Rainbow flags representing the LGBTQ community were proudly waved around Seal Beach on Saturday.
An estimated 200 people took part in the second annual Seal Beach Pride March on June 4, walking to the beat of music around Old Town before gathering by the pier to listen to speakers and performances.
Seal Beach resident and parent Chase Farrell said she and many other volunteers organized the event with the goal of uplifting local kids.
“I came up with the idea last year and really wanted to have something for our youth because this is such a tough time for kids from the LGBTQ community,” Farrell said in a phone interview.
“These are kids who need extra love. Oftentimes, they are bullied at school. They need support and community love. Mostly too because the youth, if they are not supported… the self-harm goes up, suicide rate goes up, homelessness goes up. The numbers are really upsetting,” she explained.
There were marchers of all ages, including babies in strollers. Some people held signs and wore t-shirts that read “Protect Queer Kids” and “Love conquers all.”
Oak Middle School teacher Laura Velasco was there. “It’s a beautiful day,” the Seal Beach resident remarked as she walked down Ocean Avenue with the crowd. “I love that there are so many kids here.”
Farrell and Seal Beach Police Department Lt. Nick Nicholas and SBPD facility dog Yosa led the marchers. Farrell said she wanted to include the Seal Beach Police Department in part to make sure marchers felt safe participating.
“We are very honored to be invited to show our support for the LGBTQ community,” Nicholas said.
For the second year, SBPD officers are wearing and selling LGBTQ pride patches (incuding Yosa). Nicholas said last year the department raised $2,000 which was donated to The Trevor Project, an organization that supports LGBTQ youth including offering 24/7 access to crisis counselors.
After the march, participants gathered by the Seal Beach pier to listen to speakers, including Jessica Stoneham of the L.A. LGBT Center, and Pastor Sam Pullen and worship singer Jess Grace Garcia from Community Congregational United Church of Christ of Los Alamitos.
Stoneham and Grace Garcia spoke directly to the young people in the crowd to let them know they are loved and supported.
Farrell said many local young people also took the microphone to share their experiences. “There were lots of tears and lots of hugs,” she said.
The event raised money for local school-based LGBTQ student groups through donations and sales of yard signs and apparel from Purple Candie Cane, including a t-shirt for this year’s event designed by an Oak Middle School student. Last year’s event raised $600 for the student clubs supporting LGBTQ youth at Los Alamitos High School, Oak and McAuliffe Middle Schools, according to Farrell.
Farrell thanked supporters and participants including the local businesses that displayed flyers for the event.
“I think Seal Beach is now moving to open their arms to the LGBTQ community and that is great because this is going to literally save lives,” Farrell said. “The more that we can be here for youth the better off that we as a community will be because the youth supported today will be the successful business owners tomorrow.”