An NBA team, a tech giant and a rock band are teaming up to provide safe places and brighter futures for LGBTQ+ youth in Utah and the West.
Utah Jazz steward Ryan Smith joined Apple CEO Tim Cook and Imagine Dragons front man on Thursday to announce a $4 million donation to build eight new Encircle homes, safe havens for young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people and their families.
“It’s such an important issue where our LGBTQ youth are struggling,” Smith said during an interview on Good Morning America. “Encircle has developed a model that embodies everything I believe in. It’s love. It’s home. It’s unity. It’s safety. And it’s truly innovative.”
Founded in Provo, Utah, home in 2017, Encircle has offered individual and family therapy, support groups, and a safe place for LGBTQ+ youth. But with the announcement of this $4-million donation, the Utah-based group is expanding, building eight new homes across Nevada, Arizona, Idaho and Utah.
LGBTQ+ youth face much higher rates of depression and attempted suicide. At least one study has shown that four in 10 LGBTQ+ youths seriously consider suicide.
“I’ve watched throughout my life the difficult path that LGBTQ youth have, especially coming from homes of faith,” Reynolds said.
The future Encircle home in Las Vegas has been purchased and donated by Imagine Dragons singer. It is his childhood home.
“The point that we want to hit home, that every family needs to hear, that every parent needs to hear across the world, is that acceptance is not enough,” he said. “They need to be celebrated. We are losing their lives. They deserve a place, they deserve a home, they deserve to participate in sports. They deserve everything that every other kid has.”
Since it was founded, Encircle has helped some 70,000 youths. Cook, the Apple CEO, said that number could reach a million over the next decade as the organization expands.
He also hopes Thursday’s announcement will inspire others to help.
“Growing up, if I would have seen an announcement from the sports world, from the entertainment world, from the business world, all coming together, it would have meant the world to me,” Cook said. “I hope that even beyond the people we help that are able to go to the homes we are setting up, that people will see this announcement and this coming together really as a key moment for this community.”
Smith wholeheartedly agreed.
“A lot of people talk about how they can help and help our youth,” Smith said. “But when someone comes along like Encircle and a community rallies behind it and brings families and kids together, we’ve got to take it to the world. There’s a place in every arena for everyone.”