Stonewall Sports, a national LGBTQ, non-profit sports organization based in Washington, D.C. is expanding after approving an application for a Norfolk chapter that will encompass the entire Hampton Roads region.
The effort to bring Stonewall Sports to Hampton Roads was spearheaded by local realtor Ben Canty. Canty played in a kickball league while living in Northern Virginia and participated with Stonewall Sports in Richmond last year. He was inspired to bring Stonewall Sports to Hampton Roads after enjoying the camaraderie, spirit of giving and fun had while playing in Richmond.
Canty said, “I looked at all of these people out there having a good time, being authentic and uninhibited – it was giant party and I didn’t want to leave.”
Canty went on to remark that having fun is secondary to the mission of Stonewall Sports. Every Stonewall Sports chapter is focused on giving back to the community as it bills itself as an inclusive sports organization with philanthropy at its core. The Hampton Roads chapter has chosen the Transgender Assistance Program of Virginia and For Kids as the league’s charitable partners. Canty said that not only will Stonewall Sports raise funds for both of these local charities, but hopes to raise both non-profit’s visibility in the community.
Stonewall Sports also encourages inclusivity and diversity and this was an important part of the application to bring a chapter to Hampton Roads. Canty brought together a diverse team of leaders from throughout the community, emphasizing that “We worked so hard to let people know this (Stonewall Sports) is not a boys club.” The Stonewall Sports Hampton Roads leadership team is as follows:
- Ben Canty, Commissioner
- Jon Banwarth, Division Lead
- Billy Milton, Events Director
- Nathaniel Cody, Treasurer
- John White, Technical Director
- Taylor Smith, Administrative Coordinator
- Michelle Reed, Sponsor Liaison
- Katie Fox, Marketing Director
Stonewall Sports Hampton Roads will formally kickoff (pun intended) activities tonight with a launch party scheduled for 8 p.m. at MJ’s Tavern in Norfolk. Anyone interested in learning more about Stonewall Sports is invited to come meet the leadership team and get more information about the league. Formal play begins in October with a kickball league. Chapters in other cities play more than kickball – other potential activities include billiards, bocce, bowling, climbing, dodgeball, flag football, softball, tennis, volleyball and even yoga.
Persons of all skill levels are welcome to participate, there are no try-outs and the league teams will not be separated by skill level. You may join as a team or be a ‘free agent’ and meet other free agents and teams at a ‘Free Agent Social’ that is being planned.
In the past few years, other LGBTQ athletic/activity groups have been formed, including Out-n-Fit and OutVentures. But, according to Canty, these groups primary purpose is not philanthropic and he looks forward to working with members in those groups and others in Hampton Roads to build a stronger community.
In the next few weeks, Stonewall Sports Hampton Roads will be rolling out a website and a social media presence to register teams and recruit players and teams.