Monday Close-Up: Encircle expanding to other states after high-profile donations | Provo News

A Utah nonprofit providing resources ranging from “friendship circles” to therapy sessions for LGBTQ + youth is expanding to other states after receiving $ 4 million in donations from several high-profile donors.

Donations announced Thursday include $ 2 million from Qualtrics founder and Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and his wife, Ashley Smith, and $ 1 million from Apple, “Products to Promote the Digital Connection, Creativity and Education “will contribute to a press release.

In addition, Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds and his wife Aja Volkman, a recording artist, are donating $ 1 million to Reynolds’ childhood home in Las Vegas.

The donation is a step towards launching Encircle’s $ 8 million, 8 homes campaign to build eight new resource homes in Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and Nevada. Encircle currently operates homes in Provo, Salt Lake City, and St. George.

Ryan and Ashley Smith, Reynolds, Volkman and Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, will co-chair the campaign.

A number of LGBTQ + youth and their families have shared stories about how the resources Encircle has made on them personally.

“My first time at Encircle was amazing,” said 17-year-old Tyler Garcia, who is gay, in a video of his experience. “I felt the warmth and love radiating from the walls. And I think when you come to Encircle you can take that mask off and be yourself. “

Rachel Garcia, Tyler’s mother, said the Encircle house they visited gave her a “sense of comfort” and made her feel, “we won’t be alone”.

“As a parent, it is extremely comforting to have a place in your community that is at home that I know will support my children and my family,” she said.

14-year-old Herriman resident Gavin Wassom said he was inspired when he saw in the Encircle House that “these people are able to be who they were”.

“I said, ‘I want this for myself. I want to be who I am, ”said Wassom.

The campaign aims to “forge new partnerships between 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 in the US,” the campaign said Press release.

“All LGBTQ + people should feel safe and supported enough to be open about who they are with their community and themselves,” Cook said in a written statement. “Encircle helps overcome divisions and bring people together. It sends a strong message that the best you can strive for is who you really are. I hope that every young person who feels alone or without support will find connection and fellowship in this incredible organization. “

“Ashley and I saw the great work Encircle is doing for the benefit of LGBTQ + youth. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to their mission, create more inclusive communities, and provide much-needed hope and support to youth, ”said Ryan Smith.

Stephenie Larsen, CEO and Founder of Encircle, said, “This incredible support will enable our nationwide expansion and will improve countless LGBTQ + lives – reminding them that they are as perfect as they are.”

“Studies have repeatedly shown that LGBTQ + youth across the country are struggling with depression and suicide far more than their heterosexual peers, and the pandemic has made that sense of isolation harder for so many than ever,” Larsen said.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox called Encircle a “visionary organization” and said, “We cannot overestimate the impact it has on the lives of young people struggling with acceptance and inclusion on a daily basis.”

“We are grateful for the impact Encircle has had in our communities and are pleased that its leadership and vision are expanding nationwide,” the governor said in a statement.

Connor Richards covers government, environmental, and South Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at [email protected] and 801-344-2599.

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