Ever since William Fogler launched WM Events in Atlanta more than 15 years ago, he has designed, produced, and executed small- and large-scale events, including corporate, social, and nonprofit. He is known for his love of gardening, fashion, and his dog Missy. But what many people don’t know is that while running a successful full-service event planning and design firm, William has consistently made giving back to the community a top priority.

On May 23, William was honored for his ongoing efforts to effect positive change, when he received the Dale Riggins Humanitarian Award from the Allie Awards Board of Directors. A Legacy Award, it recognizes individuals who truly make a difference to those in need and whose effects give the Atlanta special events industry its true impact and high profile. Nominees were required to be of high moral and ethical stature and exhibit outstanding professionalism in their service to the special events industry and the community at large.

 2021 Allie Awards WM Events Atlanta Event Planning (67) 2021 Allie Awards WM Events Atlanta Event Planning (67) 2021 Allie Awards WM Events Atlanta Event Planning (67)

Shepard Convention Services introduced the Dale Riggins Humanitarian Award in 1994 as a tribute to, and in memory of, its valued employee Dale Riggins, who made great contributions to the special event industry. This prestigious honor is awarded each year to an individual who donates time, talent, effort, and expertise to community services both within our industry and in our community. The recipients of the award are among the most honored luminaries in the events industry.

William certainly fits this description!

Since arriving in Atlanta in 2004, William has supported nonprofits and the Atlanta community in many ways, giving of his time and expertise, as well as contributing financially. A board member of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Hughes Spalding, for several years, William has also served the organization in additional ways. In 2019, he dedicated a family lounge in the sickle cell transfusions area at CHOA Hughes Spalding. Each year, he leads a book donation program for the on-site library, providing books himself and holding a drive to collect them from friends and colleagues. More recently, he launched an annual LEGO donation for the hospital. Having new books and toys is crucial because the young patients at the hospital may have compromised immune systems that keep them from playing with used items.

Again focusing on helping the youth, William donated a playground to the Downtown Atlanta Sheltering Arms childcare location in 2019. Each year, he honors vets by being a Purple Heart Golf Tournament sponsor. Previously, William served on the board at the Museum of Design Atlanta.

During the 2020 social justice awakening, William launched a series of Cultural Conversations, inviting friends and colleagues to learn about and discuss the issues in a safe space. William hired experts to lead these conversations, which were available at no cost to attendees.

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A recently launched organization that received significant support from William since its infancy is SwemKids. This Atlanta-based nonprofit provides swimming lessons and water-safety programs to children through schools free of charge to change the disparity of drowning rates among the Black community. Understanding that nearly 7 out of 10 Black children do not know how to swim and that middle school Black children drown 10 times more than others, William assisted SwemKids in getting off the ground by donating graphic design, marketing and public relations services to the nascent organization. He took the SwemKids founder on networking calls, introducing her to potential donors and sponsors.

When COVID-19 caused schools and public pools to close, derailing the SwemKids water-safety classes, William opened his home pool to the organization. Measuring 24 by 40 feet, William’s rectangular pool offered plenty of space for social distancing and allowed SwemKids to continue its mission during summer 2020. Not only did the kids make waves at William’s pool, SwemKids was able to teach some of the parents too! Because the lessons took place outside of a school, SwemKids charged a fee, but William again stepped in to provide scholarships to children for whom cost was an issue.

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These are the types of actions that demonstrate William’s moral and ethical statute. He leads with kindness, and everything else falls into place.

If he had only been honored for his humanitarian efforts, there would be plenty to celebrate. But our visionary leader received a second accolade from the Allie Awards Board of Directors. The same evening, William was nominated for another Legacy Award – the new Innovator Award, launched to acknowledge the trailblazers and trendsetters of the hospitality and event industry.

During 2020, William launched “re:EVENT-ion,” a new arm of WM Events dedicated to digital, distanced, and virtual events.

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Although the WM Events team had been incorporating technology, video, set design, and other features into events for many years, the re:EVENT-ion of the company’s offerings took these aspects in new directions. More than just stating that the company could produce virtual events, William and his team worked to ensure the events would be successful, engaging, and meaningful for the hosts and attendees. Virtual programs need to go off without a hitch, so pre-recorded and live features are intermingled. Providing guests with the opportunity to engage means more than a chat box – it could mean features like gamification, interactive mixology lessons, or pre-event deliveries. Throughout the re:EVENT-ion of special events, William and the WM Events team have continued to innovate new features to provide clients with successful, entertaining events that make guests feel safe and connected whether physically together, virtually linked or a combination of both.

Congratulations to William Fogler for being recognized as an innovative entrepreneur and a true humanitarian!

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