PFY’s gala to recognize LGTBQ+ trailblazers on Long Island


PFY, the organization formerly known as Pride For Youth, is set to host its annual Pride Gala on June 6. This year, the event is dubbed “Power of Pride: Raising LGBTQ+ Voices to Benefit PFY.” It’ll take place at the Westbury Manor in Westbury.

The gala celebrates the work of PFY, as it is leading, nonprofit, grassroots organization on Long Island. Operating as a subsidiary of the Long Island Crisis Center, it has headquarters in Bellmore, as well as a location in Deer Park. The organization hosts events all year long catered to supporting the needs of individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ on Long Island and in Queens. Founded in 1993 as an organization specifically meant for youth, grant funding last year allowed PFY to expand the breadth of its services.

This year’s gala will honor three trailblazers in the LGBTQ+ community, who work tirelessly year-round to make sure that members of the community feel safe, supported and seen. 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, are among this year’s honorees.

In the past year, the LGTBQ+ community has seen a lot of prejudice and legislation aimed at restricting their rights, across the country — but even right here in Nassau County. Tawni Engel, the associate director of the crisis center and PFY said, especially after County Executive Bruce Blakeman issued an executive order banning transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports, the gala wanted to recognize people who are advocating for LGTBQ+ individuals.

“We really wanted to uplift those who we see as trailblazers in the LGBTQ communities — that are really doing a lot of good work for the community in the face of adversity,” Engel said. “We really looked at people who we feel embody that sort of presence within the LGBTQ community.”

The pride gala committee has been planning this year’s event for several months, and has looked at what’s going on around the country, and right here at home.

“That is what our committee talked about — how ugly things have been,” Engel said. “Not everybody fully understands what’s going on. If you’re not following the news, if you’re not really paying attention, you might think everything’s just fine. We’re not getting into politics, but we just want to talk about what the social climate has looked like and what we can do collectively to hopefully turn that around.”

Bruce Castellano, who co-chairs the gala committee with Engel, has been involved on and off with PFY for many years, he told the Herald. A retired teacher in the Mineola School District, he and his husband have worked for many years with various LGBTQ+ organizations on Long Island and beyond.

Castellano said PFY is a “boots on the ground” type of organization. “They are doing the work that is supposed to be done,” he added.

He said it’s been wonderful to work with Engel to help bring the gala together. This year is one of the largest galas fundraising-wise PFY has seen, and it’s really exciting that it’s just a week away.

Pivoting off of what Engel said, Castellano said the attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community has shifted in recent years, which is scary. 

“I have not seen anything quite this brutal since AIDS — since the 80s,” he said. “It got slowly better, and now the backlash is devastating. It’s not just in other states, it is right here on Long Island.”

There are still tickets left for the upcoming gala. Everything will kick off with a cocktail hour on June 6, beginning at 6 p.m. For more information, visit TinyURL.ocm/PFYEvent2024.