The Charlotte Pride Board of Directors was pleased to honor these Champions of Pride Award recipients in 2018.
The Champions of Pride Awards seek to recognize those whose work and dedication exemplify the spirit of Pride. Our Champions endeavor to empower and unite LGBTQ and allied people through their leadership, service and support. Champions understand the importance of celebrating our past, present and future while advancing LGBTQ rights and visibility.
Harvey Milk Award
Given annually to honor exceptional leadership, service to the community and those who champion LGBTQ causes that impact the Charlotte community and beyond.
Gerald Gurss, a native Kansan, received his Bachelor’s degree in voice at Emporia State University where he studied with Terry Barham. He received his master’s degree in voice with a choral cognate from Miami University, where he studied with William Bausano and Ethan Sperry. During his studies at Miami, he was the assistant director for the MU Men’s Glee Club and prepared a chorus for the Cincinnati Ballet’s production of Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” After leaving Miami, Gerald led a successful music program at the Leavenworth Catholic Schools in Leavenworth, KS. Gerald served as the artistic director for the One Voice Chorus, Charlotte’s LGBT chorus, and the chamber ensemble, Sotto Voce. He recently moved to Minnesota where he is now working the artistic director for the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. Gerald has written works for One Voice Charlotte, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, Providence United Methodist Church (Charlotte, NC), the New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus and Sine Noimine (Denver, CO).
J. Donte Prayer
J. Donté Prayer is a native of Greenville, North Carolina currently residing in Charlotte, North Carolina. Donté is a proud product of Elizabeth City State University with a Special Education and Psychology background but currently works in the public health field as a Prevention Coordinator for Quality Comprehensive Health Center and The PowerHouse Project. Donté has a passion for community advocacy, especially in regards to LGBTQ rights, equality, youth and healthcare for marginalized groups! Donté has and continues to serve on community boards and councils. Aside from his advocacy platform, Donté enjoys fashion, entertainment and the Arts. Donté lives by his favorite quote “He Who Kneels Before God Can Stand Before Anyone.”
Outstanding Ally Award
Given annually to honor those who do not identify as LGBTQ, but who have stalwartly supported the LGBTQ community with a demonstrated, ongoing passion and commitment to better LGBTQ lives.
Liz Fitzgerald serves as the Program Director for Grants &Services at the Arts & Science Council, where she supports grants and programs serving creative individuals in the Charlotte region, as well as community-based arts initiatives. For over 20 years, Liz has advocated for social justice initiatives through her work in the arts, higher education, sexual assault and domestic violence victim support, and LGBTQ advocacy. Liz has been a member of One Voice Chorus since moving to Charlotte in 2003, and served as the chair of the OVC board from 2011-2014. While at UNC Charlotte, she helped initiate the Safe Zone project and integrated Crossroads Charlotte curriculum into academic initiatives for new students. She currently serves as the chair of Fundraising and Marketing for the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund, and is a member of the planning team for On The Table CLT. Liz is supported by an amazing family – her partner Scott Fitzgerald, and two children, Mariah and Evan – as well as the close family of friends she has adopted here in Charlotte.
Young Catalyst Award
Given annually to recognize a young adult leader under the age of 30 who is an “up-and-coming” leader within the community and/or whose contributions to the community have carried significant impact over the last year.
Nikolai Mather is a transgender activist and student at UNC Charlotte. He is honored for his role in successfully establishing the LGBTQ+ Center at UNC Charlotte. The UNC Charlotte LGBTQ+ Coalition, an organization he co-founded and leads, collected over 1600 signatures on their petition for the Center, won the support of two dozen campus and community partners, and formed a network of over forty LGBTQ+ student activists. With the approval of the Dean of Students and the Chancellor, the new Center is set to open this semester. Nikolai is a Levine Scholar at UNC Charlotte, where he majors in political science and global studies. He also serves as a staff writer and photographer for the Niner Times, and recently completed an internship at Time Out Youth. He’d like to thank the Coalition and its allies for their courage, hard work, and steadfast commitment to the rights of queer and transgender individuals.
Given from time-to-time by the Charlotte Pride board to acknowledge longstanding and dedicated service to Charlotte Pride or other Pride events and activities in Charlotte.
Richard Grimstad (he/him/his) joined Charlotte Pride in 2012 as the Co-Chair of Development and went on to serve three years as Co-Director alongside Craig Hopkins and as Treasurer in 2016 and 2017. Richard graduated summa cum laude with a BS in accounting from the Belk College of Business at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). Richard continued graduate studies there, earning his MACC with a specialization in taxation. He is a licensed CPA in the state of North Carolina and has worked at GreerWalker LLP since 2006, focusing on state & local tax matters, corporate/small business taxation and inbound international tax and consulting. In 2015, Richard transitioned out of GreerWalker’s tax department into their Litigation Support Services Group, assisting with expert witness testimony, forensic accounting, and bankruptcy engagements. Richard has sponsored an annual accounting scholarship at UNCC for nontraditional students entering into the MACC program at UNCC since 2011, and in 2016 established an annual accounting scholarship aimed at undergraduate students from marginalized communities.
Craig Hopkins joined Charlotte Pride in 2012 as the Co-Chair of Development and served in several roles on the board, including as president, through 2017. Originally from Columbia, S.C., Craig currently lives in Concord and works as a Senior Community Relations Specialist for Food Lion Corporate in Salisbury where he manages the Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation. Prior to that, Craig created and managed event and hospitality programs for corporate sponsors at NASCAR. In his desire to give back to the community, Craig has supported several non-profits through pro-bono consulting work with organizations such as Jacob’s Ladder, Silent Images, and Sow Much Good. Craig received his BS from the College of Charleston in Business Administration and recently completed his Masters in Organization Development from the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte.
Past Champions of Pride:
Inaugural Champions of Pride, 2013
Second Annual Champions of Pride, 2014
Third Annual Champions of Pride, 2015
Fourth Annual Champions of Pride, 2016
Fifth Annual Champions of Pride, 2017