On Saturday, October 2 Starlight held its Annual Benefit Gala with longtime Starlight supporters, community leaders and other VIPs in attendance. The gala is Starlight’s largest fundraising event of the year, and donations from the event support Starlight’s operations, programming and preservation of our 70+ year old venue in Swope Park.
Each year, Starlight presents The Star Award to someone who has gone above and beyond to support Starlight and champion our historic theatre in Kansas City. It also recognizes the honoree for their civic leadership and commitment to bettering the Kansas City community.
At this year’s event, Russ Welsh was presented with the prestigious Star Award. This longtime Starlight supporter has served as Board Chair (two terms), 2014 Gala Chair, fundraiser, donor and attorney, and has contributed significantly to theatre improvements, policies and financial success. He remains a faithful Starlight supporter as an ongoing Broadway season subscriber and through attendance at Board alumni events. In 2017, Russ was honored with the Broadway League’s Star of Touring Broadway Award.
Beyond Starlight, Russ’s civic involvement is extensive and includes a history of board service at the United Way, the Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and many more. Russ has also served as the chair for many local non-profit fundraisers.
Thank you for your continued commitment, Russ!
The 2021 Annual Benefit Gala also brought special recognition with the presentation of Starlight’s Lifetime Achievement Award. This is just the third time Starlight has presented this award—the first honoree was Jack Steadman in 2011, and the second Anita Gorman in 2016. This year’s recipient was former Starlight President and Executive Producer, Bob Rohlf.
During his 29-year tenure at Starlight, Bob oversaw the construction of the Cohen Community Stage House and more than $32 million worth of facility and program improvements. He produced more than 75 musicals, including two world premieres, and after Starlight’s new stage opened in 2000, he worked closely with Broadway producers to launch national tours in Kansas City.
In addition to increasing attendance for both Broadway shows and concerts, Bob also helped launch and expand Starlight’s education and community programming. Upon his retirement, Bob’s commitment to the community was recognized when the Bob Rohlf Internship Program was named in his honor in 2008, as a gift and directive from longtime Starlight benefactors Don and Adele Hall.
Thank you, Bob, for your legacy of service and leadership and for being one of the most dedicated supporters of Starlight!