Gay valedictorian rejected by his parents wants to give back and Ellen’s here to help.

There are 1.6 million young people experiencing homelessness in the United States and 40% of them identify as LGBT. A large percentage of homeless LGBT youth were thrown out of their homes because their parents refused to accept their sexual orientation.

“Sometimes [parental rejection] is based on religion; they think that their child is a sinner or that their child needs to be punished so they see ‘the error of their ways,’ LGBT youth advocate, Telaina Eriksen, told The Washington Post. "They might think if they force their child to leave their home, their child may return repenting, magically somehow no longer LGBT.”

Seth Owen, 18, was forced out of his parents house during his senior year of high school after his Baptist parents discovered he is gay.


Owen's parents forced him into gay conversion therapy and made him attend a church that attacked him for his sexual orientation. Owen asked his parents if he could attend another church and they gave him an ultimatum: attend their church or move out.

Owen felt safer being homeless.

“The worst part was I was packing my bags, and I was walking out the door, and I was hoping that my mom would stand in my way,” Owen told NBC News. “I was hoping that she would say ‘I love my child more than I love my religion.’ ”

But his parents never took him back.

Even though he was forced to couch surf for the rest of his senior year, Owen earned a 4.61 GPA, was named high school high school valedictorian, and accepted at Georgetown University.

But then he received another blow. His financial aid package from the university had been determined based on expected contributions from the family who rejected him.

“I started to cry, because I realized there was no way that I could go to college,” he told NBC News. “Georgetown was my only option, because I had already denied my other acceptances,” he said.

But then his biology teacher, Jane Martin, stepped in and started a GoFundMe page to help him pay for college. It began with a lofty goal of $20,000.

After news spread of Owen's situation, over $141,000 in donations poured in.

When Georgetown heard about Owen's struggles, the university awarded him with a full scholarship.

Now that he had a full ride to Georgetown, Owen decided to pay it forward and use the remaining GoFundMe money to start a college scholarship for LGBT youth who’ve been rejected by their families. After hearing about Owen’s scholarship, Ellen DeGeneres invited him on her TV show.

“I often had to look up your videos for inspiration,” Owen told DeGeneres. “There were so many times that you really pulled me through.”

At the end of the interview, DeGeneres gave Owen an incredible surprise: a check for $25,000.

“We’re partnering again this year with Cheerios to encourage one million acts of good, and they're inspired by young people like you,” DeGeneres told Owen. “They're going to help you start your scholarship with this check for $25,000.”

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


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