On a hot July evening, Elizabeth Gardner was walking with her children in Cascade Park in Orem, Utah, when something caught her eye—a piece of paper lying in the grass.
“I almost didn’t pick it up,” she recalls. But curiosity got the better of her.
When Gardner inspected the paper, she discovered that it was an anonymous note from a lonely LGBTQ teen. The 15-year-old girl had written about how she had just moved to Utah from Idaho, leaving all her friends behind. She described watching some kids playing baseball in the park and wishing that she could join them. She then ended the note by saying that she would be returning to the park the next evening.
Gardner took a photo of the note and posted it on social media. She wrote: “Found this at Cascade Park tonight. Thought it would be cool if lots of people showed up to play some inclusive baseball and make some new friends. Big changes can feel heavy, and everyone can use friends. My kids and I will be there inviting anyone who wants to play.”
Gardner’s post was shared multiple times on Facebook, and the response from the community was more than she could have hoped for. “We had at least 100 people come and go throughout the evening,” she says.
Jared Goodey and his 15-year-old daughter, Abigail, were two of those people.
“We have LGBTQ people at our house, and we know that it’s difficult in this area sometimes to find like-minded friends and to find the support you need,” Jared says. “Of course we were going to go.”
Abigail invited all her friends to come as well. “I know from personal experience that it’s really difficult to initially find a group of people that you can trust and feel accepted with,” she says. “It’s super important, and I wanted to be able to help with that.”
The people who showed up to the park brought games, and Gardner brought kickballs that said “Come play! Everyone’s invited.” Someone even brought a rainbow flag and hung it in a nearby tree to make it easier for the teen to find them.
Some people suspect that the author of the note was there and was able to see the show of support for her, but no one knows for certain. To make sure that she knew people cared, several teens wrote notes to her and left them in the park for her to find.
“Whoever the girl was, I hope that she saw us and knew that all those people were there for her,” says Gardner. “I don’t know if she came, but for any kid out there who’s feeling alone like that, there are so many people who would want to support them and make them feel loved and welcome. If there are LGBTQ kids who saw the Facebook post shared, who saw the people responding, that’s a success right there.”
In fact, the event was such a success that Jared and Abigail Goodey have decided to make it a weekly occurrence.
“Clearly there’s a need here,” Jared says. “There was such a bright, happy, loving energy with all of the kids there. It was really beautiful. If we keep doing this in the same place, that increases our chances of making contact with that girl. But at the very least, all these other kids are making connections with each other, and their families are making connections with each other. The more community support you have, the better.”
Abigail adds, “The most important thing was not that she actually showed up and participated. It’s that she knows that there was a group of people that cared enough to come and create this community for her. Just knowing that there’s a group of people who support you in the place where you live is super comforting.”
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