2007. An invaluable PVA partner, Windstream actively promotes a work environment where Veterans thrive and contribute their unique skills and experiences. From placing PVA clients in positions throughout their company to integrating disabled Veterans into their Human Resources and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts, Windstream has created a welcoming environment for all veterans.


“Windstream’s commitment to hiring and retaining Veterans is not only a market of respect and gratitude for their service, but also a recognition that they bring unparalleled skills and values to the workforce,” said Mary Michaels, Chief Human Resources Officer for Windstream. “This award is a reminder of the importance of creating a workplace that values diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility and I hope it will serve as a catalyst for us all to continue working together towards a future where every individual, regardless of their abilities, can achieve their full potential.”

The Igniting Change Gala was made possible by generous sponsors and supporters, including The Jeffrey Carlton Charitable Foundation, Penske Automotive Group, Penske Truck Leasing, and TriWest Healthcare Alliance. Photos from the evening are available upon request. For more information, please contact Oname Thompson at OThompson@PVA.org.



About Paralyzed Veterans of America
Paralyzed Veterans of America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or diseases. The organization ensures veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitors their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funds research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis. As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, PVA also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families, and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at PVA.org.