Gratitude isn’t enough for Derrick Martin, the gay Cochran, Ga., teen who tallied gains of support alongside personal losses this year over bringing his boyfriend to prom. Rather than rest after surviving it, he’s returning the favor by founding Project LifeVest.
With the prom behind him and college just around the corner, it might be easy for Martin (photo) to take a break after what he went through upon winning the right to bring his boyfriend to prom only to be kicked out of his parents’ home under a national spotlight.
But slowing down just isn’t Martin’s style.
Thankfully for him, a friend stepped in right away with a place to stay, and statewide and national support grew quickly as his story went viral.
A Facebook group for supporters sprang up, Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus dedicated its “Georgia On Our Minds” concert (photos) in Martin’s honor, and he later was honored at Atlanta’s HRC Dinner (photos) with his boyfriend. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, including an appearance at West Hollywood Pride.
The unwavering support is something Martin appreciates enough to turn right back around and give back to others.
“Before the press, and before I was known to anyone other than the population of my small town, I felt like I was alone,” Martin tells Project Q Atlanta. “Once the press hit my story, a flood of compassionate, helpful, and surprisingly like-minded people came to my aid. It was this amazing community that set itself up around me that made me feel like I wasn’t completely alone in my endeavor.”
That’s the feeling Martin wants to share with other teens through his newly found Project LifeVest, an organization dedicated to helping at-risk and discriminated LGBT youth. Online donations to the non-profit cause are now being accepted.
LifeVest’s mission is to reach as many people in need “through the establishment of safe places in as many cities as possible; through opening a call center with a qualified and well-educated and experienced team of counselors who can give advice and guidance where needed; through finding qualified and screened families who can, if the need arises, host rejected teens while they finish schooling or find a new place.”
Easy to say, but a tall order to accomplish. Martin says no matter what it takes, LifeVest’s mission is vital. In his ultimate dream, it would become as ubiquitous as Trevor Project and other national organizations helping LGBT youth.
“Now I feel that it is my turn to help, to partner with other groups similar to the one I have designed to ensure that no one has to go through discrimination or rejection of any magnitude, because of LGBTQ issues, alone,” he says.