UMSL alum Todd Alan honored in St. Louis Business Journal’s 2023 Champions for Diversity & Inclusion Awards
Although Todd Alan has played a major role in producing events such as the Art of PAWS and People fundraiser and the annual PrideFest parade over the years, you won’t see him on television promoting the event or on stage introducing speakers and presenting awards.
So when he found himself on stage among the fellow winners of the St. Louis Business Journal’s 2023 Champions for Diversity & Inclusion Awards, he felt a little strange – but extremely honored.
“It was a little weird because that’s just not me,” he said. “But it was very humbling and very honoring.”
Today, he is the founder/producer of Art of PAWS and People, which hosted its 18th annual fundraiser last month, as well as the director of corporate partnerships for Pride St. Louis.
When Alan was first working toward his degree at UMSL, he expected that studying marketing and communications would lead him into a career at an advertising agency, but he found the market difficult to break into upon graduating. He landed an internship at a small boutique agency in Clayton while still in school, then accepted a position in sales at MetLife, where he wound up working for 13 years. Yet he said the skills he learned at UMSL in terms of promotion, public relations, advertising and, importantly, networking set him up well for his current line of work.
Alan started volunteering with PAWS in the mid- to late-1990s, not long after the organization was founded. As a huge pet-lover, he was immediately drawn to its mission of ensuring that people living with HIV/AIDS can manage taking care of their pet’s nutritional and veterinary care needs.
“For some of these people, their pet was the only daily dose of love and affection they got,” he said. “It’s always important that they can be together, and we always want to keep that bond.”
Alan hosted his first event for PAWS a few years later, and things quickly snowballed. In 2004, he launched the Art of PAWS and People fundraiser to support the organization. The event combines music, food and art, and attendees have the opportunity to bid on artwork as well as signed soccer jerseys and the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Cardinals game.
Seeing the work Alan had done raising money for other organizations, a friend thought he’d be a good fit for a fundraising role with Pride St. Louis. He began volunteering with the organization when it was still based in Tower Grove and was instrumental in moving its annual parade to downtown St. Louis in 2013. He believes that has allowed the organization to grow. In addition to the popular parade, Pride also hosts community dinners around the holidays and educational seminars. And since Alan started with Pride St. Louis 13 years ago, corporate sponsorships have grown from about $60,000 to nearly half a million dollars.
But more important to Alan than a sheer dollar amount is the difference this work can make in one person’s life.
He recalled a specific instance when running an event for the St. Louis chapter of the NOH8 campaign, which grew out of opposition to the passing of Proposition 8 in California in 2008. While planning a photo shoot as part of the silent protest, Alan received a call from a woman who wanted to know if she could bring her child along to pose in the photo with her.
“She let us know that hate is a learned value, and she wanted people to look at her picture with her son and know that she would never teach her child to treat anyone any differently, whether it be race or sexuality,” he said. “She wanted everyone to know that those things are all learned, and her child is never gonna learn that from her. That picture made an important impact to me. We had everyone try and come with something that meant something to them whether it was their dog or their violin – whatever their passion was. If you look at our pictures, they’re so diverse, not just in people, but the images. What they were trying to portray in their picture was so different and so powerful. It was so moving to me.”
St. Louis Business Journal
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