By Jessie Wagoner
McPHERSON—In an effort to show support for the LGBTQ+ community in McPherson, a Pride March is being held from 3 to 5 p.m. this Sunday, June 28. The event will begin with a march from the circle drive at McPherson College to the bandshell at Lakeside Park, where speakers will share their experiences.
“June is pride month, and we wanted to have an event to show those in McPherson who are part of the LGBTQ community that they are supported and accepted,” Tricia Warring, event organizer, said. “This is the first year a pride event is being held in McPherson, so we are keeping it small, but we still want to offer our support.”
In addition to organizing the pride march, Warring has also created the McPherson LGBTQ+ Community and Allies group. The group serves as a safe place to provide support to members of the LGBTQ community. The group is connected via a private Facebook page to ensure safety and confidentiality.
Recently, the group provided a goodie bag to LGBTQ youth and allies in the community who are members of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). The GSA, though not sanctioned by McPherson High School, meets at the school after hours. Warring and members of her group delivered goodie bags to the students and invited them to attend the march this weekend.
“We put together goodie bags with snacks and items of every color of the rainbow,” Warring said. “We also included a Pride flag and information about our group and an invite to the march. We just wanted to show our support and let them know community members care about them.”
Sommer Van Pelt, another event organizer, says supporting young people in the LGBTQ community is one of her top priorities. LGBTQ youth experience higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide than their peers. She wants youth to know they aren’t alone.
“The suicide rate is so high, and they are struggling,” Van Pelt said. “I want to be there to listen and learn from them, support them. They aren’t alone, even if their family isn’t accepting, there are a lot of people in the community who are here to offer support.”
Once the march participants arrive at the bandshell at Lakeside Park, there will be speakers sharing their experiences with the crowd. The McPherson Police Department will escort those marching from the college to the bandshell to ensure a safe route. Warring says the day is meant to be a time of listening, learning and supporting, and she anticipates a positive crowd will be in attendance.
Due to COVID-19, event organizers are requiring masks to be worn at the event, and they are encouraging social distancing. Attendees are asked to bring their own masks. If they are not wearing a mask, they will be asked to leave.