In a heartwarming tale that’ll have you reaching for the tissues (don’t say we didn’t warn ya), an online campaign has raised $60,000 for a college student after his conservative Christian parents cut off all financial support because he was gay.
Joel Andrew, an 18-year-old freshman in Oklahoma City University's dance programme, first came out to his parents at age 12, only to find himself subjected to gay 'conversion' therapy.
He told The Oklahoman
: "Every night, I would pray to God to make me straight. It didn't work."
In his senior year, Andrew told his parents he was planning to live as an openly gay man and had also found a boyfriend. In response, they asked him to move out of their house and stop using their last name. They also refused to sign Andrew’s college paperwork.
It was then that Lyndi Wright, the daughter of Andrew’s dance teacher, decided to set up a GoFundMe page
to raise college funds for Andrew. Journalist and LGBT activist Dan Savage got wind of the campaign
, did some fact-checking with Wright, Andrew and others involved, and when he was sure it wasn’t a scam, gave the fundraiser a huge boost by telling people about it.
The comments left by donors and supporters were incredibly moving, with many telling Andrew to “keep on dancing”. One donor said, “Joel, we got your back. Never let your parents or their religion control you or hurt you again. You are an amazing person. And I promise I will come to see you opening week on Broadway.”
A few Oklahoma-bred dancers shared encouraging words, while a costume designer offered her services for free.
In an update on the GoFundMe page, Andrew expressed his gratitude to everyone who pitched in. He said: “I just wanted to say thank you so much for donating to our campaign and for all of the kind and inspiring words from people across the world.
“What a few months ago seemed impossible now seems achievable. I’m blown away by the support and words of encouragement from friends, supporters, and strangers. If I had known before that so many people would love me and support me after coming out, I would have done it a long time ago.
“When I first heard the words “It Gets Better,” I was skeptical; I didn’t believe it was possible. I thought I would be stuck in my small town, surrounded by people who didn’t like me, doing something I hated. Now I will have the chance to make something of myself and all of you have had a huge part in making that dream a reality.”
Andrew also thanked Savage, saying he has “truly changed everything”.
He concluded, “I’m going to go to OCU and fight for this harder than I have for anything in my life, and hopefully someday you’ll see me on Broadway.”
Best of luck, Joel, and we will
see you on Broadway!
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