SUMMIT, NJ - Driven by its stated mission and goal to include welcoming and inclusive activities, programs and services in its daily interactions and practices -- and, as one of the first Diversity & Inclusion Global Innovation Networks in New Jersey -- the Summit Area YMCA will host its first-ever 'Celebrate PRIDE' event June 15, from 4 - 7 p.m., at Columbia Park in Berkeley Heights.

Participants are encouraged to bring picnic blankets, baskets, food and enjoy an assortment of games, music, and more. Information tables will be available to help the community learn more and better understand the LGBTQ movement and celebrate pride in their local towns and communities. In the weather is inclement, the event -- free and open to all -- will be moved indoors to Columbia Middle School 'Gold Gym'.

Earlier this month, the YMCA of the USA and the Biden Foundation also announced a new initiative to help at-risk LGBTQ youth in the LGBTQ Inclusion and Equity Initiative. A group of various YMCAs in the nation will join together to create localized strategies to engage and support LGBTQ individuals and their families.

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In an Op-Ed piece posted on cnn.com, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Kevin Washington, President and CEO of the YMCA of the USA, noted the negative treatment of the LGBTQ community has shown to be especially severe among and toward youth, with five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. Additionally, the Op-Ed goes on to detail that LGBTQ individuals and families experience higher rates of poverty, food insecurity and violence.

“Supporting the well-being and safety of LGBTQ youth, adults, seniors and families is an important need in our communities,” said Washington. “Collectively, we can do something about it. Research has shown -- and we've witnessed through the work of our organizations -- that communities thrive when everyone has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential, contribute their talents and connect with their neighbors to work for the greater good.”

The Summit Area YMCA has stated its commitment to "providing the community with services that can allow every individual to learn, grow and thrive," and has dedicated trainings for staff to learn the importance of the different dimensions of diversity, to achieve global leadership certifications, and get access to employee resources to best serve its members in a welcoming and supportive environment.

The Summit Area YMCA has also hosted events like Holi Color Festival, Diwali Festival of Lights, Lunar New Year Festival, Special Needs Prom, swim lessons, yoga classes and various healthy living themed events for the Special Needs community in its inclusion efforts. The Summit Area YMCA also provides financial assistance for individuals and families with demonstrated need towards programs, memberships and childcare.

“The core of our mission is inclusion and accessibility for all. This event is just the beginning of our Y welcoming those who are healthy contributors to our community. Together, we are working towards a more inclusive, and welcoming atmosphere for everyone.” said Paul Kieltyka, President & CEO of the Summit Area YMCA. “We at the Y are are proud to serve our community in building strong foundations for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.”

To receive five free raffle tickets per attendee and to be eligible for a chance to win special prizes at the 'Celebrate PRIDE' event, visit eventbrite.com.

For question and further information, call Francesca Garrard at 908 464 8373, ext. 2020, or contact francesca.garrard@thesay.org.

Columbia Park is located at 76 Columbia Avenue, and Columbia Middle School is located at 345 Plainfield Avenue.