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Jazz Ryan Smith And Dwyane Wade Celebrate LGBTQ+ Encircle Campaign

Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, left, and Dwayne Wade, who bought a share of the team, talk during a game at the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 16, 2021. (Courtesy of Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As Encircle celebrated a successful “$8 Million, 8 Houses” campaign, Utah Jazz owners Ryan Smith and Dwyane Wade were front and center to celebrate.

Encircle is a non-profit organization that strives to create family and youth resource centers aimed at providing a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In February, Smith, the Jazz’s majority owner teamed with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds to announce their fundraising efforts to expand the non-profit throughout Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and Nevada with the “$8 Million, 8 Houses” project.

Smith, joined by his wife Ashley opened the conference at the Silicon Slopes tech summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center by discussing the impact they’d hope to have in the community through their fundraising efforts.

“When Ryan and I think about what we hopefully can have an impact on we think about youth, and Utah, and love,” Ashley said. “It’s incredible that Encircle encompasses all of those things.”

The non-profit organization announced that with the help of a $1 million donation from DOMO CEO Josh James and his wife Marina, it had reached its goal.

“I’m personally so very honored to stand here today to celebrate the success of such an important campaign to bring the incredible work of Encircle to eight more communities in Utah, and across the Mountain West,” said Heather Kahlert, executive vice president of the Kahlert Foundation.

Wade purchased a minority share of the Jazz in April and discussed his own experience with Encircle as the father of a child who is part of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Zaya was assigned to be a male at birth and eight years old, came home and had a conversation with my family that she wasn’t anymore and she wanted to live her truth,” Wade said. “She wanted to be who she felt she was born to be.”

With his wife Gabrielle Union, Wade listened and learned from his daughter, and is now an advocate for the work Encircle has done to support LGBTQ+ families.

“Take an opportunity to learn more about Encircle, take an opportunity to talk about it, push it,” Wade said. “What’s been done here in Utah, the state, this is groundbreaking, this is special.”

Along with the announcement that Encircle had reached its “$8 Million, 8 Houses” goal, the Kahlert Foundation pledged an additional $1 million towards a ninth home in Utah.

In addition to owning the majority share of the Jazz, Smith is the Co-Founder and CEO of Qualtrics. Prior to his role in Jazz ownership, Wade spent 16 seasons in the NBA and won three championships with the Miami Heat.

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