“It Gets Better” campaign comes to Philly

The nonprofit organization, Spruce Foundation, held a fundraiser at Tabu on Nov. 6 as a part of the “It Gets Better Project” week, curated by the Kimmel Center.

Aida BummCake seemed timid at first. She strutted down the narrow passageway to the mic stand on the small second floor bar at Tabu Sports Bar and Lounge. When she took the stage, BummCake never gave it back. Chuckles rose from the crowd as the quaint piano intro from Disney’s “Let It Go” from “Frozen” began.

Behind an impressive amount of sparkling eye shadow, something changed in her eyes around the bridge when BummCake revealed a piece of paper that read, “Dear Aida, Gay is NOT okay. – Mom” and tore it to shreds. The crowd went wild for BummCake’s powerful message that was interlaced with twists and twirls.

The theme was “When I Was Young” for the variety hour that the nonprofit organization, Spruce Foundation, held at Tabu on Nov. 6 as a part of the “It Gets Better Project” week curated by the Kimmel Center. From Nov. 4 -8 panel discussions, poetry sessions and musical theater performances were held within the theme of overcoming bullying for young adults and adolescents.

The fundraiser event at Tabu allotted for performers such as BummCake and fellow troupe-mate Mary Vice, as well as other poetry, storytelling and soloist acts to get up on stage and visually illustrate how strong they have become in the face of struggles of growing up LGBT. Mentalist Justin Relkin got up on stage as well, pulled seven female volunteers up on stage to accurately guess the color of their underwear.

President of Spruce Foundation, Matt Kuzilla, said that the performances were all built upon the organization’s message of supporting LGBTQ youth. Spruce is a nonprofit philanthropy group that fundraises for Philadelphia’s youth through four vertical grant making programs in areas of health and wellness, arts and culture, education and LGBTQ.

“’It Gets Better” is looking to youth who may be suffering from bullying in their schools or in their homes, and showing them that things do get better when they grow up and move on,” Kuzilla said. “There’s a message of hope tonight, these are people who went through that, and may have seen that going on but life did get better for them.”

The “It Gets Better Project” started as a simple idea that went viral.

In 2010, Dan Savage and Terry Miller – two men with a mission to inspire hope for LGBT youth – uploaded a video to YouTube. In the past four years, the program has exploded into a worldwide movement to assure youths that issues such as harassment and exclusion will come to an end, and they will come out stronger on the other side.

“It’s really important to realize that we are all in this community together and we all need to be respectful of each other and be a support whether we are gay, straight, trans or other,” Kuzilla said. “We are all human beings and we should all be respectful of one another. An ally has an important roll to bridge two communities together.”

Through a 50-50 raffle, and a $15 cover at the door, the Spruce Foundation was able to raise over $1,200 dollars not including the 5% of the bar tab that would be donated by Tabu, event coordinator Caroline Farley said. This total ran circles around the fundraising count of Spruce’s last community engagement event where only $300 was raised.

The Spruce Foundation is an organization with a mission to engage millennial to re-define philanthropy to benefit Philadelphia youth. In 2014, the organization donated $5,000 to Philadelphia’s only gay youth center, Attic Youth Center. Funds will provide counseling for LGBTQ youth that seek help without the funds to support themselves. The grant-application for the 2015 program goes live on Dec. 2, Kuzilla said.

Started in 2007, Spruce did not have an LGBT funding program until former President Rudy Flesher got involved. Flesher noticed the growing problem of LGBT teenagers in Philadelphia and wanted to find a tangible solution with disproportionately big problems with small resources. According to thetaskforce.org, in 2012 40% of the nation’s homeless youth identified as LGBTQ, but only 10% of the total population identified.

“It’s obviously a really disproportionate experience of bullying and homelessness and other negative factors,” Flesher said. “It was really clear that organizations serving the youth needed grant funding. I really believe in the power of young people to change the world through philanthropy.”

As one of the only organizations that is a consistent source of dedicated funds to LGBT youth, Spruce Foundation has a large following in the city. As eager audience members crowded into the bar to see the show, it represented the growing culture of acceptance for the underserved in Philadelphia.

“A lot of times the LGBT community is the L community, the G community, the B and the T and they don’t always come together,” storyteller Justin Nordell said in reflection of the division in society. “With the Spruce Foundation, LGBT youth are going to be taken care of and supported. They will know that there are adults out there who love and care about them just for who they are, because there are so many people out there who don’t.”

 Brianna Spause can be reached at brianna.spause@temple.edu

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