SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook and retired NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade joined Utah leaders Wednesday to announce the completion of a local advocacy group's campaign to build new homes that provide services for LGBTQ youth in the U.S. West.
Encircle, a non-profit providing mental health services for LGBTQ youth, has surpassed its goal of raising $8 million to build eight new homes with locations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Utah aimed at providing safe spaces and preventing teen suicide.
“Encircle's mission is very personal to me because I see myself in so many of these young people,” Cook told reporters at a press briefing Wednesday. “It’s not easy when you’re made to feel different or less than because of who you are or who you love. It’s a feeling that so many LGBTQ people know far too well.”
The group kicked off the initial campaign in February with donations from Apple and Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith.
Wade, who joined the Utah Jazz ownership group in April, shared his experience as the parent of a transgender child and voiced his support for Encircle's mission.
“I stand here as a proud parent of a beautiful daughter that's a part of the LGBT-plus community,” Wade said. “I don't have all the answers. I don't know everything, but I'm willing to listen.”
Encircle has locations in Salt Lake City, Provo and St. George, Utah. Construction has begun on locations in Heber, Logan and Ogden, as well as in Las Vegas.
The group is based in Provo, Utah, which is also home to Brigham Young University. Jeffrey Holland, a top leader for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently called on the church-owned university to uphold its commitment to the faith’s fundamental teachings, including its stance against same-sex marriage.
The ensuing controversy showed that tensions remain between the LGBTQ community and the state’s predominant faith.
Church scholars say the Salt Lake City-based faith taught that homosexuality could be “cured” in the 1970s. The church has since said homosexuality is not a sin, though it remains opposed to same-sex marriage and intimacy.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Dwyane Wade’s first name.
Sophia Eppolito, The Associated Press