Apple CEO Tim Cook and NBA All-Star retiree Dwyane Wade joined Utah executives on Wednesday to announce the completion of a campaign by a local advocacy group to build new homes providing services to LGBTQ youth in the western United States.
Encircle, a non-profit organization providing mental health services to LGBTQ youth, exceeded its goal of raising $ 8 million to build eight new homes with locations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Utah aimed at providing safe spaces and prevent suicide among adolescents.
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“Encircle’s mission is very personal to me because I see myself in so many of these young people,” Cook told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday. “It’s not easy when you’re made to feel different or less than because of who you are or who you love. It’s a feeling so many LGBTQ people know all too well.”
The group kicked off the initial campaign in February with donations from Apple and Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith.
Wade, who joined ownership group Utah Jazz in April, shared his experience as a parent of a transgender child and expressed support for Encircle’s mission.
“I am here as a proud parent of a beautiful girl who is part of the LGBT + community,” Wade said. “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know everything, but I’m ready to listen.”
Encircle has offices in Salt Lake City, Provo and St. George, Utah. Construction has started at sites in Heber, Logan and Ogden, as well as in Las Vegas.
The group is based in Provo, Utah, which is also home to Brigham Young University. Jeffrey Holland, a key leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently called on the Church-owned university to maintain its commitment to the foundational teachings of the faith, including its position against same-sex marriage.
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The ensuing controversy showed that tensions remain between the LGBTQ community and the state’s predominant faith.
Church scholars say the Salt Lake City-based faith taught that homosexuality could be “cured” in the 1970s. The church has since declared that homosexuality is not a sin, although ‘she remains opposed to same-sex marriage and intimacy.