$500,000 donation kicks off $5M campaign to help sexual minority youth

Camp fYrefly has helped more than 500 sexual and gender minority youth find the resiliency and skills they need to become future leaders.

(Edmonton) When he dreams, Kris Wells sees Camp fYreflys across the country. The camps help sexual and gender minority youth become more resilient and better able to deal with the consequences of coming out. Now, thanks to a new campaign to raise $5 million, the associate director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta may no longer just be dreaming in rainbow colours.

The institute is already one step closer to its goal: the Stollery Charitable Foundation has committed $500,000 to the campaign, boosting the total to date over a million dollars.

“The institute is doing groundbreaking, pioneering work that is changing attitudes and changing lives,” says Doug Stollery of the Stollery Charitable Foundation. “I’m proud to support it and I encourage others to join us, to accelerate the pace of change in our society and increase the services the institute can provide to young people, and to the organizations they work with.”

“As the province’s flagship institution, the University of Alberta has a vision to conduct research that translates into innovation that improves our world—including social innovation. iSMSS is helping build a more just and inclusive society for everyone,” says U of A President Indira Samarasekera. “We are grateful for the support of the Stollery Charitable Foundation. Initiatives like iSMSS and its NoHomophobes.com project support the entire community by providing the evidence that leads to social change, with a direct impact on young lives.”

2013 is the 10th anniversary of Camp fYrefly, which has helped more than 500 sexual and gender minority youth find the resiliency and skills they need to become future leaders. The research of iSMSS also influences policy direction and decisions, and actively supports families, schools and communities to positively address sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

There are four main objectives for the campaign:

  • Expand Camp fYrefly into a national program.
  • Expand research programs and services.
  • Train the next generation of researchers and recruit master’s, doctoral and post-doctoral students from across Canada and around the world.
  • Create an endowment to help support core operating funding.

“It’s very rewarding when we see teachers, counsellors, politicians and policy-makers better understand what it means to be a sexual and gender minority and how to help these youth deal with the bullying and harassment they may face,” says Wells. “With more support, we could take our influence to a whole other level and reach across the country and the continent. This is research that has the potential to transform communities and change our society.”

The campaign is launching during the U of A’s first-ever Pride Week, highlighted by the formation of its first Alumni Pride Chapter, which is dedicated to engage and network with LGBTQ and allied alumni who want to make a difference by connecting with the university and iSMSS.

As an incentive for future donors, every new donation of $50,000 or more will see $50,000 from the Stollery Charitable Foundation commitment directed to the iSMSS endowment in the new donor’s name, until the $500,000 level is reached.