Utahns are invited to a Thursday "voting celebration" to help Jackson Carter of Layton, Biggest Loser’s first openly gay contestant, become "America’s Choice" and one of three finalists competing March 18.
At the show’s last weigh-in, contestants Jeff Nichols and Danni Allen had dropped the most weight and took the first two finalist spots. Carter is competing with Joe Ostaszewski of Florida to win the most votes and snag the third spot.
From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Ogden’s historic Ben Lomond Hotel, 2510 Washington Blvd., centers will be set up so that attendees can call, text, Facebook or tweet friends to "Get OUT the Vote for Jackson," with prizes for the most votes cast. There will also be photos and videos of Carter, a trivia contest, stories from friends and family, plus light refreshments and giveaways.
Carter has been a part of OUTreach Resource Center, which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, for five years, first as a youth participant and now on the board of directors.
The 21-year-old Utahn auditioned for the show in Salt Lake City because he wanted to inspire others to be themselves, whether they are overweight or gay. He knows about both.
"I think the biggest thing for me, not being accepted by my peer group and fitting in, I became a people-pleaser and never took care of myself," said Carter, who began the show at 328 pounds, in a December Tribune interview. "I put everyone else’s needs before my own. [I am now] aware of it and can try to fix it."
He volunteers at the OUTreach Resource Center, which helps about 350 LGBT and other youths. The majority who seek help at OUTreach live below the poverty line, and 27 percent are homeless.
This event is one of several efforts by OUTreach youth to support Carter, who released this week a health magazine, a T-shirt, and an OUTreach YouTube video. His most recent announced weight is 230 pounds, for a loss of 98 pounds.
"Jackson is the perfect role model for youth," Marian Edmonds, executive director of OUTreach, said in a statement. "He has experienced bullying and knows what it is like to struggle to attend school and face harassment. In his role as a mentor at OUTreach, he teaches youth to believe that they are worth it, that they have value and potential. With some of the highest suicide rates in the nation locally, this is a message youth desperately need to hear."
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