CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Time Out Youth Center hosted their annual gala with a sell-out crowd of 300 revelers on June 12 at the Mint Museum Uptown, awarding two local LGBT youth college scholarships and honoring a volunteer and supporter with a surprise community award.

The gala, hosted by NBC Charlotte anchor and reporter Ben Thompson, included cocktails and a silent auction in the museum’s main atrium, followed by dinner on the museum’s fifth floor. On the dining room’s balcony overlooking S. Tryon St., dinner-goers were treated to the sights and sounds of Uptown Charlotte as it hosted the annual Taste of Charlotte festival.

Speakers at the event included PFLAG Charlotte President Diane Troy, who gushed with pride for her openly gay son, Michael, and said TOY had helped her better serve the parents coming to PFLAG for support.

“All of you have accomplished a tremendous feat of courage and self awareness,” Troy said. “You are genuine and you shine. It’s all about the journey — it’s not about where you were, it’s about where you are today.”

TOY also featured a youth speaker, Parker Petrucick, who shared his experiences with the organization and how it helped him thrive as a teenager.

“I didn’t think I would live to see my 18th birthday,” Parker told the audience. “In three months, I’ll turn 19. … Time Out Youth has saved my life. Without this agency, I wouldn’t be standing here.”

The evening’s keynote speaker was Molly Barker, founder of Girls on the Run. She told dinner-goers the story of a youth she knows, who successfully transitioned and now lives authentically as a boy.

One of the highlights of the night was the awarding of TOY’s annual youth scholarships, named in honor of founder Tonda Taylor. Javier Guillen and Kyle Coffino both received $1,500. Coffino is a trans teenager and a sociology major in the University of North Carolina-Greensboro’s international honors program. Guillen is an undocumented youth who has faced significant financial challenges in pursuing higher education and is currently enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College.

At the end of the evening, TOY made a surprise honor, giving longtime supporter and Stonewall Kickball Charlotte organizer Jason Boone its Community Service Award. Boone’s kickball league raises funds for Time Out Youth.

Gala attendees were also able to learn about TOY’s recent successes and accomplishments over the past year. Executive Director Rodney Tucker told supporters that the group had become a national model for LGBT youth services. Over the past year, the group has seen a 17 percent rise in the number of youth coming into the organization’s facility; 39 percent of those youth are first-time clients. Last year, the group also reached 827 youth through its school outreach programs, participated in 116 community presentations and granted $4,480 in emergency assistance for youth clients. The group has also begun to expand services in Charlotte’s suburbs and surrounding rural areas, with its first discussion group beginning recently in Cabarrus County and a group planned for next fall in Gaston County. TOY hopes to also expand outreach in Union County and northern Mecklenburg County, Tucker said. : :

Time Out Youth Center Executive Director Rodney Tucker addresses the gala audience.
Time Out Youth Center Executive Director Rodney Tucker addresses the gala audience.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.