A Spectacular Showing of Greatness: 2024 Brilliance Awards in Review

Engage with the West Michigan Woman Community!

The 2024 Brilliance Awards, an annual celebration of the dynamic talent, spirit and intellect of those who tackle issues facing professional women, took place May 9 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 from AB, 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, mentors, connectors and social change agents. Ultimately, three finalists for each category, and eventually a top honoree, were carefully selected from over 330 incredible nominations.

The 2024 event also saw the awarding of the second Legacy of Brilliance Award to Christy Buck, Executive Director and Founder of "be nice." Chosen by the West Michigan Woman team, the Legacy of Brilliance Award honors a woman who has a reputation for showing up for her team, her network and her community throughout the entirety of her exceptional career.

"Much like previous years, there was no shortage of connection, collaboration and inspiration at this year's Brilliance Awards—our biggest event yet!" said Kasie Smith, President and Publisher of West Michigan Woman. "It's our honor to be able to shine a light on those leaders and trailblazers whose work positively impacts others in our community and makes West Michigan such a wonderful place to call home. The West Michigan Woman community wouldn't be what it is without everyone who attended the event and in turn supported and lifted up those women and men willing to challenge the status quo for a better world."

The evening also saw the announcement of a new event in the West Michigan Woman programming lineup, coming this fall: The Brilliance Summit.

"We knew we wanted the brilliance of the awards to continue on throughout the year, and what better way to accomplish that than by inviting our finalists and top honorees to connect with our community and impart their wisdom directly?" Smith added. "This half-day event is aimed at inspiring and strengthening leadership capabilities of women at all professional levels, so please join us!"

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 2024 finalists and top honorees.

Keep reading to meet them all.


Keli Christopher, Ph.D. | Founding Chief Executive Officer, STEM Greenhouse
Lauren Davis | President - West Michigan Region, Huntington Bank
Ileana McAlary | Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary, SpartanNash


Mandy Fidler | Emergency Recovery Coordinator, Paul Davis of West Michigan
Yeli Romero | Founder & Co-Owner, Acceso VIP
Carrie Smith | Director of Communications, SpartanNash


Ebony Crane, LMSW | Owner & Founder, Resilience Therapy LLC; Resilience Empowerment Services Inc; CRGR Property Management
Jacqueline Scherer, LMSW, RPT | Founder & Executive Director, THE PLAYGROUNDgr
Sasha Wolff | Founder, Executive Director, Still I Run


Jackie Brewster | Program Director, Wedgwood Christian Services
Christy Knetsch | Executive Director, New City Kids
Heather Zak | Chief Financial Officer, Hope Network


Mercedes Lopez-Duran | Owner & CEO, El Granjero Mexican Grill
Tiffany Neuman | Founder, Your Legacy Brand
Zenobia Taylor-Weiss | Founder & Co-Owner, Cellar Door Preserves


Haley Abbas Wilbur | Marketing and Communications Manager, Gerald R. Ford International Airport
Heather Gill Fox | Strategic Communications Manager, Grand Rapids Community Foundation
Ashley Fermina Soto | Project Coordinator, Social Innovation, Steelcase


Monica Mendez | Director of Talent & Leadership Programs, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce
Angela Schalow | Founder, SWAN (Strong Women Arise Network); Client Executive, Hylant
Danielle Williams | Director of Economic Opportunity, AmplifyGR


Jenna Arcidiacono | Founder & Owner, Food Hugs, Amore Trattoria Italiana
Sonja Forte | Executive Director, Baxter Community Center
Rebecca McDonald | President, Women At Risk International (WAR)


Matt Biersack, MD | President, Trinity Health Grand Rapids
Neil Carlson, Ph.D. | Founder & Principal Consultant, DataWise Consulting
Dan Gowdy Ed.D. | President & CEO, Wedgwood Christian Services


Jenna Arcidiacono | Founder & Owner, Food Hugs, Amore Trattoria Italiana


Christy Buck | Founder and Executive Director, be nice.

Courtesy of West Michigan Woman.

 Photo Courtesy of Arrae Photography. 


More stories you'll love