HRC North Carolina Gala
Announces 2017 Equality Award Recipients

CHARLOTTE - HRC Charlotte is proud to announce our 2017 Equality Award recipients. These special guests will be honored on February 17, 2018 at the 23rd Annual HRC North Carolina Gala, held at the Le Meridien Charlotte. The HRC Equality Awards are meant to honor individuals and organizations that have furthered the progress of civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.

Dan Kirsch will be recognized as the 2017 Pioneer of the Year. Stonewall Sports Charlotte will be honored as the 2017 Organization of the Year.

Dan Kirsch was one of the original pioneers to organize the LGBTQ community in North Carolina.

Dan came to Charlotte in the late 1980s, moving from Philadelphia, where he had been a member of the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus. "It was a life-changing experience to be part of that chorus," Dan remembered. "It gave me courage and confidence to be fully out and ready to do my part for equal rights.

From 1989 to 2004, Dan was instrumental in the founding of four community-altering organizations: One Voice Chorus, OutCharlotte LGBTQ Cultural Festival, the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte and the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund. Each of these organizations were ground-breaking, introducing Charlotte to LGBTQ arts, events and philanthropy in new and exciting ways.

In June 1994, Dan and Sue Henry were co-chairs of NC Pride, and they brought the largest statewide LGBTQ event ever held to the Queen City. That same year, Dan put Charlotte on the map with LGBTQ community leaders nationwide when he hosted the Gay & Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA) Annual Leadership Conference here. The three-day event attracted 250 chorus delegates from across the country and gave a young One Voice Chorus an important audience.

The success of NC Pride led to the start of OutCharlotte in 1995. OutCharlotte encompassed a broad range of activities, including the annual October cultural festival, FilmOut (taking over the reigns of the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival), OutMedia (which created the six-episode soap "Southern Disclosure" for the local cable TV station), and ReachOut, which provided training and education programs. During 2001, OutCharlotte was a host site for the Colorado-based Gill Foundation's InCommunity program, offering 10 free fundraising training session to members of any non-profit organization. More than 250 participants from 97 organizations participated. OutCharlotte also led the feasibility study for a future LGBTQ community center.

In 2016, Dan returned to Charlotte where he served as Development and Strategy Consultant for Time Out Youth Center's successful capital campaign. Adding to his collection of firsts, Dan coached this treasured local non-profit to raise more money than any LGBTQ organization in Charlotte ever had and set them on the path to building what will be the city's first transitional housing facility for homeless LGBTQ youth.

On January 1, 2018, Dan began a new job as Managing Director of Cape Fear Regional Theatre in Fayetteville, North Carolina.


The work and bridge building that Stonewall Sports Charlotte has created has made the Queen City a more inclusive community and offers a unique sense of belonging to a "team environment."

In the fall of 2014, a small group of friends learned of a national LGBTQ sports movement gaining ground across the country and saw the opportunity to bring a meaningful game-changer to the Queen City. With just over 100 people participating that first season, what started with 'a kickball league' has grown into a thriving not-for-profit organization supporting Charlotte and the surrounding communities. 

Just three short years later in 2017, Stonewall Sports Charlotte offered five  unique sports, which consisted of 15 different leagues that serve almost 1,600 people.  Through these offerings as well as fundraising events, community events and volunteer drives, the organization is proud to have given back over $100,000 locally to charities. Stonewall Sports Charlotte is among 14 Stonewall Cities across the US, all of which operate on a completely volunteer basis with no paid positions. 

Stonewall Sports Charlotte exists through the passion of players that live and breathe the Stonewall Vision: that every person should have the ability to feel comfortable playing organized sports and that we ALL have the responsibility to give back to our community.


The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) hosts annual gala fundraisers throughout the country in support of its many efforts to achieve the organizational mission; to build an America where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals and families can be open, honest and safe... at work, at home and in the community.

Charlotte has again been selected as the host city for the 23nd Annual HRC North Carolina Gala. The festivities will begin at 5:30pm on Saturday, February 17, 2018 at the Le Meridien Charlotte in Uptown Charlotte. Expecting 1,000 LGBTQ people and straight allies, the annual event is the highlight of the fundraising year for the LGBTQ community. Attendees include prominent members of the North Carolina LGBTQ community, HRC members and high-level donors, community and business leaders, elected officials, celebrities, family, friends and supporters of LGBTQ people.

For more information regarding the gala including tickets, please visit


As the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, the Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide and over 23,000 in North Carolina - all committed to making HRC's vision a reality.
Founded in 1980, HRC advocates on behalf of LGBTQ Americans, mobilizes grassroots actions in diverse communities, invests strategically to elect fair-minded individuals to office and educates the public about LGBTQ issues. For more information, visit

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