Ten Minutes With the Pride in the Hills Co-Founder – Chris Herrmann
Chris Herrmann and his seven siblings were raised in rural Vermont by parents who taught them the value of giving back. When Herrmann attended a LGBTQ Youth Fund event he knew he needed to get involved. This past June he and Kevin Jennings co-chaired the second annual Pride in the Hills event which grew from its initial 100 attendees to a sold-out event of 400 in its second year.
Your event co-chair Kevin Jennings was instrumental in helping the Connecticut Community Foundation launch The Pride Fund to celebrate and improve the lives of LGBTQ people in the 21 towns it serves. How did you get involved with the effort?
A close friend of mine, Kathy Bower from Southbury, is on the board of the CCF and she asked me to attend the launch event at Jennings’ house for what was then called the CT LGBTQ Youth Fund. I was impressed by the people I met that day and promised to raise funds for the 2019 event. Jennings and I became friends and he asked me to become co-chair of the 2019 event and co-founder—with Deb Fuller—of what we now call The Pride in the Hills Fund.
What was the genesis of the Pride Fund?
After I left Jennings’ event I went to the first ever New Preston Gay Pride event at The Owl with my husband, Joseph Lorino. It was one of the most fun and meaningful parties we’d ever been to in all of our years in Connecticut. I turned to Joseph and said, “This is crazy, we need to get these people together, we could do wonders!” and the rest, as they say, is history.
Why is a fund like this so desperately needed in Litchfield County?
Bower, who’s a steering committee member of the fund, told me that her daughters were coming home in tears after witnessing the way gay kids were treated at their high school. Phil Manno, one of my event committee members, shared a study he found from 2018 by the Human Rights Campaign and UCONN and the results were pretty horrifying. The report states: “These teenagers are not only experiencing heartbreaking levels of stress, anxiety, and rejection, but also overwhelmingly feel unsafe in their own school classrooms.”
What programming does CCF have planned now that they have the funds to help the LGBTQ population?
We have a five-year plan. The funds raised in 2019 will fund a professional who will oversee the implementation of a Gay Straight Alliance in every high school in the 21 towns of Litchfield County. GSAs have been proven to stop bullying in its tracks. In 2020 we will send 150 local students to the True Colors Conference where they will spend the weekend with 5,000 parents, educators, and professionals taking workshops and participating in activities that give them the tools and hope for the kind of future that every kid deserves, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Who else would you like to thank?
Phil Manno for staging a gorgeous event. Fontaine James for his marketing work. Andrew Thompson and Bradley Stephens for their remarkable job on the auction, and Steve Debow who worked tirelessly on so many levels. Thanks guys!