Skip to main content
PBS Reno Spotlight Awards & Auction

The 2021 PBS Reno Spotlight Awards — a community awards show highlighting individuals and community groups making a positive impact in our region. It’s like the Oscars, but for people doing good in our community!


Over 100 items, featuring wine packages, trips, family-friendly experiences, and much more!

2021 Extraordinary Philanthropist Award | Sandy Raffealli

Thank you to those who gave in support of Sandy Raffealli and her legacy of philanthropy in the community.

2021 Extraordinary Community Group Award

Snell & Wilmer

Community Health Alliance

Community Health Alliance breaks barriers by providing comprehensive healthcare to every adult and child regardless of their financial position. They offer services in preventative medicine, behavioral healthcare, chronic condition management, reproductive health, women’s, infant, childcare, and nutrition counseling. CHA currently serves more than 21,000 patients, about 90% of whom fall below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. They serve their patients at seven health centers throughout Washoe County and have a mobile medical, dental, and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) van to facilitate additional outreach. They have been a local leader in COVID-19 vaccination efforts, hosting in-person and drive-up vaccination events throughout the community to increase accessibility. As of June 2021, CHA has administered over 10,000 COVID-19 vaccines.

Step 1, Inc.

Step 1 provides transitional housing and supportive services to adult men with substance use disorders who seek to re-enter society as self-sufficient, responsible fathers, individuals, and citizens. In doing so, they aim to bring forth positive change by focusing on the basic needs of individuals with addictive thinking and behaviors to facilitate eventual restoration and rehabilitation. In its 28th year, the program is a safe, highly structured, clean and sober, living environment for adult men in need of substance abuse and re-entry services. Step 1 looks to improve the problem of addiction and crime in the community by facilitating change in one individual, one parent, and one citizen at a time. By offering men a structured and skills-oriented program and place to gather strength alongside others, Step 1 allows men in recovery to begin again with dignity and respect.

Trauma Intervention Programs of Northern Nevada

Trauma Intervention Programs of Northern Nevada (TIP) provides emotional and practical support to survivors of tragedy to help facilitate their healing and long-term recovery. TIP freely provides immediate response to crises 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Emergency responders call their specially trained volunteers to support victims of traumatic events during the first hours following a tragedy. These specially trained volunteers volunteer over 24,000 hours annually to guide people of all ages through tragic incidents, including deaths, crime, workplace, fire and flood accidents, search and rescue events, elderly bereavement, bystander/witness, major community incidents and more. In March 2020, TIP launched TeleTIP to serve clients isolated by the pandemic and community members who couldn’t visit loved ones in hospitals. Since 2010, TIP has supported over 23,000 client survivors and assisted over 14,100 emergency responders.

2021 Extraordinary Local Business Award

Meadows Bank

Mari Chuy's Mexican Kitchen

Mari Chuy’s Mexican Kitchen founder and head Chef, Jesus “Chuy” Gutierrez was born in Michoacán Mexico; and grew up in Northern Nevada. He married his wife Maria “Mari” and together, they opened their first restaurant Fresh Mex in 2001. They’ve been working side-by-side daily to bring Reno a fresh take on Mexican dining ever since. They renamed the restaurant Mari Chuy’s Mexican Kitchen and moved to Reno’s Midtown District in 2011. Building a reputation for fresh ingredients and giving back to the community, Mari Chuy’s garnered success that allowed for the opening of additional locations in Downtown Sparks and South Reno. During the pandemic, Mari Chuy’s was proud to serve first responders and hospitals. They’re partners with the Reno Gastro Project and are almost always providing free food and catering to frontline workers and other community-oriented initiatives, offering a different frontline agency a free, delicious Mari Chuy’s taco lunch every month.

Thrive Wellness of Reno

Thrive Wellness Reno is a mental health service organization with a dedicated, collaborative team of specialists committed to the emotional, physical and behavioral health of their clients. They specialize in empowering and treating individuals throughout their lives with an emphasis on the following: eating disorders (food issues), perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, baby blues, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and depressive disorders. Thrive Wellness offers three levels of care: outpatient services, intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs. In all, they aim to help the Reno community thrive together.

United Federal Credit Union

United Federal Credit Union takes its mission of “people helping people” to heart for both is members and the communities they serve. The UFCU staff are rooted in their communities — they love what they do and who they help. Each UFCU manager sits on the board of a local community-focused organization; employees are mentors and volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Delivering with Dignity, Karma Box, Boys and Girls Club, and many more. Staff also donate many hours to teaching financial wellness, literacy, and interviewing skills through the WCSD, UNR, and TMCC. Moreover, UFCU has donated significant funds to over ten local nonprofits and school organizations across Northern Nevada.

2021 Extraordinary Youth Award

Bank of America

Emmalee Sutton

Emmalee Sutton serves as Renown Children's Hospital and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) 2021 Champion Child Ambassador. A fighter from a very young age, 14-year-old Emmalee has been a source of hope and inspiration to everyone she meets. Emmalee was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis at age two and later with Addison’s disease, enduring a long road of illnesses and hospitalizations. She had her gallbladder removed at age eight, port surgery at 13, and has had several liver biopsies over the years. She faces daily medical challenges but never lets them touch her sheer joy, spark for life or her infectious smile. Emmalee loves to talk with and help other children, especially when she visits Renown Children’s Hospital for treatments. As Renown Children’s Hospital’s CMNH Champion Child Ambassador, she acts as the face of the hospital and shares her inspiring story with the community. When Emmalee grows up, she aims to be a pediatric nurse and help other kids who are going through what she has experienced. Her ultimate life goal is to improve the world in every way she can.

Jonah Howell

Jonah Howell is a senior at Sparks High School. Though he’s faced challenges his entire life, he always finds a way to uplift others. Jonah was diagnosed with Epilepsy when he was six, but that didn't stop him from joining his high school football team after he promised his neurologist that he would be so fast that he wouldn’t let anyone hit him while playing. He kept that bargain until he was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of 16. Though Jonah has had to grapple with this new diagnosis, he uses it to inspire others - his Facebook page is filled with inspiring quotes, videos, and comments. Jonah has a genuine passion for helping others and volunteers at the JUSTin HOPE Foundation. Having spent a Christmas Holiday in the hospital, Jonah wants to ensure that kids stuck in hospitals during the break can decorate their rooms and enjoy their own version of the Christmas Spirit. In 2020, he facilitated 50 Christmas Tree Care Packages from donations and delivered them to Renown Children's Hospital. This year, Jonah is already planning the next fundraiser for the 2021 care packages.

2021 Extraordinary Individual Award

Diaz Dixon

Diaz Dixon is a human service provider and community patron passionate about targeted messaging and relationship-building to enhance business development and self-growth. Diaz has used his Bachelor’s degree from Nevada and Master’s degree from the University of Iowa to build community as the University Assistant Athletic Director and worked in areas including children’s services, animal welfare, and substance abuse. While serving 14 years as the CEO of STEP2, Diaz operated as a grant writer, consultant, and community advocate while building a multi-million-dollar campus for one of the county’s most effective substance use disorder, domestic violence intervention/education, and trauma service programs. He served for four years on the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, six years as the Treasurer of Nevada AADAPTS, and consulted for four years with the Cultural Competency and Diversity Network in Washington, D.C. under President Bush’s New Freedom Initiative. Diaz is currently the CEO of Eddy House, working with homeless and at-risk youth to develop the life and job skills necessary for sustainable independence, and owns Performance Driven Consulting, adding smartness to business solutions.

Jane Dunn

Jane Dunn has had a life full of service, travel, and adventure that has provided good training for feeding hungry neighbors in Reno, Nevada. After training as a teacher and reading specialist in college, she joined the US Peace Corps and was posted in Belize for two years. Following Belize, Jane spent a year teaching first grade in Honduras and two years teaching to adjudicated juveniles in New Orleans. Eventually, she discovered the high desert and first moved to Beowawe, Nevada, then to Reno. Jane was a teacher for a total of thirty-three years before retiring six years ago. All of this leadership experience enabled her to create the Reno Posse following her retirement, a large group of volunteers who have worked to feed a great number of Reno’s unhoused neighbors for the past five and a half years.

Kurt Hoge

Kurt Hoge is the owner of Reno Type, a local firm that helps enterprises achieve exceptional results through printing, mailing, and imprinted promotional products. He found his start in the industry through his school yearbook’s darkroom. Post-college, he worked at and eventually bought out Reno’s premier typesetting firm, helping transform the company into a full-service commercial print and mail shop. In June of 2021, Reno Type was named one of the top 50 places to work by the Promotional Business Magazine. While his vocation is printing and marketing, his passion is in supporting the community and helping those who lack the advantages he had. Kurt founded Project Great Outdoors in 1999, a non-profit that enabled under-served youth to learn about themselves through outdoor adventures. After the organization merged with Environmental Traveling Companions, he served on the board and still volunteers as a trainer/leader for expeditions. He calls himself “The Reno type,” a phrase that describes anyone who supports the causes of those proud to call this corner of Nevada home.

2021 Extraordinary Educator Award

Washoe Education Association

Kimberly Smerkers-Bass

Dr. Kimberly Smerkers-Bass began her educational career as a special education teacher in 1990 at Sparks High School and later Sarah Winnemucca Elementary School. She has a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and a Doctorate of Education with a focus on Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne. Throughout her career, she has been a program facilitator for WCSD’s Special Education Department; helping teachers develop specialized instruction for their classrooms. As well as the principal of Sun Valley Elementary School and Lloyd Diedrichsen Elementary, an instructor at Truckee Meadows Community College, University of Nevada, Reno, and Reno & Sierra Nevada College, and worked for the University of Phoenix, the Nevada Department of Education, the nonprofit WestEd and the Nevada Speech-Language-Hearing Association. In 2018, she returned to the classroom to teach Comprehensive Life Skills at Roy Gomm Elementary, the same school where she did her student teaching almost thirty years prior. Wearing many hats during her career, returning to the classroom has been the most rewarding experience of her career, reigniting her passion and commitment towards her students and community.

Milton Hyams

Milton Hyams is a National Board Certified and award-winning high school social studies teacher. He holds a bachelor’s degree in History from UC Davis, and a master's in Teaching History from the University of Nevada, Reno. Milton has taught in WCSD for 24 years at both Reed and Incline High School. He is currently the Department Leader at Incline High School, where he helped start the Advanced Placement Capstone Program. Milton teaches AP humanities classes, particularly AP Government/We the People: Citizen and the Constitution. We the People is an internationally recognized civics curriculum that develops students’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions essential for citizenship in a representative democracy. Milton has served on the WTP Alumni Network Advisory Committee and taught this program competitively for 24 years. Leading 16 teams to the national finals, his team has won the Western Regional Award five times and placed eighth in the United States at the 2021 National Finals. PBS Reno featured one of his classes on A Conversation: We the People. He has also received the American Civic Education Teacher Award and the Nevada Humanities Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.

Rebecca Larrieu

Rebecca Larrieu has almost 20 years of success working with and creating nationally recognized K-12 education programs for students with Autism and similar disabilities through Second Start Learning Disabilities and the Newton Learning Center. Rebecca is the school director, teacher, developer, and fundraising coordinator for the Newton Learning Center. She currently holds a master’s degree in teaching, is a Social Thinking® Clinical Trainee through Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking® clinic in San Jose, California, and is a certified Behavior Intervention Case Manager.  Her areas of expertise are in leadership, interagency collaboration, and Social-Emotional Learning training. Rebecca focuses on helping other teachers with effective academic, behavioral, and social strategies to achieve optimal student learning outcomes. Rebecca provides help to students and families impacted by Autism to enable their children to grow into confident and secure young people who have the tools to help them fulfill their dreams.

Sponsored in part by 

Meadows Bank
Washoe Education Association
E. L. Cord Foundation
Renown Health
Bill Pearce Motors
Nevada Museum of Art

Edgar F. Kleiner

One Digital Health and Benefits

Harvey & Nancy Fennell 
Dickson Realty

Carole Kilgore Anderson, 

Suzanne Kilgore
& Julie Kilgore Holmes

Sue Wagner

Charlotte & Dick 

John Dermody Venntures
Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows

Sara & Leonard 


Become A Sponsor

The Spotlight Awards and Auction is a great way to connect with our community. Contact Diane Barrett, Community Partnership Executive, at 775.600.0584 and; or Jane Raley, Development Officer, 775.600.0549 and; for more information on ways to get involved.

More Information on How to Sponsor the Spotlight Awards and Auction. 

All proceeds benefit PBS Reno, so that we are able to provide quality programming and educational services to more than 124,000 residents throughout northern and central Nevada and northeastern California.