Greater Palm Springs Pride announced today the recipients of its 2022 Palm Springs Pride Honors Awards. The prestigious awards honor individuals for their work advancing the causes of LGBTQ individuals and their allies. Five awards celebrate extraordinary voices in the community. The recipients include a Trans Advocate, a community organizer, a reproductive health advocate, an Air Force veteran and community leader, someone who has devoted three decades to improving the lives of women and the LGBTQ+ community, and someone with thirty years of service advocating for health care for people living with HIV.
The awards announcement marks the approach of Pride Week in the region under the theme “Say Gay.”
David “Jax” Kelly, who celebrates life as a gay, black man living with HIV, is the Spirit of Stonewall Volunteer of the Year. He leads Let’s Kick ASS Palm Springs (AIDS Survivor Syndrome), serving one of the largest communities of people who are aging and those aging with HIV. Jax was the first black resident appointed by the City Council to the Palm Springs Library Board of Trustees. His volunteerism includes serving on Governor Newsom’s Equity in Aging Advisory Council and the CA Department of Aging. He is also a member of the Coachella Valley Senior Collaborative. Jax was Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2018, and POZ Magazine recognized him for outstanding work in the HIV/AIDS Community.
The Spirit of Stonewall Community Service Award recipient Maria Fraser’s history of compassion and action speaks volumes about her dedication to improving the lives of women and the LGBTQ+ community. In nursing for most of her adult life, she mainly focused on women’s health while finding ways to facilitate significant changes for the LGBTQ+ Community. Her hospital workplace advocacy led to substantial changes allowing same-sex couples the same access to visitation of a newborn in the NICU as straight couples had. Maria was on the Board of the L-Fund for seven years providing emergency financial support and educational assistance to lesbians in crisis.
Nino Eilets is the Spirit of Pride Award recipient. Nino served in the Air Force for twelve years and has been a resident of Palm Springs since 1996. He is a generous, gentle soul with a big heart who has helped elevate many community organizations by donating his platform for outreach and education through advertising and editorial coverage. His life has brought him a wealth of experience and passion that he uses to raise awareness of advancing equality, promote diversity, and celebrate the strength and talent of the LGBTQ+ community.
The 2022 Friend of Pride is Karen Borja, an ally and champion for the LGBTQ community, a community organizer, and a fierce advocate for reproductive and healthcare access for everyone. Growing up in Coachella, at 16 years old, she joined family and community members to create a park network that demonstrated an investment in people and place. She’s been transforming needs into community power ever since. Karen helped organize the second Eastern Coachella Valley Pride and currently serves as the president of the Desert Healthcare District.
The Spirit of Stonewall Advocate of the Year Award recognizes an individual working to make a difference in the community through advocacy or service. This year’s recipient, Antonia “Toni” D’orsay, has worked to improve the lives and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender diverse, queer, questioning, and BIPOC people for over 20 years. She serves on the HARP-PS advisory board, is a member of the TransHealth Northampton Research Advisory Board and administrators, and moderates the International Transgender Health Facebook group. Additionally, she founded the Trans 100 and has worked in local, state, national, and international efforts around Latinx, Black, Native, and LGBTQ+ rights.
“Advocacy and community service is a common thread that connects the 2022 honorees to our community. They each have lived their life helping others, and our community is better because of their leadership,” said Ron deHarte, president and CEO of Palm Springs Pride. “These are not people who seek attention or accolades for what they do. With purpose and a giving spirit, they quietly serve, and we are grateful for the profound impact they have had and continue to have in our community.”