Annual Gala

Each spring, Richard Marriott and the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities host a gala in Washington D.C., to celebrate Bridges successes, honor achievement and generate additional resources to do even more in the future. The event is an opportunity for business and community leaders to gather for a fun and inspiring evening while helping challenged youth to a better life.


The Foundation kicked off what will be a year-long celebration of its 25th anniversary at the annual Bridges Gala, held at the new Marriott Marquis Washington, DC on June 11. Hosted by Dick Marriott and co-chairs Tom Baltimore and Neal Wilson, the evening was attended by 1,000 business and community leaders and raised $1.5M in support of Bridges youth. The event recognized The Kroger Company as “Employer of the Year” and featured keynote speaker Bonnie St. John. There was also a moving tribute to Stephen Garff Marriott, an early Foundation board member, who passed away last year. It was announced that the Foundation’s annual youth achievement award would be renamed in his honor.

Garrett Jones, of Cobb County, Georgia, was recognized as the inaugural recipient of the Stephen G. Marriott Youth Achievement Award. Jones connected with the Bridges program in 2012, two years after graduating high school, frustrated by his lack of progress towards vocational and life goals. With the help of Bridges staff, Jones earned a job as a laundry attendant at the Atlanta Northwest Marriott. He struggled, initially, to learn the position, but his positive energy, determination, and willingness to pitch in wherever he was needed wowed supervisors and co-workers alike, leading to new opportunities beyond the laundry department. During the ice storms that paralyzed Atlanta earlier this year, stranding many hotel associates on the road, Jones cemented his reputation by cheerfully tackling the dirty dishes that had piled up in the kitchen. Executive Chef Jeff Caruso formally asked Jones to transfer from the laundry to the kitchen, and is now mentoring and training him for a career in food service.


June 5 was a record-breaking night as co-chairs Richard Marriott of Host Hotels and Resorts, and Bernard Tyson of Kaiser Permanente welcomed 900 guests to the 2013 Bridges Gala, and announced that $1,360,000 had been raised to transform the lives of challenged youth. TJX Companies were recognized as Employer of the Year, Tony Dungy moved the audience with his heartfelt and personal remarks, and Maria Gomez, Youth Achievement honoree, capped the evening with her story of obstacles overcome and vocational success. From start to finish a wonderful gathering, reminding all in attendance of what Bridges does and why it's so important.


On June 15, 2012, almost 1,000 people came together to celebrate the program and raise $1,150,000 to change lives in the future. In the midst of a heated presidential campaign, guests were treated to a range of perspectives from political analyst and author, Chris Matthews, and former head of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele. ARAMARK was recognized as the Employer of the Year and Jeremiah Watson was honored with the Youth Achievement award.

Past Headliners

Past headliners have included:

  • President George H.W. Bush
  • General Colin L. Powell, USA (Retired)
  • NFL Legend Terry Bradshaw
  • First Lady Rosalyn Carter
  • Actor James Earl Jones
  • Hall of Fame Quarterback Steve Young
  • Former Washington Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs
  • Orioles' Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.
  • Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin
  • Super Bowl Champion Tony Dungy