After long-time Blair County NAACP President Donald E. Witherspoon passed, community leaders and activists scrambled to find ways to maintain his legacy and create a new sense of purpose in Blair County and beyond. On June 25, 2021, Neil Rudel (Chief Editor of the Altoona Mirror), Steve Sheetz (Chairman of Sheetz, Inc.), Erica McNeal (Secretary Officer, Blair County NAACP), and Andraé Holsey (President, Blair County NAACP) met at the Altoona Mirror offices with these concerns in mind. From that meeting, The Freedom Fighter Gala was born.
An annual event recognizing and remembering Freedom Fighters from Central PA who impacted national civil rights, The Blair Co. NAACP is proud to host its second electric evening of engagement, solidarity, and recognition on Oct. 25, 2022 from 5:30-9PM. With over 300 people in attendance last year, we have expanded our seating capability, but must limit ticket sales due to venue limitations. To reserve a seat, tickets must be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2nd-annual-freedom-fighter-gala-tickets-435653119207. All proceeds benefit the NAACP’s Freedom Fund, enabling us to grant scholarships, engage institutions, and act upon the mission of the NAACP in our community.
This year we will be remembering the accomplishments of the late Virginia Hansard-Day, and recognizing William Lightner for his ongoing achievements. Biographies on these two legendary Freedom Fighters will be posted in the coming days.
If you missed last year’s event, honoring the legacy of Donald E. Witherspoon and recognizing the achievements of Dr. Zane Gates, then we encourage you to check out the photos below. With recognition of scholarship awardees through the Sheetz Fellows Program at Penn State University – Altoona, impactful statements by PA State Rep. Jim Gregory and past-Senator/Lt. Governor Bob Jubelirer, and powerful performances by the PennSOULvanians, the First Freedom Fighter Gala did not disappoint. We are grateful to the Sheetz, Gates, and Witherspoon families for their impact on the audience and continued dedication to the mission of this organization.
For more on last year’s gala, you can read all about it at: