White Plains, NY — The Westchester County Board of Legislators celebrated LGBTQ Pride Month with a special ceremony Monday night honoring local LGBTQ advocates and organizations.

Majority Whip MaryJane Shimsky (D - Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington) presented a proclamation to the Westchester Pride Lions Club.  Formed in June 2016, the Pride Lions is just the second LGBTQ Lions Club in New York and the fourth in the nation.

Accepting on behalf of the club, President Raymond Terone outlined the Pride Lions focus on AIDS/HIV, homeless youth, transgender issues, bullying and homophobia.

In its short history the community service group has collected food and personal care items for Hudson Valley Community Services for people living with HIV/AIDS, helped out with a same-gender Valentine's Day event in Yonkers, and worked with Children's Village in Valhalla on a number of initiative for homeless youth, among other activities.

Legislator Kitley Covill (D - Bedford, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Somers), presented a proclamation to Mount Kisco youth activist Kian Tortorello-Allen.

Kian is vice president of the Fox Lane High School Gender and Sexuality Alliance, a trained LGBTQ story teller, and has been a presenter and keynote speaker at multiple LGBTQ event.  He also was seen as a spokesperson for Hollister’s “Safe Spaces” campaign. Kian is a member of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) National Student Council and a two-year fellow of Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER).

Kian described for legislators his journey from being bullied as a high school freshman to becoming a nationally known advocate for the LGBTQ community.  “My advocacy truly was born from a place of pain,” he said, but added, “I’ve learned over the past three years that by finding my own voice, I can help others find theirs."

Saying he's particularly focused on the issues of trans people of color, Kian added, "We cannot tackle one form of oppression without tackling them all."

Legislator Mike Kaplowitz (D – New Castle, Somers, Yorktown) presented a proclamation to Mary Jane Karger, and advocate for LGBTQ youth and a mother of two grown sons, one of whome is gay.  Karger, who has been an educator for 31 years, is Hudson Valley Chapter Co-Chair of GLSEN and a member of the organization’s national Board of Directors from 2003-2013 and co-founder of the group’s National Advisory Council.

Karger has been the recipient of the Westchester County Youth Bureau’s Youth Achievement Award; the first-ever GLSEN Educator of the Year Award and the Westchester County LGBT Advisory Board’s award for Outstanding Individual Contributor to the LGBT Community. She also was named to the Westchester County Senior Hall of Fame in 2017.

Recounting her journey to activism after her son came out to her and her husband more than 20 years ago, Karger said, “Everyone should be able to be their true identity.”

About the evening, Board Chair Ben Boykin said, “The march of history proceeds in a certain direction, not because it's inevitable, but because there are marchers with the strength, vision, and bravery to start society down a righteous path, and to keep us there.  Our honorees are marchers on that path and I want to thank each one of them for their contributions to the life of Westchester County, the Hudson Valley region, and the country.”

(PICTURED ABOVE L to R:  Westchester Pride Lions’ President Raymond Terone; Kian Tortorello-Allen; Mary Jane Karger; Rev. Jennie Tally, Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church – New Rochelle; PHOTO CREDIT: Jaevon Boxhill)


(Members of the Westchester Pride Lions Club with Board Chair Ben Boykin and Majority Whip MaryJane Shimsky; PHOTO CREDIT: Jaevon Boxhill)

(L to R: Board Chair Ben Boykin, Kian Tortorello-Allen; Leg. Kitley Covill; PHOTO CREDIT: Jaevon Boxhill)

(L to R: Board Chair Ben Boykin, Mary Jane Karger, Leg. Mike Kaplowitz; PHOTO CREDIT: Jaevon Boxhill)