Thursday, April 18, 2024

LGBTQ+ youth receive boost from tech, sport, and entertainment allies

LGBTQ+ youth are supported by Apple, Qualtrics, Utah Jazz, and Imagine Dragons via Encircle: LGBTQ+ Family and Youth Center. 

Encircle, a pioneering non-profit that provides community resource houses to LGBTQ+ youth and their families, has announced a major new expansion backed by a group of leaders representing tech, sports, and entertainment. Together, they are supporting Encircle’s efforts to build new partnerships among a broad coalition of allies and advocates to provide programs, mental health services, support groups, and safe spaces to young LGBTQ+ people and their families throughout the U.S.

Encircle has a nationwide program helping LGBTQ+ youth

Serving LGBTQ+ youth since February 2017, Encircle: LGBTQ+ Family and Youth Center,  has functioned as a welcoming presence to LGBTQ+ youth and their families. Founded in Utah, Encircle has a goal of implementing their program nationwide, addressing the loneliness and high rates of suicide frequently experienced amongst LGBTQ+ youth and young adults. This is accomplished through providing individual and family therapy, support groups, and a safe space to young LGBTQ+ people throughout the U.S. 

Studies show that many LGBTQ+ youth nationwide struggle to access therapy and mental health services. Since its founding in 2017, Encircle has served over 70,000 individuals and funded thousands of family and youth therapy sessions, providing a lifeline to those facing suicidality, isolation and depression, helping them build local community and forge a path forward. It’s been an especially urgent need during the pandemic, which has cut off many more young people from their friends and other support systems outside the home.

Now, Encircle has launched a new “$8 Million, 8 Houses” capital campaign, which will establish eight new Encircle homes in four states: Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. Encircle already has three Utah homes in Provo, Salt Lake City and St. George, and a fourth under construction in Heber. 

To jumpstart the campaign, Qualtrics founder and Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith will contribute $2 million, and Imagine Dragons’ lead singer Dan Reynolds and his wife, recording artist Aja Volkman will donate Dan’s childhood home (valued at $1 million) in Las Vegas. In addition, Apple will donate $1 million and contribute products that promote digital connection, creativity and education. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Ryan and Ashley Smith, and Dan Reynolds and Aja Volkman will also serve as honorary co-chairs of Encircle’s new campaign, supporting the non-profit’s expanding efforts to build community, acceptance and understanding for young LGBTQ+ people and their families. 

“All people should feel safe and supported enough to be open about who they are with their community and themselves,” said Cook, who has visited the organization’s Provo house. “Encircle is helping to bridge divides and bring people together — sending a powerful message that the greatest thing you can aspire to become is who you truly are. It’s my hope that every young person who feels alone or unsupported can find connection and community at this incredible organization.” 

“Ashley and I have seen the amazing work Encircle does to benefit LGBTQ+ youth. We’re grateful for the opportunity to contribute to their mission of creating more inclusive communities and providing much needed hope and support to youth,” said Ryan Smith. “Encircle is an incredible example of the entrepreneurial spirit and drive that motivates people to create a better, more accepting world. Working with Tim Cook, Apple and Dan and Aja on the ‘$8 Million, 8 Houses’ campaign to improve the experience of LGBTQ+ youth is just the beginning. Encircle’s innovative and loving approach is a model that can and should be adopted globally.”

“Encircle is about bringing young LGBTQ+ people and their families together, by including the community and strengthening the bonds that connect us,” said Dan Reynolds and Aja Volkman. “Being a part of this organization means so much to both of us — and we know the house Dan grew up in will be a loving and supportive home to every young LGBTQ+ person who crosses the threshold.”

In the summer of 2017, the Toelupe family heard about a little blue house in Provo, Utah, called Encircle. The nonprofit had a simple message, “No sides, only love” — and in the years to come, Encircle would prove to be part second home, part sanctuary, and the entry point to a community Micah Toelupe credits with saving his life. 

As one of only a handful of gay students at his high school in rural Utah, Micah was struggling with depression, anxiety, and social isolation. That’s why stepping through the front doors of Encircle — where he felt like “one of a billion” instead of one of a few — felt so different.

“The effect it had here is so insane,” says Micah. “It really did save my life. You could walk right into the house and be surrounded by people who are going to love and respect who you are. It was always there, and you were always welcome.” 

For more information about Encircle or the campaign visit: 

Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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