LGBTQ+ resource house planned for eastern Idaho thanks to Jazz owners, Imagine Dragons and Apple - East Idaho News

LGBTQ+ resource house planned for eastern Idaho thanks to Jazz owners, Imagine Dragons and Apple

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Photo courtesy Encircle

IDAHO FALLS — Encircle, a non-profit that provides community resource houses to LGBTQ+ youth and their families, announced plans Thursday for a home to be established in Idaho Falls.

The announcement is part of Encircle’s “$8 Million, 8 Houses” capital campaign aiming to build new homes in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. The organization already has three houses in Provo, Salt Lake City and St. George with a fourth under construction in Heber, Utah.

Encircle, whose motto is “no sides, only love,” was created with the goal of bringing families and communities together to enable LGBTQ+ youth to thrive.

Stephenie Larsen, the CEO and Founder of Encircle, is partnering with some big names to expand her dream. Qualtrics founder and Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith will contribute $2 million to the cause 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.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook, Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds are donating to help Encircle expand. | Good Morning America

“All LGBTQ+ 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.”

Since its founding in 2017, Encircle has served over 70,000 individuals and funded thousands of family and youth therapy sessions. It’s been a critically urgent need during the pandemic, which has cut off many more young people from their friends and other support systems outside the home. Studies show that despite facing much higher rates of depression and attempted suicide, many LGBTQ+ youth nationwide struggle to access therapy and mental health services.

“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 Smith in a news release. “Encircle is an incredible example of the entrepreneurial spirit and drive that motivates people to create a better, more accepting world.”

In addition to Idaho Falls and Las Vegas, new Encircle homes are planned for Boise, Logan, Ogden, Lehi, Phoenix and the Mesa/Gilbert area of Arizona. Further details on each location will be released at a later date.

“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.”

Larsen added, “We are extremely grateful that these global leaders see the vision of the profound work we are doing for LGBTQ+ youth and families throughout our communities…We strive to give these kids a positive and loving environment that builds support within their communities where they can realize their full potential, and it works – we have not lost a single youth to suicide. This incredible support makes our nationwide expansion possible and will improve countless LGBTQ+ lives – reminding them that they are perfect, just as they are.”

More information about Encircle and the campaign can be found here.