Join us for the 17th Annual Leading the Way Awards Gala

A Night of Virtual

magic hat

Buy your ticket!

Buy your ticket!

Become a supporter!

Become a supporter!

Bid on cool items!

Bid on cool items!


For the past 16 years, we’ve gathered every fall to celebrate our shared commitment to Merakey’s mission. We’ve dressed up, headed to town, and spent the evening dining and dancing, sharing stories, and raising funds. This year’s gala will be different, but no less celebratory! While we wish we could be together in-person, we’re thrilled to be able to spend the evening with so many more of you—Merakey friends, staff, sponsors, donors, and people we serve in Pennsylvania, California, and every state in between. We’ve planned a special program complete with music, awards, celebrity guest appearances, and even a signature cocktail. So, grab your ticket, mark your calendar, and get ready for a magical evening with the entire Merakey family.

Event Details

Saturday, October 24, 2020
7 - 8:15PM EST
virtual event (admission link will be provided)

Join us to meet:

Joe Haden
– All-Pro CB for the Pittsburgh Steelers
Jrue Holiday
– Professional Basketball Player for the New Orleans Pelicans
Lauren Holiday
– Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion
Lauren Morelli
– Producer, screenwriter, and director known for Orange Is the New Black (2013), Hum (2017), and Tales of the City (2019)
Steven Soderbergh
– Academy Award Winning Director
Mike Quick
– Former NFL All-Pro WR for the Philadelphia Eagles
Samira Wiley
– Actress, Orange is the New Black and The Handmaid’s Tale

Meet our Honorees

The Leading the Way
Award Recipient

The Merakey Foundation thanks the Award Recipients for their leadership, dedication, generosity, and for distinguishing themselves as leaders in the community by giving unselfishly their time and resources, so that Merakey can continue to provide hope, opportunities, choices, and encouragement to children and adults with disabilities.

Ryan Hammond
About Ryan Hammond

Ryan Hammond is the Executive Director of the Eagles Autism Foundation. What began as the Eagles Autism Challenge in September of 2017 has evolved into so much more than a single day and signature fundraising event. This next step boldly showcases the continued commitment to autism and leverages the Eagles’ platform to change the lives of those affected by it.

This new foundation allows unity among all efforts and intensifies the impact throughout the year. In just under three years under Hammond’s leadership the Eagles Autism Foundation has raised over $9M with 100% supporting autism research and care, opened the Sensory Room presented by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with the certification of Lincoln Financial Field as sensory-inclusive and launched inclusion efforts around employment and fan engagement within the Philadelphia Eagles organization. Hammond strives to shift autism awareness to action and serve as a model for others.

Hammond has spent over a decade committed to improving the lives of those affected by autism and previously served as the Executive Director of the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support at Saint Joseph’s University. She established a management and organizational structure for the Center, while stewarding important fundraising relationships, building strong corporate and community partnerships, creating dynamic programs, and balancing community need with strategic growth and resources.

Under Hammond’s leadership, the Kinney Center – which trains autism professionals and supports individuals touched by autism – emerged as a strategic asset and top priority for the university. A native of Delaware County, Hammond received a Bachelor of Science degree from Neumann University and holds an Executive MBA from Saint Joseph’s University. She is married to Charles Hammond IV and has three daughters, Taylor, Payton and Charlie.

Hammond was recognized as a Women on the Move from Mainline Today, Distinguished Alumi Award from Neumann University, featured on Her Story, serves as a member of the Kinney Center Advisory Board and mas been featured in local and national media around the Eagles Autism Foundation. She previously held positions on the Commission of the Status of Women Board and Women’s Leadership Council at Saint Joseph’s University.


The Fran Egan Courage
Award Recipient

The Fran Egan Courage Award was created in memory of late Merakey Board member Fran Egan, who was tireless in her support of individuals with special needs and a great friend to Merakey. The Award recognizes individuals who have shown great grace and courage in the face of adversity and who have served as an inspiration to others.

Jon Dorenbos
About Jon Dorenbos

Jon got into magic just before his 13th birthday. He instantly fell in love with it. Magic became an escape during a time of mourning and transition in his life. He was obsessed with the sleights and skills involved. He spent all day, every day, practicing and rehearsing in front of the mirror. Jon's Aunt Susan, had a friend, Ken Sands, who was a magician and she made the introduction.

Ken became a mentor, a friend and a father figure for Jon for years to come. Ken didn't just teach Jon the fundamentals of a trick, he taught him how to find himself as a performer.

"I’ve been doing Magic since I was 13 years old. I dig it. I love magic. I was staying with friends in Woodinville, Washington and their neighbor was a magician. He was a 16 year old named Michael Groves. That was the first time I had ever seen a magician perform. Cards, coins, sponge balls and fire. What more do you need? Nothing. He inspired me to learn magic. Then I saw David Copperfield on TV and that inspired me to be a magician and a performer. People ask me all the time, ‘What is your favorite trick?’ In 1993, David Copperfield was touring with his show called Fires of Passion. He had a TV special and I watched it. I will never forget this. He brought a woman on stage and sat her on a stool. He explained that when he was a little kid he wore little shoes that he called Air Coppers. He takes his baby shoe and puts it in his back pocket. He borrows a ring and makes the ring disappear with such ease. His hands never left his side. He explained that when he was a little kid he would make his friends rings disappear and reappear tied in the laces of his shoes. Sure enough, he turns around and the ring is tied in the lace of his little shoe. By far, my favorite trick of all time. I owe a big THANK YOU to Mike Michaels for introducing me to David Copperfield and getting me a private tour of his warehouse, it was a dream come true. I love the art of pickpocketing. My favorite pickpocket is Apollo Robbins. If you've never seen him, Google him!”


Our Superheroes

An enormous thank you to our everyday heroes – to our frontline staff, who “mask-up” each shift and continue to provide the very best care; to our sponsors, whose steadfast support means the world during these uncertain times; and to the many “Merakey superheroes”, who continue to selflessly give their time, resources, and talents to help us weather this storm.
I am a Merakey Superhero
Thank you Sponsors

Meet the Organizers

Merakey Foundation Board Members
  • Michael J. Mitchell, Chairman
  • Joseph S. Martz
  • Hon. M. Joseph Rocks
  • Joseph E. Besecker
  • Malik Brown
  • Christopher Dunton
  • John G. Frisch
  • Liz Greco-Rocks
  • Christopher M. Harvey
  • Philip Hughes
  • Kevin B. Kelly
  • John Krol
  • Jerome Mauro
  • Shola Oguntunde
  • Ray Pennacchia
  • Dorothy Pollon
Merakey Gala Committee Members
  • Liz Greco-Rocks, Chairwoman
  • Drew Albert
  • Pamela Becker
  • Drew Bergman
  • Maria Colaberdino
  • Dorothy Gordon
  • Rosemary Guirate
  • Philip Hughes
  • Mason Katzman
  • Kevin Kelly
  • Jerry Mauro
  • Donna Pacifico
  • Ray Pennacchia
  • Corinne Pisauro
  • Dorothy Pollon
  • Karen Volpe
  • Nikole Zallie