HSMAI Honors Hospitality Heroes As Part of the Annual Adrian Awards

HSMAI Honors Hospitality Heroes badge
HSMAI Honors Hospitality Heroes As Part of the Annual Adrian Awards

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is recognizing hospitality professionals who have taken a leadership position, championed a cause, or created a program that has directly benefited industry workers, medical personnel, first responders, or communities that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic with the first-ever HSMAI Hospitality Heroes Adrian Award honor.

“It is truly incredible how hospitality professionals have stepped up during a time of crisis,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, president and CEO of HSMAI. “It’s true that hospitality is founded on a community of individuals who serve others before themselves. It is evident in their response to COVID-19, both personally and professionally – I could not be prouder. It is an honor to recognize these hospitality heroes and give them the standing ovation they deserve. ”

HSMAI will continue to accept nominations for Hospitality Heroes leading up to the 64th Annual Adrian Awards. Below are the first heroes that we have recognized.

Meet our first Hospitality Heroes:


Mary Parks, director of sales, Hilton Garden Inn Annapolis Downtown

From the beginning of the pandemic, Mary Parks used the Hilton Garden Inn’s kitchen to bake chocolate-chip cookies for medical personnel, firefighters, and other first responders as well as make hundreds of masks. She created #Masks4Annapolis, a Hilton Garden Inn Annapolis Downtown–sponsored contest to encourage clients and partners to make masks for donation, with the hotel awarding prizes for the best ones. Parks enlisted Annapolis’s government officials to help publicize the contest and got members of Waldorf, Maryland–based rock band Good Charlotte to serve as judges. Within the first two weeks, #Masks4Annapolis was on pace to exceed 2,000 masks.


Jill Flynn, director of sales, events, and marketing, Hyatt Regency Dulles in Herndon, Virginia

With the Hyatt Regency Dulles staying open through COVID-19 but reducing its staff, Flynn has thrown herself into long workdays and weeks, all while covering tasks that are normally performed by an 11-member team. Despite the challenges, she set her needs aside to be there for her colleagues, even providing coverage for their mental-health breaks. Flynn has continued to bring in business for the Hyatt Regency Dulles. During the first weeks of COVID-19, she wore personal protective equipment and greeted federal employees at the airport who had been ordered to return home and booked many of the rooms at the hotel when they had nowhere else to stay.


Jonathan DiFonzo, district sales representative, Cheney Brothers Inc. in Boynton Beach, Florida

Restaurant workers in Delray Beach, Florida, found themselves out of work because of the coronavirus lockdown. Johnathan DiFonzo stepped up by arranging to supply them with meals. He organized a GoFundMe campaign called “Service Industry Relief Fund” that raised more than $4,700 and secured matching produce donations from Boy’s Fresh Market. DiFonzo arranged for three dozen volunteers to pack and distribute 200 meal boxes to members of the restaurant community.


Sheela Martinez, recent front office manager, The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills in West Hollywood, California

The COVID-19 lockdown prevented artisans in her hometown of Santa Maria, Isabela, in the Philippines, from creating and selling their pottery which was the community’s primary source of income. Sheila Martinez put out a call on Facebook to raise money for relief bags. Costing $6, each relief bag can feed a family of four. Martinez’s goal was to raise enough money to feed 200 families. Within two days, she had enough for nearly 500 relief bags.


Ava Espano, guest services agent, Accor

When Ava Espano received Accor’s Heartist of the Year employee-recognition honor in 2019. When her flight was canceled because of COVID-19, she decided that she still wanted the money to get there. Espano sent the prize money that was worth several thousand dollars to her family in the Philippines, who used it to assemble care packages for those in need.

Nominate the industry professionals who have exemplified qualities of creativity and perseverance that make them Hospitality Heroes. Incoming nominations will be reviewed each week by a panel of Adrian judges and selected heroes will be honored weekly online leading up to the Adrian entry period, as well as at the 2021 Adrian Awards celebration. To submit a nomination, please visit HSMAI Hospitality Heroes.

The Adrian Awards spotlight excellence in hospitality advertising, digital marketing, and public relations. The 64th Annual Adrian Awards competition opens October 1st, 2020. To learn more about the 64th Annual Adrian Awards, visit www.adrianawards.com.