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Duke University student takes to high heels in support of homeless LGBT teens

Duke University student takes to high heels in support of homeless LGBT teens

Approximately a month ago, on 15 December, Jacob Tobia ran across the Brooklyn Bridge. Stop rolling your eyes, please. Sure it sounds boring and mundane, but he wore he wore high heels.

‘You should not run in high heels,’ Tobia chuckled in an interview with GSN. ‘If you want to run a little bit try it, but don’t train in heels. Use flat shoes.’

Why did the the Duke University sophomore do something he doesn’t suggest to others? Easy. He was raising money for the Ali Forney Center. This past fall was difficult for the New York City nonprofit that works with gay homeless teenagers. Hurricane Sandy destroyed the group’s walk in  center in the traditionally gay neighborhood of Chelsea (located in Manhattan). The building,  located a block away from the Hudson River, could no longer offer the help it has for the past seven years.

‘Our furniture was all all destroyed,’ Carl Siciliano, Ali Forney’s executive director, said to GSN. ‘The storm was a crippling blow.’

Tobia, who was in the city for a term, heard about the organization’s troubles and came up with the idea about heels and running as a way to raise money.

‘Friends and family donated first and it took off,’ Tobia said. ‘It went viral in its own way. The success shows how much support there is to address the challenges of homeless  LGBT youth.’

By jogging across the 1.3 mile bridge, Tobia raised $10,000. These funds, plus other donations, helped the center find a replacement building and prepare to offer around the clock services to its clients.

‘So many people reached out, that we survived the storm,’ Siciliano said. ‘The kind of resources we received was great. Two months after the storm and we were able to move into a new space.’

Tobia has returned to campus this term to continue working on a human rights advocacy degree. There’s talk of turning his December run into an annual event. Even if that doesn’t happen, the sophomore hopes the needs of LGBT teens forced to live on the streets becomes a larger part of the gay freedom movement.

‘I credit the response with the really good work Ali Forney does. The needs of LGBT youth are so often neglected in the rights movement. Those who are most vulnerable need the support of our community.’

Below are two videos highlighting Tobia’s December run.