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Gay Former NFL Player Wade Davis to Preview LGBT Youth Sports Camp Sunday

By Serena Dai | May 1, 2013 9:29am
 Wade Davis and Darnell Moore run "YOU Belong," a sports summer camp for LGBT youths and allies that will debut in Chicago this summer.
Wade Davis and Darnell Moore run "YOU Belong," a sports summer camp for LGBT youths and allies that will debut in Chicago this summer.
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BOYSTOWN — How does playing sports help prevent bullying? 

It's all about helping youth adopt overall health, confidence and happiness, according to the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital.

And on Sunday, the Center on Halsted will be hosting a "Safe Space Day" filled with workshops to help LGBT youth handle bullying — like one with sports tips led by former NFL player Wade Davis.

Davis, who came out as gay after he retired, now is an LGBT activist and will debut the "YOU Belong Initiative" in Chicago this summer, a four-day sports camp for LGBT youth and allies.

Sunday's workshop will be a preview of the camp, to be run with the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association.

"It's about how to be a human and take care of yourself," said Zach Stafford, an organizer of the event who works at the hospital. "We're trying to give people a holistic way to be a happier, healthier person."

"Safe Space Day" is targeted at people younger than 24 years old who either identify as LGBT or as an ally. The Children's Hospital has been planning a workshop day since bullying against LGBT youth came up as a hot topic a year ago, Stafford said.

According to a 2009 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, eight out of ten LGBT students have been verbally harassed because of sexual orientation.

Many gay youth in Chicago face bullying from adults, from peers and — for the significant gay homeless population — from people on the street, Stafford said. Many homeless gay youth are expected to attend, and the hospital hopes the workshops will "empower them," Stafford said.

"Even if you’re experiencing homelessness, you're still in school or still being bullied by passersby," he said.

In addition to Davis's basketball and track and field workshops, events include sessions on nutrition, legal rights in school and methods of de-stressing such as art therapy or theater.

Davis told the Associated Press after NBA basketball player Jason Collins came out as gay this week that "sports in themselves aren't homophobic environments."

"The one thing we have to do as a society is make sure we're training our kids, from the time they're 5, 6 or 7, to be tolerant," he said.

"Safe Space Day" runs on Sunday, May 5 at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.