Living an Authentic Life

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Unmasquerade

United Way Fox Cities employees and guests attended Unmasquerade to support the LGBT Partnership.
United Way was proud to be a sponsor of the event.

Contributor: Chad Hershner, Co-Chair of INCLUDE and the Development Director for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin/Catalpa Health

People often refer to me as "Utopia Chad." I am that eternal optimist who consistently sees the glass as half full and who believes in the innate goodness of everyone. This gift was instilled in me by my foster parents who showed me unconditional love and support - they were my biggest champions.

Life is not easy and we all experience the twists, turns, ups and downs that come our way. I was abandoned by my birth parents when I was 6 months old and left with my babysitters. These amazing people, who were in their mid-60s, took me in as their own and raised me as their child.

They were incredible angels and I learned that I was the 29th child they supported and cared for over their lifetime. Some kids would stay for months, others (like me) would stay a lifetime. They provided all of this love and compassion without receiving a dime of financial support.

I always knew I was gay, but growing up in the 70s/80s, I caved into societal pressures and hid behind a mask. I wore this mask for many years, but with each passing year the mask became more stifling. I finally came out when I was 31 years old. It was the most freeing moment in my life and for the first time I started living a life of authenticity.

On October 28th, I took off my mask at the UnMasquerade fundraising event in support of the LGBT programs and services of Harmony Café - in particular the LGBT Partnership. The Partnership provides a safe place where LGBT youth in our community can take off their masks, celebrate their wins, share their struggles and not be judged.

We need to create a welcome and inclusive community where everyone feels valued regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. To me, that is what LIVING UNITED is all about.

Chad serves as a volunteer for the United Way Health, Healing & Crisis Intervention Impact Area. He and his husband Jeff Amstutz are leadership level annual donors and members of the Circle of Caring.