Special Needs Alliance for Pride (SNAP)

Arc Mercer unveils first group for LGBTQ people with special needs; “SNAP” to support community integration and advocacy. Research suggests organization could be a first national model

Arc Mercer’s SNAP at the Trenton Social on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Click Here for the trenton.com article

Ewing Township … July 24, 2017 – The Arc Mercer, the Capitol County’s premier provider of programs and services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), 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 as part of June 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.

Organizations such as LGBT National Hotline, Human Rights Campaign and LGBT Center of NY (known as The Center) could not identify any existing group dedicated to LGBTQ people with special needs. SNAP will be exploring funding opportunities to expand its groundbreaking work through organization such as the Arcus Foundation, which provides grants to further LGBT rights, social justice and other issues.

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.”

Gay man with developmental disability is inspiration for LGBTQ organization Click Here for the nj.com article

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.”

SNAP debuted at the Trenton Social Club’s LHBTQ Happy Hour on June 22.
The club is seeking volunteers to mentor or “buddy” LGBTQ special needs individuals and to have volunteers participate in SNAP activities.

To become a mentor or to find out about SNAP events email SnapClub@arcmercer.org