Special Needs Alliance for Pride (SNAP)
Arc Mercer unveiled its first group for LGBTQ people with special needs; “SNAP” to support community integration and advocacy. Research suggests organization could be a first national model.
The Arc Mercer has launched a groundbreaking LGBTQ community organization for people with special needs. The club, the Special Needs Alliance for Pride (SNAP), is the first organization of its kind not just in New Jersey but in the country.
SNAP was introduced in June 2017 being National Gay Pride Month. Its mission is to support integration of people with special needs people who identify as LGBTQ into the broader LGBTQ community, and thereby prevent their isolation. Historically, these are people who are greatly underserved and under-integrated.
Arc Mercer Executive Director Steven Cook described SNAP’S genesis: “During Arc Mercer’s annual roller coaster park trip, for people with special needs at Cedar Point, Ohio, I spent time with Ray, who was struggling with communicating his sexuality. Clearly it was hard for him, doubly so as someone with special needs. There was no real place for him to turn. It was an Aha moment for me, an epiphany. I remembered how hard it was for me to tell my parents I was gay years ago. The need for a support organization for LGBTQ people with special needs crystallized in that moment.”
Ray Truitt, the young man whose challenges as a gay person with special needs served as an inspiration for the founding of SNAP, said he is overjoyed to be part of the group. “I know first-hand how hard it can be. As a member of SNAP, I am in a position to be able to be a help to others, to provide that kind of support I could have used.”
New Jersey Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15), the first openly gay member of the New Jersey Legislature and a member of the Arc Mercer Board of Directors, understands what SNAP can provide to many individuals. Being the “first” openly gay member of the New Jersey Legislature, I can appreciate having no peers to call on for support and advice. The fact that Arc Mercer saw this vacuum, this need, and did something about it is remarkable. It is so rewarding to be on the board of an organization that steps in to creatively respond to such a void. I am sure thousands of LGBTQ people with special needs will benefit from this initiative for years to come.”
Gay man with developmental disability is inspiration for LGBTQ organization
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