Out and Proud Yampa Valley fund seeks to provide resources to LGBTQIA+ community

Left to right, the six founding members the Out and Proud Yampa Valley Fund, Terri Ubbing Weisenbach, Mari McGuiness, Kim Carlson, Jeanne Graham, Wendy Lynch and Deb Benak, pose at a reception at Haymaker Golf Course on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

To officially mark the beginning of the Out and Proud Yampa Valley fund, the six founding members hosted a dinner on Friday, Sept. 30 at Haymaker Golf Course. 

The fund was created to support, advocate for and advance the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual and all other members of the LGBTQIA+ in the Yampa Valley. The fund will be used for a variety of things, from raising awareness to providing financial support in times of distress. 

The fund was set up through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, and donations can be made at

“Money does not solve problems all the time,” said Traci Hiatt, the donor engagement manager at YVCF. “But money makes things possible.”

The six founders of the Out and Proud Yampa Valley Fund hope it accomplishes more than raising money; they want it to bring the local LGBTQIA+ community together. 

“When we first came here seven years ago, we didn’t know there was a gay community at all,” said Kim Carlson, one of the fund’s founders. “You kind of just had to meet people by accident.”

According to the Colorado Health Institute, which compiled data from 2019 and 2021, 87.1% of Colorado’s LGBTQ+ (the acronym used in the study) population lives in urban areas, while Colorado’s transgender and non-binary population is even more concentrated in urban areas, with 93.8% living in cities.

Both stats are above average, as 82% of Colorado’s general population reside in urban areas, according to the Colorado Health Institute.

“It’s taken me 27 years to become comfortable with it,” said Jim Hanifan, a longtime Steamboat local. “I don’t look the part.” 

Hanifan said he felt “jipped” by those 27 years of discomfort.

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Brad Pilon, another Routt County resident at Friday’s event, empathized with Hanifan.  

“It’s easy to pretend you’re not gay when you need to, and be gay when you can relax,” Pilon said, who added that he feels members of the older generations are more accustomed to hiding their sexuality.

“I think things have definitely gotten better, at least for young people, since Yampa Valley Pride was established,” Pilon said.  

Yampa Valley Pride held its Second Annual Pride event in June. 

Using data from 2019 and 2021, the Colorado Health Institute said 58% of LGBTQ+ Coloradans experienced poor mental health during the previous month, which is over twice as high as the 25.2% of heterosexual cisgender people who suffered poor mental health. 

According to the 2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 13.4% of middle school and high school students who identify as heterosexual seriously considered an attempt at suicide, but among students who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, 42% said they seriously considered attempting suicide.  

Out of those 42%, a little over one in five (20.7%) said they did in fact make a serious attempt of taking their own life. 

Nicole Fox, the teen director at the Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Colorado, said her work with local kids motivated her to show up and support the new fund. 

“I do have a lot of students that identify in that community,” Fox said. “Sometimes their parents are accepting and sometimes they’re not. I think having a new resource is going to be hugely helpful for them to feel like they belong.”

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