The owners of the Utah Jazz, the lead singer of Imagine Dragons and Apple have pledged millions to the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Encircle to help build eight new houses in four states.
Encircle currently operates three homes in Utah — in Salt Lake City, Provo and St. George — and is building a fourth in Heber. Its “$8 million, 8 Houses” campaign is aiming to build eight more homes in Utah, Arizona, Idaho and Nevada to provide safe spaces and prevent teen suicide, particularly among LGBTQ youth.
Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith are contributing $2 million. Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons and his wife, Aja Volkman, are donating Dan’s childhood home in Las Vegas, which is valued at $1 million, to be one of the new Encircle homes. And Apple will donate $1 million and contribute products that promote digital connection, creativity and education.
Ryan Smith praised Encircle for its “amazing work … 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. Encircle is an incredible example of the entrepreneurial spirit and drive that motivates people to create a better, more accepting world.”
The Smiths, Reynolds, Volkman and Apple CEO Tim Cook will serve as honorary co-chairs of Encircle’s new campaign to build community, acceptance and understanding for young LGBTQ+ people and their families.
According to Encircle, it has helped more than 70,000 people and funded thousands of family and youth therapy sessions, “providing a lifeline to those facing suicidality, isolation and depression, helping them build local community and forge a path forward.”
Encircle CEO and Founder Stephanie Larsen said her organization is “extremely grateful” for the support.
“Studies repeatedly have shown that LGBTQ+ youth across the country struggle with depression and suicidality far more than their heterosexual peers, and the pandemic has made that sense of isolation so many feel harder than ever before,” Larsen said. “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.”
Reynolds and Volkman said in a statement, “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.”