Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco (BGCSF) is committed to supporting our LGBTQ+ youth year-round. Promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging at our Clubs and Camp is at the heart of the work we do and what we stand for as an organization.
Celebrating Pride every June is an important example of this commitment! Last week, our Don Fisher Clubhouse hosted a Citywide Pride Month event, Summer Pride Healing: Perfect as You Are.
We were pleased to sit down with the Clubhouse Director of our Don Fisher Clubhouse, Spencer Tolliver, and our Citywide Director of Behavioral Health and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Debby Machold, to learn more about the event and how it directly connects to our commitment to create caring and inclusive communities year-round.
Every year, queer identified youth are displaced from their homes, and separated from communities and people they love, because of their identity. We wanted an event that reflected BGCSF’s commitment to consistently affirming that our LGBTQ+ youth are fantastic as they are.
The healing component of the theme was to support youth experiencing grief and loss resulting from being separated. Additionally, we just wanted to create a celebration of allyship, so that our youth grow up learning about love, acceptance, inclusion, and belonging.
For us, this was really a natural extension of what is going on at our Club all year round. We already have a group of youth who are LGBTQ+ identifying. The majority of them are middle schoolers and they’ve been consistently meeting, and planning events all year long, so it was a natural step for us to host an event during Pride Month.
One of our Clubhouse sayings is the more diverse we are, the smarter we are. There is no majority culture at the Don Fisher Clubhouse. Learning about one another, and valuing and including everyone here for who they are, is something we deeply value. Anytime that there is an opportunity to highlight a specific culture that we have in the Club, I'm going to participate — it’s a huge part of who we are.
Overall, the event was structured toward creating a sense of celebration and joy. Wellness and self-care is most effective when it targets the four primary areas of Behavioral Health and when there's a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual practice that supports wellbeing. The activities we chose to include were related to those areas and included a high and low-energy option.
The event included a wide range of activities for youth to choose from. We had a reflection space and a space for creative writing and creating graphic novels around the LGBTQ+ youth journey. There were dance and yoga sessions. We also set up a photo booth where youth could dress up, and face painting so there were options for youth to celebrate and express their identity externally. Our tea making session was also directly tied to the theme of wellness as we discussed self-care and relaxation and how slowing down, especially in times of stress, is a very healthy practice.
At BGCSF, we are committed to supporting every youth. Everyday, we ensure that each youth that walks through our door knows that this is a safe space and that they can be themselves here. No matter what their background, identification, or circumstance, they are a valued member of our community. So when we have different events — and we have at least one cultural event happening every month — it’s really a celebration of the culture that we have built here and that we support everyday.
Yes, every youth is safe and welcome at all our Clubs. Events like this are important because they provide engaging opportunities for kids to deepen their understanding of our inclusive community through learning, healing, and fun.
Check out the full album of photos here.