Each year Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, and the Toledo Bar Association host the Access to Justice Awards Dinner and Ceremony to recognize extraordinary service in the public interest and community advocacy. Individuals and organizations in northwest Ohio are honored for their outstanding contributions to promoting and providing access to justice for underprivileged and underserved people.

Please save the date for Thursday, June 20 for this year’s dinner at The Pinnacle in Maumee. A VIP reception will kick off the festivities at 6:00 p.m., followed by a public reception at 6:30 p.m., with the dinner and awards ceremony starting at 7:00 p.m.

This year’s featured keynote speaker is Erin Gruwell. Ms. Gruwell is a teacher, author, and education reform activist who has been fighting for social justice for over two decades.

Gruwell first gained national attention in 1998 when she and 150 of her students appeared on an ABC special — “PrimeTime Live” — with Connie Chung. Ms. Gruwell’s students, affectionately called the Freedom Writers, came from backgrounds of poverty, gangs, and violence, and many were at risk of dropping out of school and becoming part of the school-to-prison pipeline. However, under Ms. Gruwell’s guidance, all 150 Freedom Writers graduated from high school and pursued higher education.

In 1999, Ms. Gruwell and the Freedom Writers published their book, “The Freedom Writers Diary,” which detailed their unique journey from hardship to hope. The book was a #1 New York Times bestseller and was adapted into a major motion picture, “Freedom Writers,” starring Hilary Swank as Ms. Gruwell. The film brought her work to an even wider audience, and she has since used her platform to continue to fight for equity and inclusion with her nonprofit, the Freedom Writers Foundation.

Ms. Gruwell’s work has been recognized with several humanitarian awards, including the Spirit of Anne Frank Award. She and the Freedom Writers have appeared on multiple shows to promote education reform, including, “Oprah,” “The View,” “Good Morning America,” and NBC’s “TODAY.”

We are very pleased to have Ms. Gruwell share her story with our guests at this year’s Access to Justice event. To purchase tickets or become a sponsor, please visit https://ablelaw.org/A2J-support.

For more information, contact Carmen Vega-Pérez at ABLE: (419) 930-2515 or cvega@ablelaw.org.

Please enjoy these photos that captured the essence of our 2023 event by Natalie Tranelli:

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