Keepers of the Dream Freedom Award

Keepers of the Dream Freedom Award

The Kentucky Center, 501 W. Main St., Louisville, KY 40202
Sunday, January 15, 2023, 4 p.m.

The Freedom Award will be given to the citizen who best exemplifies the ideals of Dr. King's vision, while the celebration will honor and recognize all the outstanding citizens of Louisville who have received this honor. The event serves as a time for the community to come together and reflect on past struggles while celebrating forward progress towards a brighter future.

Mayor Craig Greenberg will present the Freedom Award in Whitney Hall honoring this year's two recipients. More information on this year's recipients will be shared soon.

Performances include River City Drum Corp, Keen Dance, Young Prodigys, Redline Performing Arts, Courageous, Lance Newman, Brandon Harrison, Miya Ford, Robin Garner, Tytianna Ringstaff, Erica Goodman, Jocelyn Camille, Derion J and Friends and Koree Jackson. Preshow performance 4 to 4:45 p.m. by Erica Denise in The Kentucky Center Lobby. Post show performance from River City Drum Corp's Drumline.

This event is free and open to the public, FREE parking available in The Kentucky Center Garage.

This event is generously sponsored by Republic Bank






Congratulations, Dawne Gee & Junior Bridgeman, the 2023 Freedom Award Recipients!

Dawne Gee 2023
Dawne Gee

As a native of Louisville, Dawne Gee holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Louisville, in communications and in biology. She has two sons, Eric and Alexander, and a daughter, Brittney. Gee is an Emmy-award winning journalist with a career that spans over three decades in broadcast journalism and radio. She is a tireless advocate for numerous nonprofits in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic you could find her all over the region giving her time and talent at more than 200 speaking engagements every year. 
Gee was honored to represent the Commonwealth in the Olympic Torch Relay for the 2002 Winter Olympics. She was selected as one of 183 torchbearers to run across the Bluegrass State. Each torchbearer was believed not only to embody the Olympic spirit but to be champions of their own communities.  
Gee was an honored recipient of the Lyman T. Johnson Distinguished Leadership Award in 2009, and the Chestnut Street YMCA Black Achievers Program honored her as the Adult Achiever of the Year in 2019. LEO Magazine recognized Gee’s love for the Commonwealth and honored her as a positive force of change by naming her Louisvillian of the Year in 2010. The Center for Women & Families named Gee as a Woman of Distinction celebrating the indelible mark she has left on this community. In 2019, the Louisville Forum recognized Gee for quietly and generously giving to the Louisville community in numerous ways by bestowing the Fleur De Lis Award, noting instances from her professional and personal life that significantly affected those living in Louisville and surrounding areas in substantial and positive ways.  
In 2015, Gee took her dedication to those in need to a new level by founding the nonprofit, A Recipe to End Hunger & Need. The charity’s focus in its infancy has been on supporting other nonprofits in the city who work tirelessly to end food insecurity. Nonprofits such as Dare to Care, Blessings in a Backpack and Feed Louisville have the knowledge, staff and desire to end hunger in our community however they often lack the funding they need to do the job. A Recipe to End Hunger & Need works perpetually year-round to raise the funds needed by those nonprofits. A Recipe to End Hunger & Need has no overhead and no paid staff. Gee calls on friends and family to step in and volunteer which allows 100% of all proceeds to go to those nonprofits who serve the hungry. Gee called on local friends in the media as well as celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Darrell Griffith, Loni and Muhammad Ali and the news crew of NBC to share their favorite recipes for the cookbook, “A Recipe to End Hunger”. The 164-page color publication also features fifty-five different restaurants and businesses in Louisville and Southern Indiana. It became a best seller on Amazon. A Recipe to End Hunger & Need has raised close to half a million dollars since its inception.  
Gee enjoys celebrating our community on WAVE Country, an hour-long television talk show on WAVE, while also at times facilitating difficult conversations that heal or move the city forward. She also understands and enjoys the importance of keeping viewers informed with local and national news daily. 

Junior Bridgeman
Junior Bridgeman

Junior Bridgeman is the owner and chief executive officer of Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Company, LLC, a Kansas limited liability company which owns and operates a Coca-Cola production and manufacturing facility in Lenexa, Kansas and 17 Coca-Cola distribution facilities sprinkled across the USA’s heartland, including Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.
Mr. Bridgeman acquired the Heartland manufacturing and bottling territories from Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, LLC in late February 2017, becoming one of the Coca-Cola systems newest independent bottlers.
Prior to the acquisition of the Heartland bottling operations, Mr. Bridgeman was the owner and chief executive officer of various companies operating over 450 restaurants in 20 states, including 263 Wendy’s restaurants and 123 Chili’s restaurants. His companies received several prestigious awards during his tenure including the Diamond Award for most effective neighborhood marketer, the Wendy Award for exemplary performance by a franchisee, the Founder’s Award which recognizes operational excellence by a franchisee, the Jim Near Legacy Award for employer of choice and the Hall of Fame Award from Wendy’s International for overall achievement, and the Franchisee of the Year Award in 2012 and the Chili’s Sales Award from Brinker International in 2015.
Mr. Bridgeman attended the University of Louisville where he graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. He was a three-year letter winner and starter on the University’s basketball team, receiving All-American honors as a senior.
From 1975 to 1983 and from 1986 to 1987, Mr. Bridgeman played professional basketball with the Milwaukee Bucks. During the interim period of 1983 to 1986, he played for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Mr. Bridgeman currently serves on the Board of Directors of Meijer, Inc., Churchill Downs, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the James Graham Brown Foundation, Simmons College and the West End School. He served as past chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Louisville.
Mr. Bridgeman has personally received many awards, including the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame, Volunteers of America Tribute Award for Outstanding Service to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, John Thompson Foundation Outstanding Achievement Award, Coach John Wooden Key to Life Award and the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. 

Freedom Award Recipients: 

  • Lyman T. Johnson, 1988
  • Rev. W. J. Hodge, 1989
  • Former State Senator Georgia Davis Powers, 1990
  • Rev. William E. Summers III, 1991
  • Rev. Thomas F. Moffett, 1992
  • Father Patrick Delahanty, 1993
  • Art Walters, 1994
  • Sam Watkins, 1995
  • Willie Gray, 1996
  • Deborah Todd, 1997
  • Dr. Kevin Cosby, 1998
  • Rev. Charles E. Kirby, 2000
  • Dr. Samuel Robinson, 2001
  • Dr. J. Blaine Hudson, 2002
  • Ed Hamilton, 2004
  • Beverly Watts, 2005
  • Raoul Cunningham, 2006
  • Ben Richmond, 2007
  • James O. Chatham, 2008
  • Dr. Bernard Minnis, 2009
  • Mervin Aubespin, 2010
  • Charlie Johnson, 2011
  • Darryl T. Owens, 2012
  • Ishmon Burks, 2013
  • Suzanne "Suzy" Post, 2014
  • Ed White, 2015
  • George Burney, 2016
  • Manfred Reid, 2017
  • Rev. Charles Elliott, 2018
  • Diane Porter, 2019 
  • Mattie Jones, 2020 
  • Event postponed due to Covid, 2021
  • William E. Summers IV, Wanda Mitchell Smith, Karina Barillas, 2022
  • Dawne Gee, Junior Bridgeman, 2023

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