RALEIGH – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) North Carolina Gala will return to Raleigh on Feb. 26. The event, the largest LGBT fundraising event in the state, will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center. Hundreds are expected to attend the benefit, where three awards will be presented.

HRC’s Equality Awards recognize individual and organizational leadership in the LGBT community in North Carolina. This year’s winners include Raleigh’s Crape Myrtle Festival, longtime LGBT leader Joni Madison and high schooler Kristin Oshinsky.

The Crape Myrtle Festival Inc (CMF) is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that raises funds for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Triangle area, among other causes. The group celebrated their 30th anniversary last year. CMF started as a small gathering among friends recognizing something needed to be done to face the issues of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the gay community in 1981; it is now the oldest AIDS-related fundraiser in the Southeast. Through its diverse yearly events, grand gala, corporate, business and individual sponsorships and donations, the Festival has raised over $1 million for more than 30 service agencies statewide.

Kirsten Oshinsky, a student at Wake County’s Wakefield High School, worked tirelessly with students and administrators fighting an uphill battle in the creation and official recognition of Wakefield’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). Once established, Oshinskly worked with the club to address the issue of slurs, creating “Stop Signs,” a traditional stop sign with a warning that certain language will not be tolerated. The signs, now in every class room at Wakefield, empower teachers to stop slurs easily and show students that certain language or behavior will not be tolerated.

Joni Madison, who will receive HRC’s Legacy Equality Award, has been a member of the HRC Board of Governors for six years, an HRC Carolinas Dinner co-chair twice and has served on the HRC National Board of Directors for four years. Madison has led the North Carolina Steering Committee, the only statewide steering committee in the nation. HRC credits her leadership in making the HRC North Carolina Dinner one of the largest HRC dinners in the nation.

Tickets to the HRC Gala are $175 until Feb. 18. They can be bought online at hrccarolinas.org. : :

— compiled by qnotes staff from release

more: Be sure to pick up qnotes’ Feb. 20 print edition for more on this year’s HRC Gala, associated events, Raleigh sees and dos and more.

Photo: Raleigh Convention Center, photo courtesy Suzie T via Flickr.