The Tommy Nobis Center, a Marietta-based nonprofit that helps individuals with disabilities enter or return to employment, hosted its 21st annual Galaxy of Stars Luncheon on April 26 and raised over $200,000 – more than any other previously held Galaxy of Stars event.

Held at the Georgia Aquarium Oceans Ballroom, the event brought together approximately 400 corporate leaders and community supporters to honor the impact of the Center’s programs, celebrate its participants and raise funds to support ongoing operations.

This year's theme was "Together We Rise."

The Master of Ceremonies, WSB-TV’s Action News Anchor Justin Farmer, kicked off the event followed by the Invocation given by 2010 Galaxy of Stars Tommy Nobis Rising Star Steve Kelley. President and CEO Dave Ward gave the President’s Address and Harry Abrams spoke on behalf of Presenting Sponsor Cobb EMC Community Foundation.

A highlight of the program was the recognition of the Stars Among Us — Tommy Nobis Center program participants who have achieved career success.

Former Falcons Head Coach Dan Reeves and former Falcon Greg Brezina presented awards and expressed their admiration of Tommy Nobis and the work of the Center. A team of Atlanta Falcons Legends were also on hand to lend their support of the legacy of Tommy Nobis and employment for people with disabilities.

The award winners included:

  • Tommy Nobis Rising Star – Awarded to Kevin Burke, a program participant who with the support of the Center pursued his dream of a career in cybersecurity. With his bachelor's in Computer Science, Burke was able to secure a position as data specialist at CyberGate IT. He has since demonstrated outstanding personal and career achievements. To showcase his success, the Center presented a video about Burke’s journey during the luncheon.
  • Community Champion – Awarded to former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in recognition of his commitment to inclusion and expansion of employment opportunities for citizens with disabilities. Gov. Deal signed into law the Georgia Employment First Act that established employment as the first and preferred option for all people who want to work, regardless of their disability. During 2018 alone, an astounding 28,642 people with disabilities living in Georgia were able to enter the workforce.
  • Family Member Advocate of the Year – Awarded to Alana Shepherd who co-founded world-renowned rehabilitation hospital Shepherd Center in 1975. Shepherd has spent many years championing Shepherd Center’s mission to help people with a temporary or permanent disability caused by injury or disease, rebuild their lives with hope, independence and dignity, advocating for their full inclusion in all aspects of community life while promoting safety and injury prevention. The Tommy Nobis Center presented a video to honor the Shepherd family’s work.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Awarded to Billi and Bernie Marcus who have made a wide and lasting impact in their community and beyond as philanthropists and public servants of the highest caliber. Many of their numerous lifelong contributions relate to services for people with disabilities including the Marcus Autism Center, The Marcus Institute, The Marcus Stroke & Neuroscience Center and The Marcus Trauma Center at Grady Hospital. Bernie and Billi channel much of their generosity through The Marcus Foundation, which focuses on children, medical research, free enterprise, Israel and Jewish causes, and the community.

Since 1977, Tommy Nobis Center has helped more than 25,000 individuals find independence and workplace success by empowering people through employment.

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