This April, it is our honor to highlight major donor Jennifer Sartorelli.
Jennifer is a dedicated supporter of SMYAL and proud parent to a Little SMYALs attendee.
What brought you to SMYAL?
When our child came out at the age of 9, we were not prepared to adequately parent their needs. Being cis-hetero parents, we really did not have any idea what our child’s daily challenges might be. In short order, we found out they were being excluded and bullied at school and aftercare. They did not know any kids in the LGBTQ+ community (neither did we). Essentially, they had no safe space with peers even though the adult staff members at their school and aftercare did their best to be supportive. I began searching for a safe space for my child and quickly learned that they were too young for the resources available at the time. That’s when I contacted the Pride Clinic at the National Children’s Medical Center. Someone at the Pride Clinic suggested I reach out to SMYAL. We were really fortunate with timing because SMYAL was about to start their pilot LIttle SMYALs program. Our child was one of the first members of Little SMYALs. They still enjoy participating in Little SMYALs’ virtual meet-ups.
How has Little SMYALs impacted your child and family?
I can think of a few ways in which Little SMYALs has impacted our child and family. First, Little SMYALs is a place for our kiddo to feel safe, let their guard down, just be themselves, and most importantly BE A KID. Secondly, Little SMYALs (and SMYAL) has a wealth of important information on how we can be supportive loving parents to our child as well as be effective allies to the community to which they belong. We are learning to raise our voices and contribute in ways to elevate the quality of life for our LGBTQ+ members of society. Little SMYALs is also important to my family because of the LGBTQ+ role models and representation our child ‘sees’ among staff members.
Why is it important to you to give back to SMYAL?
It is important for us to give back to SMYAL because the work you do is multifaceted and crucial. I did not know until we came to SMYAL just how many LGBTQ+ youth were unhoused or housing insecure. The work that SMYAL does to help house our youth and all the supportive programs that go along with it are life-saving.
What are your favorite memories from your time with SMYAL?
With Little SMYALs, we really enjoyed celebrating our very first Pride – this was really special for us as a family. Other activities we enjoyed with SMYAL have been the Annual Brunch and the Drag Contest event. We had a lot of fun. My husband and I brought a friend from work who had a great time as well. It was fun seeing my husband get change for dollar bills to tip the performers.
How else have you gotten involved with the LGBTQ community?
At about the same time we discovered Little SMYAL, I met the Executive Direct of Rainbow Families, Darren Paul-Vance. Darren informed me that families like mine were welcome to join their non-profit organization so we’ve been joining RF for social events. We joined Rainbow Families because we want our child to have role models and heads of families in the community.
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
We are looking forward to a return to normality from this pandemic so that we can have fun in-person events and strengthen the relationships we’ve developed at SMYAL and the LGBTQ+ community.