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Characters Unite Award Winners

Elke Kennedy


Elke Kennedy is the mother of three children and two step sons. Her youngest son, Sean Kennedy, was murdered in a hate crime on May 16th, 2007. Elke and her family channeled their grief into a foundation called Sean’s Last Wish, which is committed to raising awareness of hate crimes and to combating hatred, bullying, violence and bigotry. Elke has dedicated her life to ensuring that no other mother has to experience the loss of a child because of hate and violence.

Elke has traveled more than 145,000 miles and has attended more than 145 events since Sean’s murder to tell his story and to educate the public about the gaps in laws, the need to provide equal protection for all human beings under the law, and how prejudice, bullying, hatred, violence and religious bigotry lead to senseless crimes motivated by bias and what we need and can do to change that. She also tirelessly advocates for greater resources to investigate these crimes.

Elke was named 2007 Q-notes person of the year and also received the 2008 Equality award for the Carolinas from the Human Rights Campaign for her work for human rights and her fight for equality. In her local community of Greenville, SC, she was named third most influential person in the upstate. She was also awarded the Thunder and Lightening award by the SC Progressive Network in November 2008. Additionally, Elke and her husband Jim received the Ryan Wilson Equality Award during Pride in Columbia on September 12th, 2009.

Elke and Jim received a personal invitation from the White House to attend the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James E. Byrd Hate crime prevention act on October 28th, 2009, in Washington, D.C. Elke was honored to be able to represent the state of South Carolina in memory of her son Sean and all the other victims, as well as the whole LGBT community.

Elke was born in Germany and currently resides in Greenville, SC, with her husband Jim.

Elke Kennedy