Spark of Hope for LGBTQ+ Youth in Utah

Have you ever felt the warmth of a stranger’s genuine smile?  Have you ever witnessed a spark of hope transformed into a blazing fire? Thanks to Peace First and Born This Way Foundation mixed with a deep passion in my heart, I was able to experience the utmost joy of another. Since I was a small child I have felt the need to help people experiencing homelessness. I’ve been dreaming of going on a service mission to do whatever I could to help them. I was able to accomplish this goal in part this year as a thirteen-year-old, far sooner than I ever thought I could.

Being part of the LGBTQ+ community, I had my eyes opened to the prevalence of homelessness among other LGBTQ+ people, specifically teens in Utah. I felt deep sorrow for these youth that had lost their families and homes just for being who they are, many of them being kicked out for coming out. In Utah, the homeless rate has increased 17% percent this year. Seeing as this was a rising problem, I felt anguish knowing others were being kicked out of their homes for being just like me.  I wanted to help them, even if in just a small way, a little at a time.

I applied for the Born This Way Foundation Channel Kindness award to help me along the way, and I won! I created an event with the help of many friends, family, and community members. I put out a call for donations of blankets, hygiene items, snacks, backpacks, socks, and bus tokens. I was amazed at how fast donations came in! The first time I opened my front door and had two awesome ladies standing there with bags and bags full of fabric for blankets, my heart burst with excitement! I couldn’t believe people were actually helping! Then things started rolling in, backpacks from Born This Way Foundation, orders from my Amazon wish list, food donations from Pepsi co., space donated by The Maverick center and Publik coffee house, monetary donations from allies and friends, a large donation from Visa, discounts on bus tokens from Utah Transit Authority and most of all, all the items donated from neighbors, family and friends! I was overwhelmed with joy!

People were showing up to the call for help. Lady Gaga’s tour promoter, Live Nation,  sent out an email to all of her ticket holders to bring toiletry donations to her concert here in Salt Lake City, I was so excited at the possibility of what we would get! We collected 8,100 individual items from the concert, 8,078 items donated from my community, $955 in monetary donations which were used to purchase 620 bus tokens among other things. All together we were successful in creating 350 care packages for homeless teens that were donated to Youth futures and QueerMeals! Many of the items donated were also used for SafeXmas, an event set up to offer a place to spend the holidays for LGBTQ+ people that don’t have a safe place to celebrate.

I was able to go out on Christmas Eve and hand some of these packages directly to those in need. I felt so overjoyed to see the light in their faces shine at receiving a simple gift.  I worked with so many amazing people to help these homeless youth, I am so full of gratitude at how willing everyone was to support me in this cause, to step up and help my dream come true, to help someone in need that deserves to be loved. I am ecstatic that we are all able to share in the joy in each of these individuals that gets a package. In the end, I feel deep satisfaction for all the things that I was able to achieve with the help of my community. Thank you to everyone that was willing to give a piece of yourself to help someone in need. My heart is so full.

Much Love, Savannah