About our Honorees

Steve Smith Sr., Stewart B. McKinney Award

Steve Smith Sr. is a wide receiver who recently signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Smith grew up in Los Angeles in a single-parent household, and excelled in football and track and field in high school.  In college, he was described as a fast runner with great hand-eye coordination and he distinguished himself as a standout on the football field. Five-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro wide receiver Steve Smith became one of the NFL’s best wide receivers of the 21st century. In 2011 he became the 35th player in NFL history to get 10,000 receiving yards. After a stellar, record-breaking career with the Carolina Panthers, Steve signed with the Ravens in March 2014.

While his NFL career is impressive, his philanthropic activities are as well. Growing up, Smith notes, his family struggled financially and was plagued with domestic violence.  In his words, “[I]t was difficult at times, but I think my mom did the best she could. She provided a roof over our heads and really instilled [in me that] if you want to do something you have to put in a lot of effort.” And so, as an adult, together with his wife Angie, he began the Steve Smith Family Foundation (SSFF), which is  dedicated to providing hope to those in need, especially in the effort to strengthen family units across America by helping victims of domestic violence and securing the health and wellness of children.

Smith has shown both leadership and commitment to homeless, poor, and disadvantaged communities and individuals in America. It is our privilege to honor him with our 2014 Stewart B. McKinney Award. 

Senator Patty Murray, Bruce F. Vento Award

As Washington state's senior Senator, Patty Murray has a proven track record spanning more than two decades of fighting for Washington state families in the United States Senate. Serving as a member of Senate Democratic leadership since 2007, Patty has established herself as a tireless and effective leader on education, transportation, budget issues, port security, healthcare, women, and veterans issues. In addition to being the first female Senator from Washington state, Patty served as the first female Chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee during the 112th Congress and currently serves as the first female Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.

As a unique voice in the United States Senate, Patty is known for her down-to-earth, determined style. She's been called "a workhorse, not a show horse" by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for her intense, behind-the-scenes efforts to get the job done. She has also been described as "tenacious" in her work to address Washington state's needs by the Seattle Times. Patty is often looked to by colleagues and the media in Washington D.C. for her ability to articulate how complex issues affect every day American families. 

Patty met her husband of over 40 years, Rob Murray, while attending Washington State University. They have two grown children, Sara and Randy. Patty enjoys fishing, exploring Washington state's great outdoors and spending time with her family. It is our honor to give the 2014 Bruce F. Vento Award to Senator Murray.

Sidley Austin LLPPro Bono Counsel Award

With more than 1,800 lawyers in 18 cities across the globe, Sidley Austin LLP provides a broad range of services to meet the needs of their clients across a multitude of industries, financial institutions, governments and individuals. Their practice covers corporate and securities, bank and commercial lending, public finance, real estate, tax and employee benefits, as well as trusts and estates.

Sidley offers their clients extensive litigation and arbitration experience, at trial and appellate levels and spanning virtually every area of substantive law. Sidley is recognized for service and responsiveness. For the fourth consecutive year, Sidley has received the most first-tier national rankings of any U.S. law firm in the 2014 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” survey. Sidley also has been widely recognized for their pro bono program. Sidley lawyers devoted over 100,000 to pro bono service in 2013, ensuring that their clients have remained housed, obtained critically-needed disability benefits, avoided removal to countries in which they would be tortured, and maintained custody of their children.

A critical part of Sidley’s pro bono program has been its long-term partnership with the Law Center.  In collaboration with the Law Center over the last two decades, Sidley has protected the First Amendment rights of churches to feed and shelter homeless individuals, challenged voter ID laws that violated the voting rights of homeless persons, and challenged anti-camping ordinances that criminalized the mere status of being homeless. Sidley will continue to work with the Law Center to protect the rights of homeless individuals and families until the day comes when homelessness is eradicated, and all citizens will have a place they can call home. It is our privilege to honor Sidley with our 2014 Pro Bono Counsel Award. 

Aleah Green, Personal Achievement Award

Aleah Green is the youngest daughter of a minister and a postal worker.  She was born in Mt. Clemens, MI. She worked hard and achieved many of her heartfelt dreams. She earned her B.A. in Psychology as well as an MBA.She worked in the human services field and for more than 10 years in corporate America until she was laid her off. Most importantly, Aleah says “she is Shiloh’s mother.” Shiloh is her 6 year old son who has a speech delay and needs special support in school. Despite her many accomplishments in life, as an unemployed single mom burdened by debt Aleah found herself struggling and without the financial resources to afford her own place. She became homeless and due to economic hardship she had no alternative but to move in with her mother; she was “doubled up” without a lease or mortgage of her own. The school system told Aleah that she was no longer considered homeless and refused to enroll Shiloh in school unless she produced proof of residency, which she could not do.  But under the education title of the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act,  which ensures immediate enrollment and educational stability for homeless children and youth,  Aleah and Shiloh were clearly homeless and the school’s actions were illegal. Aleah knew her rights and tried to convince the school to enroll Shiloh, to no avail. But after our lawyer contacted the school with a letter, Shiloh was enrolled immediately, and also received the appropriate special education services.  Aleah says that she is so grateful for our assistance in getting her son into school and that we made a tremendous difference in their lives—and that because of our help, she feels empowered to advocate for herself and her son in the future. Aleah is the true hero; she has shown strength and persistence in overcoming barriers to her son’s school access. Her story exemplifies the power of the law to change lives. It is our honor to give the 2014 Personal Achievement Award to Aleah Green.