Author Romola Hodas is Today’s Honoree

Romola Hodas didn’t have to imagine it; because she lived it. Not only does Romola have a story to share with the world, but various essential expertise that are for multiple audiences produced as a bi-product of her very modern, and timely success story of turning her life’s tragedies into prevailing successes. With assorted parts of her story being chronicled in her book The Princess of 42nd Street: Surviving My Childhood as the Daughter of Times Square’s King of Porn,” Romola survived and thrived after a violent, chaotic, and unpredictable childhood. By the time she was 18 years old, she survived two kidnapping attempts, being sent to reform school, summering in the Catskills with members of the Colombo crime family, surviving verbal and physical abuse, and much more.

Miraculously, against all odds, Romola not only survived a childhood few people could fathom, but she thrived, becoming a successful businesswoman who now devotes her life to helping others. Additionally, as  a result of the many lessons she’s learned, and who she has become because of it all (for the better), Romola’s main goal is to help people that have gone through all forms of abuse and tragedy. Furthermore, she aims to teach people how to live their lives and overcome those two obstacles; not letting the pain experienced as a result of cruelty define the rest of their lives and who they can be.

Romola now lives life with what she calls a mission that is simple: “Escape mediocrity, claim greatness in spite of my difficulties, and turn my obstacles into gifts!” As a diversified entrepreneur and businesswoman, Romola has significant experience in public relations, marketing, advertising, human resources, community affairs, as well as a multiplicity of other areas. Becoming one of the natural food industry’s first women to own her own business as a broker, she has also developed and led corporate training programs and health awareness seminars for corporate staffs and other organizations.

Currently, Romola divides her time between Long Island, New York, and Boynton Beach, Florida, where she is building her newest business, Creating Harmony with Alcohol.” Under her new business, she will be helping those who are problem drinkers create a healthy and responsible relationship with alcohol, as well as instituting healing for her clients. Along with her consulting work, Romola does public speaking. She inspires people to see they too can overcome their obstacles through her story and her 6 mindset principles. These mindsets helped her learn to moderate her drinking and also help others to live the best lives they can!

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Producer, Screenwriter, Director and Author Gregory Marquette is Today’s Honoree

GREGORY MARQUETTE, a Canadian citizen working in Los Angeles, is a graduate of the renowned British Columbia Institute of Technology. He currently works and lives in Los Angeles producing, directing and/or writing for television and motion pictures.

He has been a Producer, Director, and Writer since his time at national television networks in Canada. His directing and writing career began in journalism and soon moved into series drama and variety television.  Marquette served as a Television Producer/Director and/or Writer for CTV (Canadian Television Network), CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Network) and Global Television in network news and television. He produced, directed and/or wrote over 130 hours of network television.

Upon leaving the television networks he formed the prolific production house, Polaris Entertainment Corporation, moving full-time into television production, television commercials, and motion pictures for eight years, where he served as President and Producer/Director. The company represented fourteen Directors plus eleven Directors of Photography exclusively. And the company earned a sizable international reputation in television commercials, music videos, and film production.

Upon moving to Los Angeles, he commenced as a Director and Screenwriter in motion pictures and television. He wrote and directed the award-winning film about Vietnam featuring Oliver Stone and Ed Harris entitled “LEGACY OF WAR” for the American Veterans’ Foundation. He directed for Disney, a George Lucas and Lucasfilm co-production entitled: “INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF THE FORBIDDEN EYE”.

With 26,947 entrants Marquette won “BEST DIRECTOR” award at the annual CLIO AWARDS; which recognizes innovation and creative excellence as judged by an international panel of advertising professionals. He was Director and Screenwriter for the theatrically released motion picture, “INNOCENTS”, starring Connie Nielsen, Frank Langella, Mia Kirshner, and Anne Archer, which was released by First Look Pictures, Cinerenta, and UFG.

He developed a reputation as a Director and Writer for hire and was commissioned to write a science fiction TV series (90-minute pilot episode + 5 episodes) of “ICE PLANET” for Space Works Films, CTV Television (Canada), and producer Philip Jackson (“STARHUNTER”). He wrote & produced the television special called “AN EVENING OF GRACE” starring David Foster, Patti LaBelle, Jane Seymour, Charice, Brian McKnight which was broadcast on BET (for VIACOM). And he was Director and Writer of eight episodes of the television series, “FRAUD SQUAD”, for FSTV Productions and Global Television.

He shot “MONARCH OF THE MOON” for DARK HORSE ENTERTAINMENT, (renowned for “300”, “PREDATOR”, “SIN CITY”, and “HELLBOY”). He was Screenwriter for Russian film Director, Alexei Uchitel at Rock Films in Moscow and St. Petersburg, (large-scale war movie) “HOUSE OF CHURCHILL”, currently in development. Marquette traveled to Russia to research, develop, and write the original screenplay for this international co-production.

Later he was hired in Tokyo, where he was Screenwriter of the international theatrical motion picture release of “OBA: THE LAST SAMURAI” (World War II drama of the invasion of Saipan) which was distributed theatrically by Nippon TV and Toho Distribution worldwide and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

He shot the Second Unit Action sequences and Directed the Aerial sequences for “THE DEATH AND LIFE OF BOBBY Z” starring Paul Walker, Larry Fishburne, Olivia Wilde for Millennium Pictures, Eclectic Pictures, Equity Pictures Medienfonds, GmbH.

He was Consulting Producer of “THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY LEFAY” starring Tim Allen, Andie McDowell, Elisha Cuthbert, and Jenna Elfman. He wrote the crime biopic “LICENSE TO STEAL”, based on the book and the true story plus the theatrical motion picture script “EL ZOMBO”, based on the cult graphic novel comic series created by author Kevin Monroe for DARK HORSE COMICS.

He was commissioned to write the three-part mini-series for Blip Productions about the American Civil War entitled “SHACKLED” which is currently being packaged by its producers. Marquette is Director and Screenwriter of the highly regarded, award-winning theatrical motion picture documentary release, “GENIUS ON HOLD”, featuring Frank Langella and currently streaming on Amazon Prime, worldwide.

Marquette wrote 4 television series pilots for production companies including: “SEDONA FALLS” (a new television series drama being produced by Amazon) – “BY ONE VOTE” (television political drama) – and “KEMPNER FILE” (television series action/thriller). “SEDONA FALLS” (TV series) which he co-created and wrote is being packaged, currently.

In China, Marquette wrote the award-winning motion picture, “BALLAD FROM TIBET”, which was released theatrically in fall of 2018. He wrote the screenplay, “THE UNKNOWNS”, and he is currently writing the mini-series drama, “SEPARATE BUT EQUAL” for Emmy-winning Producer, Peter Shakour.

He is booked as Director and Screenwriter of the action thriller “GIRLFRIENDS” scheduled for production in early in 2020. Packaging commences this fall for the television mini-series “STEALING LINCOLN” for The History Channel. He is also signed to produce and write the Korean War epic motion picture entitled “VICTORY” committed for production in 2021.

Marquette’s book, “THE BOMB HEARD AROUND THE WORLD” has just been published, to be followed by the motion picture theatrical documentary of the same name, being produced by Top Cat II Production Films later this year.

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Suicide Survivor and Author Sonja Wasden is Today’s Honoree

Suicide will continue to kill people as long as it continues to kill conversations. That’s a point worth understanding any time of year, but is especially relevant during May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month.

My personal story may help illustrate what I mean.

On Dec. 15, 2016, my battle with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts over the last 23 years broke me. In that moment, the invisible burdens caused an enormous amount of emotion to pulse through my veins. I felt like I was trapped in a building that was quickly catching fire; the flames climbed, and I could feel the heat at my ankles. My pain screamed its way through the windows, like pressurized heat blowing up the glass. I knew the only way out would be to jump, so I ran to my bathroom, locked the door, unscrewed the lids to my medication, and swallowed hundreds of pills.

I was dying. I felt it. Yet, my spirit screamed out, “Wait! Wait! I can’t go. I’ll never see my children again! What about my husband who I loved more than life itself?” My family would be shattered if things ended this way and I knew it first-hand because my father died from suicide five years earlier. So, I started fighting like hell to stay alive, but I had made a choice from which there was no coming back.

An ambulance took me to the trauma bay in the hospital, reserved for the most severe emergency room admissions. They cut my clothes off and began pumping my stomach. The doctors filled my stomach with charcoal, hoping it could absorb some of the pills. I was immediately put on a ventilator to make sure I would not stop breathing. No one knew if I would live. I woke up three days later confused. I couldn’t speak. What was wrong with my voice? I squinted. Everything was blurry. I couldn’t move. Was I paralyzed? Where was I?

A nurse came to my side when she saw me wake up and let me know I was in the ICU. I tried to speak, but only scattered words came out. The nurse brought me a piece of paper and a pencil. Barely holding the pencil, my hand slid across the paper, making a crooked line. I had no control over my limbs. Had I been in a car wreck? I wanted to ask them if I would ever walk or talk again, but I blacked out.

Days later I opened my eyes and saw a team of doctors standing in my room. I struggled to speak louder than a whisper and asked if I was paralyzed and how bad the car accident was. Everyone in my room stopped and looked at me. One of the doctors stepped toward my bed and informed me that I had tried to kill myself and I was lucky to be alive. It all came flooding back to me the moment he said it.

A nurse who was taking the blood pressure cuff off my arm informed me that it was true, I was lucky to be alive. The nurse also told me that he, being a believing Christian, knew people who killed themselves go to hell. He patted my shoulder and told me I had just escaped damnation.

I knew I had not just escaped damnation. What I had escaped was death. The stigma around suicide and mental illness wasn’t only perpetuated by those who knew little about it. Doctors working in that field were equally susceptible to bias, despite their exposure and knowledge.

While I was in the hospital, a leading psychiatrist at the University of Missouri told my husband, Mitch, to never bring me back to this hospital again. Mitch was the hospital’s CEO and the psychiatrist suggested it would be better to take me to a hospital far away from Columbia where people didn’t know us. His intentions were probably to protect us. But protect us from what exactly? Why wouldn’t this psychiatrist want to use this opportunity to show that mental illness is no respecter of persons? The fact is it doesn’t matter what race, religion, gender, age, or economic background you come from —royalty to the homeless—mental illness can affect anyone’s family.

When I was released from the hospital and returned home for the first time, I saw my neighbors socializing at the end of our block. I knew they must know what happened because it would be hard to miss a blaring ambulance in my driveway and my unconscious body being carried out on a stretcher. As I approached to greet them, the conversation instantly died. Their silence was heartbreaking, and their discomfort all too visible.

These interactions led me to ask myself several questions. If I had suffered a heart attack, would anyone have asked my husband to never bring me back to that particular hospital because he was the CEO? Or if I had suffered a stroke would the nurse tell me I just escaped damnation? Or if I was diagnosed with cancer would my neighbors be brought to silence in my presence? Any other medical emergency would have been treated without judgment, so why not suicide? Unfortunately, the mental health stigmas result in people feeling shame for needing and seeking help.

Suicidal urges, feelings, and thoughts are an illness no different than any other. Those who struggle with such thoughts and feelings did not ask for them to be there and did nothing to deserve their devastating side effects. And just like someone diagnosed with cancer, a person suffering with suicidal thoughts must fight like hell to stay alive.

Suicide will continue to kill people if it continues to kill conversations. Advances with HIV/AIDS, for example, didn’t happen through silence. Medical breakthroughs happen through frequent and open conversations, even if it’s initially uncomfortable. The support that comes from groups of people willing to talk about the hard things in life can and will save lives.

I bravely stand with the mentally ill. I am a suicide survivor.

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Angel City Games Founder Clayton Frech is Today’s Honoree

For the tens of millions of people in the US who have physical disabilities, inspiration often comes in the form of seeing individuals with disabilities doing extraordinary things. And perhaps no one makes this more possible than Clayton Frech, founder of Angel City Sports, a leading adaptive sports organization based in Southern California. Their annual
Angel City Games presented by The Hartford, now in its 5th year, is one of the largest adaptive sports festivals in the country.

While Clayton and his family have been involved in the adaptive sports community since 2005, he started getting more engaged in 2013 when he realized how scarce opportunities were in the region. Leaving the corporate world behind, Clayton has taken an aggressive, entrepreneurial approach to solving the problems of access to sports, recreation, and an active lifestyle. Under Clayton’s leadership, the Games now has over 300 athletes participating, making it one of the largest events of its kind in the country; Angel City Sports is slated to do over 50 training clinics in 2019 and has acquired 80 pieces of adaptive sports equipment; and the organization’s outreach program solicits new athletes.

In addition to creating equality and inclusion in sports, these efforts are about transforming lives. Angel City Sports helps reduce social isolation and improves participants’ self-acceptance and self-confidence, enabling athletes to dream on and off the field of play.

And what is Clayton’s inspiration? This is where the story becomes even more special. Clayton’s son, Ezra, was born with a congenital limb difference, with one finger on his left hand and a lower left leg that was missing a knee and fibula. Yet, he overcame his challenges and has become a star adaptive athlete and inspiration to countless adaptive athletes across the globe.

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RE/MAX Franchisee and Author John Collopy is Today’s Honoree

John Collopy is an author, speaker, and one of the most successful real estate brokers in America. His company, RE/MAX Results, has helped countless home buyers and sellers in Minnesota and Wisconsin find their dream homes since it was founded over thirty years ago. It is the number one RE/MAX franchise in the country with approximately 250 employees and approaching 1,200 sales executives. Each office in John’s company serves the community in which it operates by participating in charities like Relay for Life, JJ Hill Days, Woodbury Days, Rochesterfest, REALTOR Ring Day, Toys for Tots, the Dakota County Fair, and Twin Cities Pride, to name a few. Additionally, a portion of every closing goes towards the company’s charitable foundation, Results Foundation.

However, John did not always walk this path. John struggled with the law and addiction for most of his youth. Few people are as open or honest about their mistakes as John is about his. He encourages anyone struggling with addiction to seek help but knows that any change must start with a sincere desire from the individual. He writes and speaks about his philosophy, the one that enabled him to rise into sobriety and triumph.

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International Speaker Khalil Osiris is Today’s Honoree

Khalil Osiris is an international speaker on restorative justice and transformational leadership.  An author, educator and activist, he spent 20 years of his life in prison and while there earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston University. He transformed his life and emerged from prison with a deep understanding of how to use personal crisis and challenges as opportunities for self-improvement.

He is author of The Psychology of Incarceration, which is taught in over 60 prisons across America. While living in South Africa, Khalil implemented the country’s first criminogenic needs re-entry program, Get Out and Stay Out (GOSO) Africa. On Nelson Mandela Day, July 18th, 2013, the first graduating class of 120 men celebrated their successful completion of the GOSO Africa program.

Khalil hosted the award winning South African TV Show, Each One Teach One. He founded Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Africa, an initiative designed to improve behavioral outcomes for students in every grade. In 2013, Khalil launched the first PBIS Africa program at Vuleka School, a member of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa. In 2015, Discovery Primary Full Service School became the first South African government school to implement School-wide PBIS Africa.

On his return to America Khalil released his new book,  A Freedom That Comes From Within which explores how to find your own freedom, irrespective of your history or current circumstances.

Khalil conducts keynote talks and workshops on topics ranging from transformational leadership to overcoming self-imposed limitations.

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Side Hustle Success Coach Tracey Minutolo is Today’s Honoree

Tracey Minutolo is a Side Hustle Coach who helps motivated 9 to 5’ers build businesses they love. She’s the host of the daily Side Hustle Success Minute and she runs the Side Hustle Success Lab membership community, where serious side hustlers can learn and practice the skills they need, while getting support and making the connections that make a difference, as they move their businesses to the next level. When she’s not coaching, she’s probably streamlining processes at her day job, on a desert hike, or wandering around San Diego looking for the newest rooftop bar.

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