Eric Gannon grew up in Hockessin, Delaware and attended the University of Delaware where he received a BS in Organizational and Community Leadership. He is the youngest of three, having two older sisters; he also has one niece and nephew. In 2014, Eric moved to Washington, D.C. through an internal job transfer with Bank of America. After three months, he left Bank of America and began working for Covington & Burling, LLP as a Legal Assistant. When not working, Eric likes to travel, sail, bake, hike, drink wine, and he belongs to a gay kickball team.
When did you start volunteering at CAMP Rehoboth?
In July 2011, when Chris Beagle dragged me out onto Poodle Beach at the crack of dawn for the Barefoot Wines Beach Clean-up. The weather was absolutely miserable—hot, humid, and absent any breeze as we walked from Poodle Beach to Baltimore Avenue. There, I met some great people who really cared about the community and once we finished our job, we enjoyed some wine together…maybe that is the reason I was up at 5:30 a.m. to clean up the beach.
What events/activities have you been involved with as a volunteer?
Over the years, I have helped with various events, mainly in the summer. Sundance Auction and Dance, the Bachelor Auction, the 4th of July Pool Party, and various things that Chris needed help with over the years.
What’s your favorite CAMP Rehoboth event? Why?
If I had to pick one, I would have to choose Sundance. Every year I look forward to taking some extra time off work, driving down to the beach midweek, and meeting up with all of the volunteers. It brings me such joy to see everyone working together and really showing a sense of pride in our community. I have met some AMAZING people over the years, ones who have lived in Rehoboth for decades and have shaped the community into what it is today—a place where all are welcome and accepted.
What’s your best volunteer memory?
Selling tickets the year I was in the Bachelor Auction (2012). It was great interacting with people who came out to support CAMP Rehoboth, getting to know the members of the community—in fact, that was the year I met two amazing guys, Max Dick and Bob Hoffer (now deceased). I remember introducing myself to the them and asking their names. When Max told me his, I immediately asked to see his driver’s license. Sure enough, his name is Max Dick.
Name a childhood mentor or someone who influenced you while growing up.
Goodness, it is difficult narrowing it down to just one, so instead I will pick two: my parents, Janice and Robert Gannon. They both taught me so many lessons and sacrificed so much to provide me with everything I needed to be the person I am today. They taught me how to live, how to love, how to respect, how to enjoy, and how to be the best person I am today—I owe them everything.
If you could go back to the age of 18, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
I wish I had known it is okay to fail at something you try. When I was 18, I thought I had to keep everyone happy, do everything perfectly, and never make a mistake. Now I know it’s okay to make mistakes and own up to those mistakes…you will never learn or grow without stumbling along the way.
Favorite season at the beach and why?
Right after Labor Day. Rehoboth really quiets down then; the streets, bars, and beaches are less crowded and it does not take two hours to run a quick errand. Also, I love visiting Rehoboth in the off season/winter. Snow falling on the ocean water and on the sand is one of my favorite sights—it is so calming and centering.
Do you have an LGBTQ hero? Who and why?
My LGBTQ hero would have to be Lady Gaga. Her music has been such a part of my life throughout the years; it has helped me through some of the most difficult times in my life. And, it has made me smile even bigger during the happiest moments in life—like when Delaware passed the same-sex marriage bill in 2013. I was able to see her in concert this past October in Philadelphia and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Her song, Born This Way, simultaneously gets me going and gives me chills every time I hear it; “No matter gay, straight, or bi; Lesbian, transgendered life; I’m on the right track baby; I was born to survive; No matter black, white or beige; Chola or orient made; I’m on the right track baby; I was born to be brave,” when I hear those lyrics I think: be yourself and be proud of that self, no one else can be you. Gaga has always been outspoken and isn’t shy when it comes to standing up for what is right. I really admire her for all that she has done for the LGBTQ community.
The LGBTQ community has made significant progress in the fight for equality. Did you expect to see this in your lifetime? Why or why not?
As a native Delawarean, I was raised by my parents to accept and embrace those with differences. Standing out from the “norm” myself, I had high hopes of seeing marriage equality and widespread acceptance of those that identify as LGBTQ. I think growing up in the times I did (I graduated high school in 2007), people were gradually coming around to the idea that someone who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is no different from themselves. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to witness this widespread change in how people think and act—it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Best year of your life and why?
2017. Within four months, I became an uncle twice; June 20 I welcomed my nephew David into this world, and just over four months later on October 4, I welcomed my niece, Ruth. I love being an uncle as family is one of the most important things to me.
What advice would you give to the younger LGBTQ community?
Never hide who you are—you are unique, and just because you may be different or like the same gender, that does not make you any less of a value to our society. If anything I think it makes you more valuable. Along with that, don’t worry about coming out to your loved ones; I was terrified of coming out to my father, but he had the best response I could have ever imagined. After I told him I was gay, he said to me, “Eric, it doesn’t make me love you any less; if anything it makes me love you even more.”
Name three events that have shaped your life.
1) Moving to DC—well, moving out of my parents’ house to a big city. 2) Getting my job at Covington (it has helped me grow as a person, mature as an adult, and has challenged me to better myself). And 3) Joining gay kickball—it has helped me step out of my comfort zone and make friends that I never would have made.
What are you most thankful for?
My friends/family. My friends/family have added so much to my life; I would not be where I am today without their love, support, and encouragement.
Eric, we need to thank Chris Beagle for introducing you to CAMP Rehoboth. We also need to thank you for your support. It is a great feeling for us at CAMP Rehoboth to see the younger generation volunteering for our organization. This gives us hope for the future of CAMP Rehoboth, that it will continue to grow and thrive. We look forward to seeing you at some of the upcoming events in 2018. ▼