An annual fundraiser generated $78,000 to benefit a nonprofit support program for LGBTQ youth in Thurston County.
Pizza Klatch serves free pizza and offers support to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning) students at 11 high schools in Thurston County.
Proceeds from the Pizza Klatch Gayla go toward programming and growth, including pursuit of a similar support group for middle schools. About 500 people attended the Jan. 23 fundraiser — it was titled “A Slice of the Good Life” — at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Olympia.
The event included poetry by Richard Blanco, who was the first openly gay poet to read at a U.S. presidential inauguration, and music by Chely Wright, who became one of the first country singers to come out as gay. Patty Lally of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights spoke at a reception earlier in the evening.
From the stage, students shared their experience with Pizza Klatch. They praised the program for providing a refuge of acceptance and a safe place to be themselves.
“I’m swimming in deep gratitude for this community and the support Pizza Klatch receives,” said Jessica McKimmie, executive director.
The organization was formed in 2008 as a response to suicides among local LGBTQ youths. Studies, including a report by the Centers for Disease Control, confirm LGBTQ youths face a higher risk for bullying, depression and substance abuse. They are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers.
Pizza Klatch surveyed LGBTQ high school students in 2014-2015. According to those who participated, 70 percent attempted to harm themselves at some point.