That Gay 5K dazzles with support for LGBTQ community

Glow-up glasses sit on a table outside Kent State’s Liquid Crystal Institute during the That Gay 5K event Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. 

Carrie George

Students, families and members of the Kent community gathered at Risman Plaza Friday for the second annual That Gay 5K hosted, by the LGBTQ Student Center.

After last year’s That Gay 5K color run success, the LGBTQ Student Center hoped to continue the fundraiser with a new theme: a glow run. Participants decked themselves out in bright clothing and glow sticks for the evening race.

Students ran all around campus, passing sponsor tables handing out glow sticks, headbands and lanyards and cheered the runners on as they lit up the night.

Ken Ditlevson, the director of the LGBTQ Student Center, said an intern created this event last year with plans for an ongoing tradition.

“We’re committed to doing this every fall,” Ditlevson said.

All the proceeds from the event go to the LGBTQ Student Center’s Emergency Fund.

The emergency fund offers financial support for students in the LGBTQ community whose parents have disowned them, cut them off or kicked them out based on their identities and orientation, Ditlevson said.

“The emergency fund is so important because it’s a safety net for students being their authentic selves,” Ditlevson said.

Three weeks into the semester, the emergency fund assisted four students with financial instability, said Katie Mattise, the program coordinator for the LGBTQ Student Center.

Mattise said this year’s run brought more people and money than last year, with more than 100 participants and about $2,500.

“Our students need help,” Mattise said. “We’re trying to keep the numbers up and help the students.”

On the opposite end of families who choose not to support their LGBTQ youth are families like the Vincents.

Wearing homemade T-shirts with “Proud Mom” and “Proud Dad” written in neon colors, Angel and Chris Vincent showed support for their daughter, Jenna, who came out as a lesbian two years ago.

“We’ve become mom and dad to a lot of kids,” Chris said.

Jenna Vincent, a senior at Manchester High School in Akron, knows many families who kicked their children out because of their sexual orientations.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Vincent said. “But, our house is always open.”

Paje Jordan, a junior horticulture technology major, walked the 5K barefoot to raise awareness and support for LGBTQ kids who have been kicked out of their homes.

“There’s a lot of people doing a lot worse than me,” Jordan said. “I might as well do something for the people who have a lot less.”

Jordan said they spend a lot of time in the LGBTQ Student Center and look for ways to help the community.

“I want to contribute to the fund in a fun way,” Jordan said.

Danniel Thomas-Dodd, a sport and recreation management graduate student at Kent State, volunteered as one of the many guides stationed to keep runners on course.

Thomas-Dodd promoted the goals of the run and the emergency fund.

“There are a lot of people out here who support you no matter what the reason is,” Thomas-Dodd said. “It’s good to know that different backgrounds can come together.”

Mattise said That Gay 5K not only raises much-needed money, but also awareness for the LGBTQ community on campus.

“We’re often seen as an invisible population,” Matisse said. “So we’re always trying to make students visible.”

Carrie George is the diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected].