Successful 2015 Gala!

CHAMPS Honorees with Diana Enzi, Senator Blumenthal and wife, and Mr. Johnson


October 2015 – Washington, DC – The Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI), a Virginia-based international humanitarian organization, hosted its 18th annual Clearing the Path Gala on October 20th in Washington, DC at the elegant Fairmont Hotel.  MLI honored leaders whose extraordinary efforts have improved lives in war-torn countries and celebrate the progress that has been made in making the world a better and safer place.  With dozens of generous Gala sponsors, including Title Sponsor General Dynamics, this annual event raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support MLI’s humanitarian programs around the world.

MLI works to restore hope and promote stability in war-torn countries by implementing sustainable and affordable programs that help countries remove the scourge of landmines. Since its founding in 1997, MLI has donated 205 mine detection dogs (MDDs) to eleven different countries around the world, to include Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Eritrea, Iraq, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.  MLI’s CHildren Against Mines Program (CHAMPS) is an educational outreach program that fosters global citizenship by encouraging American students to help others in mine-affected countries through service-learning projects. Finally, MLI’s Survivors’ Assistance program helps landmine survivors who are struggling to overcome the devastating physical and psychological scars of their injuries by providing prosthetic devices, rehabilitative treatment, and vocational training.

MLI was delighted to once again have Tom Gjelten of NPR news serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. Following a beautiful performance of the National Anthem by the Voices of Service, a talented group of military veterans, Gjelten kicked off the night by introducing the evening’s sponsors, highlighting Title Sponsor General Dynamics, and Gold Sponsors, AUSA and the Joan Wismer Foundation. Guests then enjoyed a marvelous dinner, followed by a rousing performance by Voices of Service. General Gordon Sullivan, MLI Chairman & Founder, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), MLI CHAMPS founder Diana Enzi, Dr. Ken Rutherford, General Dynamics VP Dan Johnson, and Ambassador Antoine Chedid of the Lebanese Embassy then presented awards to richly deserving Honorees. US Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) received the 2015 Public Policy Award for his impressive legislative accomplishments and steady focus on families and American values.  Sergeant Ahmad Soleh & his canine partner Joan from Lebanon received the 2015 Mine Detection Dog Team of the Year for their courageous work in helping free Lebanon of landmines. The 2015 Survivors’ Honorees included two remarkable individuals who have overcome great adversity and gone on to accomplish incredible things on behalf of others. Captain Larkin O’Hern, USMA Class of 2008, lost multiple limbs in an IED blast in Afghanistan in 2010 and, after a difficult recovery period, went on to earn a Master’s degree from George Washington University and now serves as a US Army Congressional Fellow. Mr. Bekele Gonfa Oba, an inspirational landmine survivor from Ethiopia, lost his leg in an explosion during the Ethiopian and Somali war, and went on to earn his Bachelor’s degree and become the Director of the Landmine Survivors Network, assisting thousands of mine survivors, and now serves as the Executive Director of the Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization.

The 2015 Joan Wismer CHAMPS Honorees included two very impressive and inspirational individuals. Henry Harris, a Brunswick High School senior from Greenwich, CT, pedaled his bicycle more than 3,200 miles cross-country this summer to promote MLI’s Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS) and to sponsor a lifesaving dog named Cosby in honor of a beloved school teacher.  Mrs. Julie Cofone, a 5th Grade teacher from North Mianus School in Greenwich, CT, has spent the past five years advocating on behalf of CHAMPS and engaging hundreds of students, parents, and community members in MLI’s programs and raising funds to sponsor multiple mine detection dogs.

The evening also featured a parade honoring retired hero mine detection dogs who “sniffed out” landmines for many years in Afghanistan before being adopted by wonderful American families.  MLI President and CEO, Perry F. Baltimore III, adopted one of these retired MDDs earlier this year, and MDD Dino was led across the stage by two of the fantastic staff members from Seneca Hill Animal Hospital, Resort, and Spa, which has provided extraordinary pro-bono care for MLI’s MDDs for the past decade.

MLI is deeply grateful to everyone who so generously contributed to the success of the Clearing the Path Gala, including the many sponsors, donors, and volunteers.  For more information about the 2016 Clearing the Path Gala, which will be held on October 12, 2016, please contact Tycie Horsley at or call 703-243-9200.