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November 3, 2017

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The Diamond Awards: An Open Letter of Thanks

May 9, 2017

On Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 the SoCal ASTA Diamond Awards were held at the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel. White jacketed staff served silver trays of pink bellinis, champagne, and hors d’oeuvres while guests reviewed silent auction items. The travel industry’s finest filled the foyer, icons in classic tuxedos and executives in sweeping gowns.


At 7 PM the ivory doors were swept open to reveal the Crystal Ballroom where round tables draped in gold and fresh flowers displayed sparkling goblets for wine and the evening’s first course.


“Red or white, madam?” a waiter inquires from my right. A quick glance at the menu revealed our main course to be an elegant risotto & lemon pepper roasted chicken.


“White, please,” I murmur back. A swift swirl, and I’m satisfied with the grassy notes a deep inhale reveals, hints of mouthwatering grapefruit. I roll a sip over my tongue savoring the evening’s first mouthful… A crisp, cold Sauvignon Blanc on a warm spring night is one of life’s little delights.


A guitarist strums ambient music before President of SoCal ASTA, Tama Holve, along with former President, Pamela Irwin, take the stage to begin the ceremonial portion of the evening. Courses come out as the program continues with the inspiring stories of the legends that are being honored.


Dessert is being served, porcelain dishes of miniature cakes and globes of ice cream, as I hear the lines of a biography intimately familiar yet strangely heard in this environment.


I’m so transfixed by the surreality that it takes me a moment to realize they’ve finished speaking, my name has been called, and people are looking at me expectantly, their hands moving back and forth, clapping yet I hear no noise. I swallow, smile, and the sound rushes back in. 


I’m up and moving towards the stage before I realize it. I miraculously climb the stairs without tripping on my gown and am handed my award.


“Thank you all so much, I am incredibly humbled and grateful to have your belief in me…” THUD. “…Despite breaking awards on stage…” Collective laughter.  Somehow I'd dislodged the glass piece from its frame, and it toppled to the floor in dramatic fashion. Former President, Pamela Irwin, picks it up and places it on the podium, safe from my enthusiasm.


Relaxed now after the comic relief, I go on to thank Gabriella Price, my former Co-Chair of SoCal ASTA’s Millennials & Mentors program and my current Millennials in Travel leadership team: Jen Fryzel, Stu Luchs, and Evan Anderson.


I also recognized, and want to reiterate here, that a similar nod should be given to every Millennial in the travel industry. Ours is a career path not well lit or widely known by today’s youth. It is such an incredible one though, and I look forward to continuing to promote it as such. Anyone who has already chosen it, in my mind, shows courage and commitment to their passion so I congratulate all of my peers on doing so.


My concluding thanks and acknowledgement went to my Protravel family: Sara Sessa, Nancy Knight, and my beloved mentor who inspires me to be a better human being every day, Mickey Weill. They have shown me more love than I thought possible outside of one’s biological family, and I am infinitely grateful to have them in my life.


What I could not fully convey in my minute long acceptance speech is the genuine appreciation I feel for everyone in the travel industry who has not only accepted me with open arms, but supported, encouraged, and taught me so many things in such a short time. I share this Diamond Award for “Millennial of the Year” with all who have shown me their kindness and strength.


In truth, before I received the call notifying me that I had won I didn’t know the honor existed. I was humbled by the fact that without my even knowing, three hundred of my peers voted to grant me this title. So thank all of you.


I hope that you are reading this and can feel the love and gratitude flowing through my fingers as I press these keys. It’s because of you that I am able to accomplish anything…your foundation, your wisdom, your guidance. I am deeply in love with this industry and am sincere in my lifelong dedication to nurturing, protecting, and facilitating its growth and evolution. This is just the beginning!


With love from me to you,





















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