Berkeley Cheese Board raises more than $7K to help Texas transgender youth

Photo of Cheeseboard Pizza Collective
Ben Mefford/Staff
Customers gathered Sunday to support Berkeley Cheese Board Collective's fundraiser for the health care rights of transgender youth in Texas.

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In just around two hours, 225 customers came in and out of The Berkeley Cheese Board Collective on Sunday afternoon to support the organization’s fundraiser for the health care rights of transgender youth in Texas.

The Cheese Board Collective raised $7,780 for two organizations: Out Youth, a Texas-based organization offering programs and services for LGBTQ+ youth and allies, and Equality Texas, an advocacy group working to eliminate discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, according to worker-owner Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan. She added that the fundraiser was prompted by recent legislation in Texas that is criminalizing gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

About 300 pizzas were made throughout the fundraiser. It was an “inspiring” day, Vichit-Vadakan said.

“The vibe was amazing, it was really inspiring,” Vichit-Vadakan said. “Customers who came in were very effusive with their enthusiasm and appreciation for what we were doing. People were waving at us when we were behind the counter.”

Though the actual day of the fundraiser went well, Vichit-Vadakan said leading up to the event, she wasn’t sure if people would come out to support; she added that customers’ travel plans might mean people would not be in the area. However, Vichit-Vadakan said people showed up in a way that “surpassed” her expectations and hopes.

While lines for food during the fundraiser were long, customers were “gracious and patient,” Vichit-Vadakan noted.

Planning and organizing for this fundraiser began three weeks ago and was completely volunteer-based, Vichit-Vadakan said. Creating posters and flyers, making extra pizza and working on the actual day of the fundraiser came from the energy and support from Cheese Board Collective workers. Vichit-Vadakan estimated that 65 hours of labor were donated to make the event a success.

Out Youth Development Director Lane Strickland said in an email that receiving support from outside the community is a huge help.

“I wish you could see their faces light up when we tell them complete strangers from far away places in California support them!” Strickland said in the email. “Our youth are hurting. The families of our youth are hurting.”

Strickland added in the email that fundraisers “save the lives” of Out Youth’s clients and uplift them during difficult times.

Vichit-Vadakan added that it was important to her that transgender youth in Texas and the organizations that support the community know that they are not alone.

“I want them to have (a) sense of hope that there are people far from them, who have no direct connection to them, that they care about them,” Vichit-Vadakan said.

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.