ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Epcot’s World Pavilion was packed with a thousand Central Florida business and community leaders Saturday for the 20th Annual Don Quijote Awards, hosted by Prospera and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro-Orlando (HCCMO). Given the historic 20-year milestone and the aftermath of the 2017 hurricane season, this year’s ceremony was more poignant than ever before. Elected officials in attendance included U.S. Congressman Darren Soto, Florida State Representative Bob Cortes, Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Daisy Morales, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla. Univision personality Paul Gamache emceed the ceremony.
A HEART FOR PUERTO RICO
This year’s ceremony paid tribute to the families and survivors of Hurricane Maria, which ravaged Puerto Rico and displaced thousands. HCCMO and Prospera immediately sprang into action, providing assistance and free consulting to displaced entrepreneurs who have migrated to Central Florida from Puerto Rico. Together with the City of Orlando, Prospera hosted a workshop that equipped over 170 Puerto Rico entrepreneurs to rebuild their lost businesses.
The awards ceremony featured dance numbers dedicated to the island nation and, after the meal, Rollins College’s Juan Tomas Martinez and Ana Mercedes Martinez Paris performed moving songs for the country in Spanish as a video tribute played with sweeping views of Puerto Rico’s alluring landscape and harrowing images of Hurricane Maria’s aftermath.
THE AWARD WINNERS
Hispanic Business of the Year, Five Years or Less: Hispanic Family Counseling
Hispanic Business of the Year, More Than Five Years: Advanced IT Concepts, Inc.
Professional of the Year: Adalberto Torres, Jr., M.D., Division Chief – Division of Critical Care Medicine, Dept. of Pediatrics at Nemours
Hispanic Community Champion: Ron Piccolo, Ph.D., Chair of UCF’s College of Business Administration
Excellence Award: Adriana Comellas-Macretti
Lifetime Achievement Award: Yolanda Londoño, VP, Global Social Responsibility at Tupperware Brands
In light of twenty years of recognizing Central Florida Hispanic Business leaders, the two common through-lines that resonated Saturday were service—dedication to giving back and helping others who are in need, and the importance of following one’s dreams, which reflects the spirit of the awards’ namesake, Don Quijote of the Village of La Mancha.
Mellissa Thomas is Florida National News Editor. | firstname.lastname@example.org