Pride Gala unites LGBTQ+ community on Long Island


PFY, the organization formerly known as Pride For Youth, hosted its annual Pride Gala on June 6. The event was dubbed “Power of Pride: Raising LBGTQ+ Voices to Benefit PFY,” and it brought together and honored trailblazers that work day in and day out to ensure that individuals that identify as LGBTQ+ feel supported on Long Island.

The annual gala celebrates the work of PFY, which is a leading, nonprofit, grassroots organization. It operated as subsidiary of the Long Island Crisis Center, and has headquarters in Bellmore, as well as a location in Deer Park. Founded in 1993 as an organization meant specifically for youth, grant funding last year allowed PFY to expand the breadth and reach of its services.

This year’s gala honored three important figures in the LGBTQ+ community on Long Island. Michael Caputo, of the LI Pride Lions, the Rev. Lana Hurst, the first openly transgender pastor to practice on Long Island, and Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of GLAAD, were among this year’s honorees.

Over the last few months, the LGBTQ+ community has faced a lot of prejudice on Long Island — and in Nassau County specifically — which is why PFY chose to honor individuals from Long Island who are fighting back against hate, and making a difference in the lives of others.

“We really looked at people who we feel embody that sort of presence within the LGBTQ community,” Tawni Engel, the associate director of the crisis center and PFY said. 

Engel leads the pride gala committee, and said the event did not get into politics — but rather focused on what work can be done to further empower the LGBTQ+ community. 

“We just want to talk about what the social climate has looked like,” Engel said, “and what we can do collectively to hopefully turn that around.”

Bruce Castellano, who chairs the gala committee with Engel, said PFY is a “boots on the ground organization.”

A former teacher in the Mineola School District, Castellano said he and his husband have worked with various LGBTQ+ organizations for many years on Long Island and beyond. The attitude towards the LGTBQ+ population has shifted drastically in recent years, and Castellano said “the backlash is devastating.”

Fighting against complacency — the concept of being alright with the ways things are — is exceedingly important, and groups like PFY are doing just that.

“We have to be vigilant and defend and protect the people who are marginalized, especially youth,” Castellano said.

The event at Westbury Manor saw a tremendous turnout. PFY met and surpassed its fundraising goals, raising just over $84,000. PFY is still accepting donations at

For more information on PFY and the Long Island Crisis Center, visit