MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Begun two years ago by just a few families whose parents were seeking a safe space for their children to play and, according to group organizers, "meet other kids like them," 'RAD Kids' -- as the group is now known -- has become a safe space for gender-fluid children in North Jersey. 

“We’re now serving almost one hundred northern New Jersey families—and growing,” says Jan Kaminsky, the group’s co-founder. She notes that families have come from Essex, Bergen, Hudson, Morris, Sussex, and Monmouth Counties. “So, despite our initial mission to serve local youth, it has become obvious to us that the need is very much present in the larger New Jersey area, as well.”

Starting this year, 'RAD Kids' -- under the auspices of the nonprofit North Jersey Pride -- will host monthly meetings at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Maplewood for "gender-creative kids" 12 and under. They have also started a new group, 'RAD Teens', for ages 13-18, which will also meet monthly at St. George’s. 

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'RAD Kids' will continue to host the quarterly social gatherings that co-founder Laura Gilkey says are the mainstay of the 'RAD' family.

“The kids have so much fun hanging out together and it’s great for parents to socialize and get to know each other in a casual setting,” says Gilkey. Last year’s events included a summer beach party, an afternoon at Jumpnasium, a holiday party, and a facilitated discussion with a mental health professional specializing in gender issues.

“As we grow, we look forward to providing a predictable and more structured space to delve a little deeper, as a group, into some of our successes and challenges,” she added.

The group is committed to keeping the events low- or no-cost to attendees, to ensure the program is accessible to all who need it. To raise money for a full year of programming, North Jersey Pride is hosting a Winter Ball February 24, at The Grand Summit Hotel.

Tickets include buffet, open bar, live DJ and entertainment, silent auction and an after-party beginning at 11 p.m. A discounted block of guest rooms is also available for those who wish to stay overnight. North Jersey Pride is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and tickets are 80% tax-deductible.

For more information about the Winter Ball, visit northjerseypride.org.

For more information about 'RAD Kids' events, contact radkids@northjerseypride.org.