For many youth, growing up in the LGBTQ community isn't easy. An Edmonton-area organization hopes to change that.
The Outloud Foundation for Community LGBTQ Supports and Services, located in St. Albert, is a non-profit that has supported youth since 2014.
Through the open doors is a large room with comfy chairs on the outskirts, plus a fridge and a bench with pizza boxes on it. Pride flags adorn the walls.
"My first day here I was very shy, I was very scared. I didn't do the intro thing because I was too anxious," 19-year-old Mikey Roseborsky told CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.
But now, the organization is a regular part of their life.
The idea for Outloud came from its executive director's daughter. Terry Soetaert said his daughter Mia attended Camp fYrefly a few times, and loved everything about it. Camp fYrefly is a national leadership camp for LGBTQ youth.
"Except for the fact that it only happened once a year and she wanted something to happen more like once a month," he said.
Inspired by Mia, the two worked together to start something local, and something that could be a more reliable source of support for LGBTQ people in the area.
The first Outloud group meeting was made up of a handful of kids. The group after was slightly bigger.
"Now, eight years later, there's 30-some odd kids in there," Soetaert said.
The foundation offers group sessions for people of all ages. Meetings are held on the first and third Tuesday of each month.
Sessions usually start with a quick introduction, followed by an icebreaker question.
The meetings are made up of games, activities or guest speakers. One time, Soetaert brought in chickens, something to make the kids smile, he adds.
"It is infinitely important to have these kinds of resources and just connections with people, because without them you start to feel like you're alone in your fights," Roseborsky said.
LISTEN | Outloud plays important role in the lives of some queer youth:
For 13-year-old Eli Botterhill, Outloud is a safe space where they can connect with other members of the community. They are a regular at the bi-monthly meetings.
"Kids can have hands-on experiences and meet other people who might have been through something like them," Botterhill said.
Soetaert said most children who come through the organization had faced bullying in some manner or another.
Botterhill says they are one of the lucky ones, because one of their biggest supporters is their mother.
"I know she's there and she's like my rock. But Outloud is really important because for some people, if they don't have [support], you can help them," they said.
Roseborsky said a resource like Outloud is important for youth in the LGBTQ community because it gives them a sense of belonging.
"It makes you feel like you're part of something because, you know that throughout everything, you can always come back here and chill out and be yourself," they said.