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Gay Community Endowment Fund presents Paul Daum Award to Sandy Varndell

Sandy Varndell of OutSupport
Sandy Varndell of OutSupport

Each year, the Gay Community Endowment Fund recognizes an individual, business or organization that has actively supported the LGBTQ+ community with its Paul Daum Award.

The award, which is named for a founding donor of the fund and a professor of theater at the University of Akron, honors those who have demonstrated a significant commitment to LGBTQ+ causes and whose involvement has benefited the Greater Akron community at large.

In June 2023, the Gay Community Endowment Fund presented the award to Sandy Varndell, the president and founder of OutSupport. OutSupport was founded in 2013 by mothers looking for ways to support their children with the challenges they face as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Sandy was especially inspired by her two LGBTQ+ children, both of whom are now young adults. Today, Sandy and her organization provide a variety of advocacy and support services, primarily to individuals and families in Medina County. Sandy's many accomplishments as the president of OutSupport include:

  • Launching an initiative that has provided approximately 200 free binders and gaffs to transgender and nonbinary youth since 2016.
  • Assisting in the creation of OutSupport's Trans 101 sessions, which have been presented to dozens of Northeast Ohio businesses, organizations and civic groups since 2017.
  • Partnering with Medina County schools to support their Gay-Straight Alliance groups.

Sandy shared that more than 500 people had been part of one of the organization's support groups in a 2020 Beacon Journal article.

Sandy is also a community organizer for local legislation impacting the LGBTQ+ community. She initiated a task force for the LGBTQ+ Nondiscrimination Ordinance in the city of Medina. The initiative passed in July 2019, making Medina only the 25th community in Ohio to extend protections against intimidation or discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Sandy's other advocacy roles include serving on both the Medina County Democratic Party Central Committee and Executive Committee since 2020. She also founded the Medina Environmental Discussion Group in 2022.

Beau Shaniuk, a member of the Gay Community Endowment Fund Advisory Board, said, "(Sandy's) dedication to – and passion for – supporting, affirming and advocating for local LGBTQ+ populations is so incredibly inspiring to everyone Sandy comes into contact with. It's people like Sandy who push to make their communities better, while simultaneously providing opportunities for connection."

Created in 2016, the Paul Daum Award was first presented to Eric Jones of Jones Group Interiors, an emeritus member of GCEF. The award pays tribute to Paul Daum's generous estate gift to the Gay Community Endowment Fund, which left a legacy that will forever meet the needs of Greater Akron's LGBTQ+ community. Learn how you can do the same.

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