LoveLoud festival raises funds, support for LGBTQ community

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Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

The LoveLoud festival successfully raised $1 million for LGBTQ youth on July 28. The funds raised by the concert will directly benefit LGBTQ charities including Encircle, The Trevor Project, and the Tegan and Sara Foundation.

The event, held in support of LGBTQ youth in Utah, featured performances from artists like Zedd, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, Grace Vanderwaal and Imagine Dragons.

Support for the concert was felt around the world as more than 6 million people joined in on an AT&T-sponsored live stream of the event. About 35,000 spectators — up from 17,000 attendees from last year’s event — filled almost every seat in the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium, despite the afternoon heat.

Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox read aloud a document from Governor Gary Herbert officially declaring July 28 as LoveLoud day in Utah. Cox also discussed his own past with suicidal thoughts.

“I know what I’ve gone through is nothing compared to what so many of our LGBTQ friends have gone through, but I’m here to tell you we need you to stay,” Cox said. “Tonight we say no to bullying and suicide.”

Throughout the concert, guests were entertained with appearances from TV personalities, successful business leaders, comedians, and artists. Many Utah natives shared their talents — including So You Think You Can Dance star Benji Schwimmer, dancer and actress Julianne Hough, singer Tyler Glenn, and Steve and Barb Young. All echoed a similar message of love and acceptance to the LGBTQ community.

Property Brothers star Drew Scott spoke to the crowd and encouraged LGBTQ youth to stay true to themselves. After making building homes his career, Scott said there is one thing in particular that has stayed with him.

“The most important concept I’ve learned is that the foundation of any happy home is love,” Scott said.

The Trevor Project, one of the charities benefiting from the concert, was represented by  CEO Amit Paley. Paley shared the startling statistic that just one supportive person can make all the difference in an LGBTQ individual’s life and decrease the risk of suicide by 30 percent.

“You can be that person who saves somebody’s life,” Paley said.

Alfonso Ribeiro, star of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star, was a fan-favorite guest speaker at the event. Ribeiro also thrilled the crowd with his popular dance move, the ‘Carlton,’ which is named after his character from the 90s sitcom.

“I look forward to the day this festival isn’t necessary,” he said. “Love strong, love proud and love loud.”

BYU Alumni Larry and Paula Austin attended the concert to show their love and respect for the LGBTQ community.

“I hope LoveLoud encourages more dialogue between the community and the kids who are at risk,” Paula said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also addressed the audience. Cook walked onto the stage and declared he stood before everyone as a sports nut, an uncle, lover of the outdoors, and a proud gay man. He encouraged LGBTQ youth to forget about trying to conform to what is considered ‘normal’.

“You are a gift to the world. A unique and special gift, just the way you are. Your life matters,” he said. “My heart breaks when I see kids struggling to conform to a society or a family that doesn’t accept them, struggling to be what someone else thinks is normal.”

Cook then introduced the final act of the night: Imagine Dragons.

As the band took the stage the crowd seemed to come alive. Imagine Dragons opened with one of their popular hits ‘Radioactive’.

Prior to the band’s performance, the event staff passed out watches to all audience members. And when the band took the stage, the watches began to light up and change color to the delight and surprise of the crowd.

As the watches continuously changed colors the arena was bathed in a rainbow as Utah native and former BYU student Dan Reynolds — the lead singer of Imagine Dragons and LoveLoud founder — waved a bright rainbow flag while he sang.

“I wish you could see how much we care about you, how much we love you, how much we support you, and how much we stand with you,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds also said after growing up in Utah he knows and understands the community and culture. Although he identifies with certain aspects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ beliefs, he believes the culture within Utah needs to change.

“May Utah be the first state to be the absolute lowest suicide rate and lowest depression rate,” he said.

The church commented on the festival in a statement to the Deseret News:

“We remain committed to support community efforts throughout the world to prevent suicide, bullying and homelessness. Every young person should feel loved and cared for in their families, their communities and their congregations. We can come together, bringing our perspectives and beliefs, and make each community a safe place for all. God’s message is one of hope and we want our LGBT brothers and sisters to know that they are loved, valued and needed in his church.”

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