Editor’s note: In order to respect the anonymity of the family involved, Out and About Newspaper has removed names from this article.

When Dorothy clicks her ruby red slippers together and says “there’s no place like home” she wakes up in the safety of her own home. Growing up school becomes a home away from home and while we have the expectation that it will be just as safe that just is not always the case for GLBT youth.

“He just ended up so far behind in school because he didn’t want to go,” his father shared of the barrage of bullying his son endured. “After that we knew we had to find a way to get him back into the world.” Armed only with the desire to give his child the best education he could, he sought the help of an educational planner in Nashville.

In order to rebuild his son’s confidence, they ended up sending him to Wilderness Therapy. “Out of the 70 days they were there learning, they must have camped out 60 of them,” his father shared. “It was great for him because if he wanted fire, he had to learn how to make a fire. [My son] was very proud of what he accomplished.”

After his son’s Wilderness Therapy, he attended another small school out West. During this time he was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability. During these trips his son began to learn self-reliance but there was still the issue of what school to attend when he returned home.

For this Tennessee student Benton Hall Academy became a beacon of safety amidst a sea of bullying.

“It’s about 25 miles from our house for my son to meet a small bus that transports him about another 25 miles to school,” he shared. “One day we were waiting for the bus and it never came, but the teachers came in their personal vehicles to pick him up.” Just one of many instances this proud father recollected about Benton Hall Academy’s intense passion for education and its students.

Benton Hall Academy describes itself as an institution that provides children a safe and encouraging environment and is committed to encouraging every child to flourish both academically and socially. And for this Tennessee father, he is determined to give back to a school that has given his son so much.

Food for Thought, an inaugural fundraising event for Benton Hall Academy, takes place Friday, Feb. 8 from 6-8 p.m., at the Nashville Farmers Market. The event brings together private chefs and chefs from notable Nashville restaurants such as City House, Silo and Flyte for an evening of tasting, beer and wine and live entertainment-including the just announced performance of T. Graham Brown. In addition to the evening festivities, there will be an auction with all proceeds benefitting Benton Hall Academy.

Food for Thought tickets can be purchased at foodforthoughtfarmersmarket.eventbrite.com for $40- an absolute steal considering the caliber of talent providing services for the event. Unable to attend the event? You can make a donation of any size on the event ticket page. Either way any school providing a safe environment for students to learn and be themselves, we’ll raise a glass to that.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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