2 women leaders honored for impact on visitor economy

Two women are being spotlighted by Experience Grand Rapids for the role they play in making Grand Rapids more welcoming to visitors, which has a powerful impact on the regional visitor economy and the community at large. 

Kayem Dunn and Norina Cadili were honored at the recent annual Toast the Town luncheon by the destination marketing organization.

Dunn was the inaugural recipient of the Dr. Floyd Wilson Jr. Destination Champion Award, and Cadili, the JW Marriott General Manager, received the Joe Tomaselli Hotelier of the Year Award.

Dunn was honored for her role in developing Grand Rapids/Kent County as a visitor destination and for decades of service to the community, including serving as a member and past chair of the Experience Grand Rapids board. 

“Kayem has been a strong leader and a wise voice for so many vital and visible initiatives in our community,” says Experience Grand Rapids President and CEO Doug Small. “She was the natural choice to be the inaugural recipient of this very special award. Her passion for community is unparalleled. We are tremendously grateful for her leadership, creativity and generous spirit.”

Served several organizations
Dunn’s community engagement is extensive. She is on the Downtown Development Authority board and was its first female chair. As vice chair of the Downtown Grand Rapids board of directors, she was instrumental in bringing several organizations together under its umbrella, and she continues to serve on the board. 

Her other current and past service includes being a member and chair of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market board, board and executive committee member at the Grand Rapids Chamber, and member of the boards of Grand River Network, Grand Rapids Urban League, Planned Parenthood-West Michigan, and Rotary Club of Grand Rapids. Dunn is also a former publisher of Rapid Growth.

“I am deeply honored to receive this new award with Floyd Wilson’s name on it because he was a truly remarkable person, always welcoming and always enthusiastic about Experience Grand Rapids,” Dunn says.

“As a board member,  I’m grateful to my colleagues from the downtown organizations who do the hard and complex work to build our destination city. They are the creative problem solvers who move us forward and who let me join them to constantly learn from them. Community service in Grand Rapids gives me a strong sense of belonging and an opportunity to celebrate the people here.”
Experience Grand Rapids began the award this year in honor of Wilson’s contributions to building Grand Rapids and Kent County as a visitor destination, including his service on the Experience Grand Rapids board and the boards of the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority, Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority, and Samaritas. Wilson chaired the Experience Grand Rapids board during the pandemic, a time of unprecedented challenges in the hospitality and tourism industries. 

Experience GRKayem Dunn receives her award with the family of the late Floyd Wilson Jr and Doug Small.
He died in March 2022, but his wife, Yolanda, and children were on hand to present the award.
“Floyd cared deeply about our community and the people in it, and he never stopped trying to make things better,” Small said. “He was proud of what this destination and our organization accomplished, and, in turn, we are all very proud to pay tribute to Floyd with this namesake award.” 
Small added a personal tribute in his luncheon remarks. “Floyd was my rock during the pandemic, providing invaluable advice and wisdom through all the challenges. I couldn’t have made it through that period without his kindness, guidance, solid friendship and unwavering support.” 

Hotel industry leader
Experience Grand Rapids  also presented Cadili, the JW Marriott general manager, with the Joe Tomaselli Hotelier of the Year Award. The honor recognizes a hotelier who has enhanced the industry and made a lasting impact on Grand Rapids and Kent County. Nominations are made by their peers, and the winner is selected by a jury of industry professionals and community leaders.
“Since joining the JW Marriott Grand Rapids staff 16 years ago, Norina has truly made her mark on her team and on Grand Rapids,” says Small. “She exemplifies the standard of excellence and commitment to community that are Joe Tomaselli’s legacies and that we honor with this award.

 JW Marriott General Manager Norina Cadili receives the Joe Tomaselli Hotelier of the Year Award.
Tomaselli was the president of the Amway Hotel Corp. for 25 years and helped establish the region’s reputation as a first-class visitor destination. Cadili is the 11th recipient of the award, which was established in 2013. All but one honoree were present at the event. 
“I feel incredibly honored to be the recipient of the Joe Tomaselli Hotelier of the Year Award,” Cadili says, “especially knowing how it honors the legacy of a leader in hospitality who was so committed to moving our industry forward and bringing our community together.”

She began with Amway as a front desk agent 16 years ago. She says she has received a wealth of mentorship, guidance, and support.

Experience GRNorina Cadili with past winners of the Joe Tomaselli Hotelier of the Year Award.

“I feel grateful for the opportunity to lead in a capacity where I can help mentor, guide, and support others in their journey and lead them in a path they never thought possible,” says Cadili.

“The pride I hold as the general manager of the JW Marriott Grand Rapids comes from the people that I have met along the way. Their stories, resilience, and passion have inspired me to keep learning, teaching, inspiring, and showing up for them.

She adds, “Grand Rapids is a special place, and it's really wonderful to see community leaders come together to keep pushing us to greater lengths. We are only as good as our neighbor, and I think we have some pretty stellar neighbors.” 
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