.) JWLA members participate in 2020 Leadership Camp at Lighthouse Beach.

ShaRita Alexander welcomed guests to the Justin Wynn Fund Red Tie Soirée Remix, broadcast live from Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center from 6 to 7 p.m. on Feb. 21. Justin Wynn Fund (JWF) board President Dave Bowen joined event chair and JWF board member Ms. Alexander for the live portion of the program.

Chair ShaRita Alexander welcomes guests to the JWF Red Tie Soirée Remix. Screenshot by Heidi Randhava

It was an evening filled with highlights.

Hecky Powell was honored posthumously with the JWF 2021 Buddy Portugal Award, presented by JWF board members Laura Wynn-King and Riian Wynn. The award was accepted by Mr. Powell’s wife, Cheryl Judice.

There were inspiring messages from current and alumni “Wynners,” including 1995 Wynner Peter Bloom, 2006 Wynner Marlon Primous and 2014 Wynner Ashley Ruder.

 “As I reflect … I’ve come to a pretty succinct idea of what this organization has always meant to me. And that’s an ever-growing source of role models who help guide me by operating according to the values that made Justin such an exceptional young man,” said Mr. Primous, a 2018 graduate of Vanderbilt University and a member of the Wynn family.

Speaker Marlon Primous, a 2006 Justin Wynn Award recipient. Screenshot by Heidi Randhava

The Justin Wynn Award is presented annually to two fourth- graders from each of District 65’s 12 elementary schools. Award recipients are invited to participate in the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy (JWLA) until their graduation from high school.

 A Wynner-produced video featured the JWLA 5th – 12th graders safely volunteering at Family Focus, the Producemobile, Edible Evanston Food Forest; organizing a Food Drive, Holiday Gift and Coat Collection, Lighthouse Beach Clean-up, Chandler Park Clean-up; making Valentines for hospitalized children, crafting cards for Dobson Plaza Nursing Home residents and completing ‘Reclaim Our Vote’ postcards with uplifting voting- rights messaging.

“I’m looking forward to meeting new Wynners, because we’re still going to be able to meet new people, no matter what year it is, or what’s going on, and it’s always fun to meet new people that we wouldn’t have met before,” said a 2020 Justin Wynn Award recipient who appeared in the video.

“This is what we’re all about … bringing students together from all different schools right here in Evanston, and forming a new bond once they get to meet new Wynners across the district,” said Ms. Alexander, who worked with JWF Executive Director Sue Thompson and Program Director Carrie Ost to plan JWF’s first virtual program.

 A surprise celebrity guest was ESPN host and ETHS alumna Cassidy Hubbarth.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is growing up in Evanston. …The Justin Wynn Award is such an example of the celebration of excellence, family and community that is so embedded in our hometown,” said Ms. Hubbarth.

The fundraising goal for the event was $35,000. In an update at the close of the hour-long event, Mr. Bowen announced that $28,565 had been raised.

The mission of the Justin Wynn Fund is to celebrate and nurture youth leaders by helping them develop a deep sense of self and responsibility for improving their communities. Its vision is to create leaders who improve their communities and inspire those around them to do the same.

Heidi Randhava

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.