The 2014 Gay Games
was a great "get" for the Cleveland-Akron area, as the region was selected over larger competing metropolises like Boston and Washington, D.C. The Cleveland Foundation
has reinforced the notion of the games' importance with some hefty financial support.
The foundation recently awarded the games a $250,000 grant, forming a partnership that makes the organization the games' top sponsor. The event is now named the 2014 Gay Games presented by the Cleveland Foundation, representing the first presenting sponsorship in the games’ 31-year history.
"We saw the games as an important event coming to Cleveland," says foundation executive vice president Bob Eckardt. "This [grant] sends a message about the area as an inclusive community."
As a result of the partnership, a new LGBT fund also is being established at the foundation. Launching at the end of the games next August, the fund will assist LGBT organizations and serve as a donation source for people interested in LGBT causes.
The forthcoming sports and cultural festival, aimed at promoting respect and understanding of the gay community through athletics, is expected to draw about 30,000 people to the region, including 11,000 athletes.
Foundation leaders maintain that the games' social impact on Northeast Ohio is just as important as its potential economic benefits. "Our hope is it will leave a legacy of a region more sensitive and welcoming to the LGBT community," Eckardt says.
That relationship is already growing, says the foundation VP, as games' leaders are now cultivating relationships with local businesses intent on strengthening Greater Cleveland's support of LGBT society.
"This is a great opportunity for the entire community to work together," says Eckardt.
SOURCE: Bob Eckardt
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth