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Brandon Wolf    

Pulse Nightclub Survivor, Activist, Changemaker & Thought Leader

Sherrilyn Kenyon once said that “the strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell”. The early hours of June 12, 2016 were nothing short of that for Brandon Wolf. Just after 2am, a gunman filled with hate and armed with a weapon of war charged into Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida and opened fire – just steps from where Wolf stood. As the gunfire raged, he made a break for an emergency exit, narrowly escaping the club with his life. His best friends, Drew and Juan, weren’t so lucky. They were among the 49 mostly LGBTQ people of color murdered in what was the country’s deadliest mass shooting at the time.

Wolf’s path since that harrowing night can be summed up in a quiet promise he made at Drew’s funeral: to never stop fighting for a world he would be proud of. Weeks after the shooting, Wolf began sharing his story of survival amidst efforts to shift gun policy in America. He became a powerful surrogate for Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy’s successful bid to unseat an NRA-backed incumbent and joined the Advisory Board of The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, an LGBTQ gun violence prevention Political Action Committee. In August of 2016, Wolf joined then-candidate Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in calling for change.

But sweeping change didn’t come. That year, the country elected Donald Trump to the highest office in the land and hope for new gun safety legislation faded. The 2018 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas reignited the public fire, pushing Wolf’s story of survival into the light again. He joined students from Parkland in marching on Tallahassee and Washington DC, delivering powerful remarks from the steps of the State Capitol and rallying LGBTQ attendees at The Human Rights Campaign headquarters. He became a regular face on cable news networks, calling out leaders for their failure to act on issues of equality and gun violence. Wolf did speaking tours in his home state of Oregon discussing the need for systemic changes, helped secure the passage of Florida’s first gun safety legislation in two decades, and, in 2019, became the first survivor of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy to testify before the US House of Representatives. Since the shooting, Wolf has been recognized as one of Huffington Post’s 30 LGBTQ Influencers Under 30 and Business Equality Magazine’s 40 LGBTQ Leaders Under 40.

Wolf’s passion for progressive action led him to serve as the top national surrogate on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign, criss-crossing the country to stump for Warren’s candidacy. He joined the Senator in Las Vegas, pitching her to crowded LGBTQ venues and introducing her at a town hall meeting before a crowd of thousands.

Wolf’s work has been shaped by the life and legacy of his best friend Drew. In the summer following the tragedy at Pulse, he helped to found The Dru Project, an LGBTQ youth organization that cultivates inclusive school environments and provides college funding to emerging queer leaders. This year, the organization will have given over $100,000 in college scholarships to those rising stars, evidence of Wolf’s commitment to creating a pipeline of talent to reimagine the future.

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