Charlotte Pride announced its Champions of Pride recipients, each of which will play a role in the Pride Parade set to take place on Aug. 20.

According to the Charlotte Pride website, the Champions of Pride awards “seek to recognize those whose work and dedication exemplify the spirit of Pride.”

“Champions endeavor to empower and unite LGBTQ and allied people through their leadership, service, and support,” the statement from the website confirms.

“Champions understand the importance of celebrating our past, present, and future while advancing LGBTQ rights and visibility.”

This year’s Pride Parade Grand Marshall is Daniel Valdez, the chief external affairs officer at Welcoming America. Valdez has a history of advocacy and volunteering in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg area, including at the Latin American Coalition, Carolinas CARE Partnership, Crisis Assistance Ministry, Wayfinders, Hispanic Federation, Communities in School – Charlotte Mecklenburg, Charlotte Bilingual Preschool, and the Levine Museum of the New South.

He has also served as a Board Member and Grants Committee Chair with the Plus Collective (formerly the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund), co-chaired Reel Out Charlotte (formally the GayCharlotte Film Festival) and served as the President of the Board of Directors of Charlotte Pride from 2017 to 2021.

Teresa Davis, a Charlotte resident who died in February, is set to be honored as the Parade Grand Marshall — in Memoriam. She retired from the United States Air Force in 2013 at the rank of Major and went on to work for the Department of Justice as the Acting Assistant Director of the FOIA/Privacy Act Unit.

While in Charlotte, Davis worked to promote inclusivity and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, including working with the Charlotte LGBT Center and the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CLGBTCC), where she served as President. She, along with her partner and friends, founded Charlotte’s Reel Out Annual Film Festival, which is now going into its 24th year.

The Outstanding Ally Award — given to honor those who support the LGBTQ+ community with a “demonstrated, ongoing passion, and commitment to better LGBTQ lives” — went to Karen Graci, the first executive director of PFLAG Charlotte. PFLAG aims to “support, educate and advocate for LGBTQ+ people and those who love them.”

Graci also served as PFLAG Charlotte’s Board Chair & President from 2019 to 2021 and as Healthcare Outreach Manager from 2017 to 2019.

The 2023 Youth Catalyst Award was given to Sarah T. Moore, a sophomore journalism student at Elon University and LGBTQ+ activist. She has worked with Time Out Youth, GLSEN and Charlotte Pride, as well as led LGBTQ+ advocacy efforts in her high school on her college campus.

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