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Danny Glover Surprises Guests at Olender Foundation Awards

Courtesy of the Olender Foundation | 12/29/2008, 11:52 a.m.

In a town where you can find an awards ceremony on any given night of the week, those attending the 23rd Annual Olender Foundation Awards at the Ronald Reagan Building on Tues., Dec. 9 were greeted with surprise guest star Danny Glover.

Glover received a long standing ovation from the packed amphitheater audience. The renowned actor and humanitarian activist presented the Foundation€s Advocate for Justice Award to Congressman John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who has distinguished himself as a leading voice in the Congressional Black Caucus and a champion of civil rights and universal healthcare. The congressional jazz aficionado was feted with a half hour pre-show concert €John Conyer€s Coltrane.€ Debra Tidwell and Greg Twombley and his Washingtonians did the musical honors.

District Mayor Adrian M. Fenty kicked off the show by welcoming the audience and praised the Olender Foundation and its President Jack Olender for their philanthropic efforts. Among the hundreds of guests were community leaders, judges, lawyers, and journalists.

Radio personality and human rights activist, Joe Madison, known to his listeners as €The Black Eagle,€ served as Master of Ceremonies. Madison is currently heard on WOL and Radio Talk Network and is syndicated on XM Satellite One: THE POWER, the first 24-hour African-American Radio Talk Network. He also appeared regularly as a commentator on CNN throughout the campaign season.

Generous Heart Award recipients Ed and Patricia Leahy were recognized for their outstanding legacy to their son, The Edward Leahy, Jr. Endowment, which promotes research and care innovations for people with disabilities in need of long-term care and therapy. Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, one of the nation€s leading brain cancer surgeons and President of the Brain Cancer Research for a Cure Foundation, received a heartfelt introduction from patient Don Rottman, who suffers from a terminal form of brain cancer. In his introduction, Rottman told the story of how, 20 years ago, Dr. Quinones came to the U.S. from Mexico in his teens as an undocumented farm worker.

€A relative of Dr. Q once told him that he would never be more than a field hand. There is no shame in such work, but how grateful I am he became the outstanding surgeon we honor tonight. God bless his determination, his clarity of purpose, and his steady hand.€ Quinones was presented with the America€s Role Model Award and a grant was made in his honor to the Brain Cancer Research for a Cure Foundation.

Iraq war veteran Corporal Wesley Leon-Barrientos received the Olender Foundation€s Unsung Hero Award, for providing hope to fellow injured soldiers. Cpl. Leon lost both of his legs when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq in December 2007. He attended the gala with his wife, Marcela, who is expecting the couple€s first child in January. A grant was made to Yellow Ribbon Fund, in honor of the corporal and his wife.

Six students each from Howard University Law School and the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law received scholarships in memory of the late Earl H. Davis, an attorney who championed for the ordinary people. Attorney Sandra Robinson, President of the Public Justice Foundation and senior trial lawyer at the Malpractice Law Firm Jack H. Olender & Associates, recognized Howard Law students Ahmed Baset, Sarah Kaehler, Chasity Lomax, Charles McLaurin, Tyechia White, and Robert Williams.

They were joined on stage by UDC David A. Clarke School of Law students Liz Crow, Kevin Hill, Kerry Nash, Ibidun Roberts, Jason Sims, and Rebecca Wrightson. Dean Kurt Schmoke of Howard Law School and Dean Shelley Broderick of the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law presented plaques, scholarship checks, and books to students.

After Debra Tidwell performed a stirring finale, €So Many Heroes,€ during which honorees, presenters, and performers gathered on stage, Foundation President Jack Olender commented, €It was wonderful to be able to put together and honor great humanitarians, civil rights activists and health care heroes in one night.€ Following the show, honorees and guests dined and danced in the Reagan Center€s Atrium Ballroom to the award winning music of Edwin Ortiz y Orquesta La Romana.