Out in October: Community picnic offers resourses, support and fun

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Sunday, October 20, 2013

JANESVILLE--It was a gathering where everybody could be themselves without fear of teasing.

One little boy wore pink angel wings as part of his Halloween costume, and nobody teased him. Another child took the microphone to talk about dealing with bullies.Grown-ups were at ease in the presence of strangers.

The event was Ruby Project's Out in October Community Picnic and Resource Fair in Courthouse Park, and being at ease and accepted by others was the main goal. 

And despite cloudy skies, attendance was good and all the booth space had been sold to social service agencies, local businesses and nonprofits—a good sign that the community supported the Ruby Project's message of acceptance, said Kelly Blair Ostermann, project director.

"Hopefully, this will be the 'first annual' event," said  Blair Ostermann.

The Ruby Project hosts workshops that focus on bullying signs and strategies, and provides information to adults working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and questioning youth. 

"Bullying isn't just a LGBT issue, it affects everyone," Blair Ostermann said. "It used to be that kids would be safe when they came home from school. But now with Facebook and texting, it's all the time."

Many of the booths at the event were from social service agencies. Youth Emotional Stability, better known as YES! Rock County used Sunday's event to get the word out about its suicide prevention services. The group has held two suicide awareness walks as support and prevention services.

Jacqui Palcic, YES! volunteer, said that this event was especially important to her.

She had a suicide in her family, and "didn't want anybody else to have to go through that."

Blair Ostermann said that suicide prevention was an important goal. Teens struggling with their sexuality are four times more likely to attempt suicide, she said.

Other booths offered information about domestic violence, sexual assault and resources offered by the Hedberg Public Library.

While groups such as YES! were there to offer support, other activities were just for fun.

A children's scavenger hunt, a modified bob-for-apples event, music, fire truck tours and a visit from BMO Harris Bank's mascot, Hubert the Lion, were just a few of the fun activities.

For more information about the Ruby Project, go to http://therubyproject.us/

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