Morgan describes Open Closet, a social support group at Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC), as her second home.
Now, thanks to University of Western Ontario students from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, youth between 14 and 18 years of age who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited, queer and questioning their sexual orientation, can learn and have discussions about issues such as coming out to parents and friends, safer sex, and healthy relationships.
The medical students donated more than $44,000 to the RHAC, with $25,000 of that going to ensure Open Closet continues for at least another three years.
The students gave the proceeds from their annual theatrical production called Tachycardia to RHAC for the past five years. In total, Schulich’s medical students have donated over $107,000, making them RHAC’s largest donor from a third party, community-based fundraising initiative.
“When looking for a charity to donate to, we were searching for a local organization that was involved with health promotion and education, especially amongst youth. RHAC offers many services and educational programs to people living with HIV/AIDS in London and the surrounding areas as well as those in at-risk populations,” says Maeghan Keddy, senior producer of Tachycardia.
“Schulich is training us to be health educators, to be engaged in our community, to be open-minded, and to be active advocates for the health of our patients; what better way to further these goals than to work with an organization that does the same thing?”
“When asked what Open Closet means to her personally, the first thought Morgan has is family.
“Open Closet has become my second home, a place where I can share my thoughts and feelings in an open, supportive environment,” she explains. “Being a member of Open Closet has helped my confidence and character, and I have learned things I would have never learned anywhere else.”
Morgan’s mother is also one who is truly grateful for the program.
“Open Closet is very important to me as a parent because it allows my daughter to freely express herself without fear of judgment. They are like an extended family to my daughter and the tools that she has learned at Open Closet have allowed her to express herself in such a positive way that she has become a strong confident adult and loves who she is,” she says. “I admire that about my daughter. I would highly recommend this to kids who are struggling with who they are.”
Open Closet was started in 2002 and has served over 1,000 youth in London. The group is open to youth from the six counties of Perth, Huron, Lambton, Elgin, Middlesex and Oxford.