A Dazzling Evening of Brilliance: 2023 Brilliance Awards Recap

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A Dazzling Evening of Brilliance: 2023 Brilliance Awards Recap

The 2023 Brilliance Awards, an annual celebration of the dynamic talent, spirit and intellect of those who tackle issues facing professional women, took place May 17 at the Amway Grand Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids.

As the West Michigan Woman community gathered once more for an evening filled with awards, drinks, dining and music, we were reminded of the many inspiring stories of the women and men within the community who truly elevate others and blaze trails of inspiration.

The successes of local leaders were honored across 10 categories, with nominees including top executives, business owners, emerging leaders, team players, mentors, connectors and social change agents. Ultimately, three finalists for each category, and eventually a top honoree, were carefully selected from over 300 incredible nominations.

The 2023 event also saw the addition of a new award, chosen by the West Michigan Woman team: The Legacy of Brilliance Award, honoring a woman who has a reputation for showing up for her team, her network and her community throughout the entirety of her exceptional career.

“Each year, we’re absolutely blown away by the brilliance found within our community and are thankful to have the opportunity to recognize those who prioritize lifting others up and challenge the status quo to bravely press onward,” said Kasie Smith, President and Publisher of West Michigan Woman. “We are deeply honored that the West Michigan Woman community chose to spend their evening alongside us as we shined a well-deserved spotlight on these leaders and trailblazers. There was no shortage of connection, collaboration and inspiration!”

Within the ballroom, seated at tables adorned with candles and meticulously designed floral arrangements, attendees were able to converse, share laughter, exchange heartwarming stories, and say "cheers" to all who were being honored. The award presentations were given in between meal courses, offering attendees a chance to enjoy their dinners while also connecting and continuing conversations from the cocktail hour prior to the program's start.

From heartfelt acceptance speeches to cheers from steadfast supporters, everyone in attendance was touched by inspiration in some way and left motivated and ready to change the world, much like our brilliant 2023 finalists and top honorees.

Keep reading to meet them all.


2023 Top Honorees


FlameIconBrilliant People's Choice

Kristin A. Chmela, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-F | Co-Founder, Director of Training and Therapeutic Programs, Owner & Director | Camp Shout Out Inc./Chmela Communication Center

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW | Founder & CEO | Robyn Gobbel

Vonnie Woodrick | Founder | I Understand


FlameIconBrilliant Woman of the Year

Zaneta Adams, JD
 | Deputy Assistant Secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs | Department of VA, Biden Harris Administration

Cara Anne Poland, MD, MEd, FACP, DFASAM | Michigan State University

Megan Schmidt | Senior Vice President of Employer Solutions | Health Solutions, HealthPartners



FlameIconBrilliant Tenacity

Henrietta Hadley 
| Founder & CEO | Infinite Solutions Consulting Group

Alma Ross | Personal Lines Account Executive | Koop & Burr Insurance

Amanda Villarreal | Owner | AVWELLNESS




FlameIconBrilliant Team Player

Colleen Laskowski 
| Director of Delivery | SpinDance

Katie Racey | Guest Experience Manager | Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Kim Murphy | Activity Director | Heron Manor & Heron Woods 



FlameIconBrilliant Social Change Agent

Vanessa Greene 
| CEO | Michigan African American Health Institute

Jessica Johns | Co-Founder & Executive Director | The StoreHouse of Community Resources 

Vonnie Woodrick | Founder | I Understand



FlameIconBrilliant Mentor

Salina Bishop 
| Assistant Vice President of Development | Grand Rapids Symphony

Susan Negen | Co-Founder | WhizBang! Retail Training

Missy Summers | Executive Director | Festival of the Arts



FlameIconBrilliant Entrepreneur

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW 
| Founder & CEO | Robyn Gobbel

Meredith Kent, MS, PA-C | Master Injector, Clinical Educator, Owner | Skin CoLAB

Rachel VanBuskirk, LMSW | Clinical Director & Owner | Portal Point Counseling




FlameIconBrilliant Emerging Leader

Stormie Drake
| Executive Director | READ Ottawa

Lindsay MacMillan | Head of Community Engagement | Sleeping Giant Capital

Caylie Peet, MS, CTA | Minority Business Program Manager | Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce



FlameIconBrilliant Connector

Jennifer Pascua 
| Marketing Director | Broadway Grand Rapids

Kori Thompson, MBA | Advancement Officer | Wedgwood Christian Services

Aimee VandenElzen | Area Lead for Business Development | Disher Corp



FlameIconBrilliant Champion of Service

Rev. Joanna Bailey 
| Manager of Spiritual Care | Trinity Health Grand Rapids

Kristin A. Chmela, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-F | Co-Founder, Director of Training and Therapeutic Programs, Owner & Director | Camp Shout Out Inc./Chmela Communication Center

Nicholette Driggs, CFLE | Development Director | Comprehensive Therapy Center



FlameIconBrilliant Best Supporting Man

Craig Clark 
| Owner, Senior Counselor | Clark Communications

Omar Cuevas | Vice President of Investor Relations | Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce

Carlos Sanchez, MAD | Executive Director | Davenport University - Casa Latina





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