As special events coordinator for Empath Partners in Care (EPIC), Ryan Young enjoys the best of both worlds. He gets to flex the event-planning muscles he developed representing clothing retailers, all the while fund-raising for a non-profit committed to serving the LGBTQ+ community that is close to his heart.
“I took my two passions and combined them,” Young said.
The 37-year-old Young received recognition for his many years of LGBTQ+ service and activism last month when he was selected by community vote as one of three grand marshals for the St. Pete Pride Parade. The parade will wind through the streets of downtown St. Petersburg on June 24.
Young will be front and center for the parade and a month of related activities, which began with last week’s kickoff. There is a Youth Pride Family Day festival and a concert featuring Idina Menzel, among other events.
“I’ve been doing community service work for a long time. I’ve been in many Pride events. I feel like the grand marshal position is the cherry on top. It’s one of the highest honors I can imagine,” said Young, who also was selected as Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 2023 Business of Pride Voice Honoree.
Young was inspired to support the LGBTQ+ community by his experiences as a gay adolescent. Though he was supported by his family, Young felt out of place growing up in Zephyrhills, a small town in Pasco County. He didn’t date until after high school graduation.
“I never felt comfortable in that space. It was almost a relief when I graduated from high school. It was tough growing up. I was around people who were not like me. I witnessed multiple forms of discrimination,” Young said.
Soon after college, Young moved to New York City. He worked for True Religion Brand Jeans and volunteered for the Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBTQIA+ Youth.
“That really shaped my willingness to go into the non-profit world,” Young said of his experience with Ali Forney Center. “It’s mainly been about just wanting to help people. My biggest thing is mental health. When we get involved in these organizations, it’s about mindset.”
He loved his time in New York, but Young could not shake his Tampa Bay roots. He returned to work as a store manager for Brooks Brothers and quickly got involved in the LGTBQ+ community.
“They say you get seasons (in New York),” he said. “They don’t tell you winter lasts about six months. For me, seasonal depression is a real thing. I enjoy my sun.”
Young is the president of Balance Tampa Bay, an all-volunteer organization that promotes fun and philanthropy through public service events and partnerships with area non-profits. It was through Balance Tampa Bay that Young connected with EPIC, Empath Health’s sexual health affiliate. He was the chairman of Balance Tampa Bay’s annual masquerade ball that raises funds for EPIC and served for three years on the EPIC Board of Directors. He joined the organization as special events coordinator in May 2022.
He is proud to represent Empath and EPIC as the St. Pete Pride grand marshal.
“It’s exciting,” Young said. “Working at Empath and seeing some of the opportunities, it’s just a nice highlight. It shows the type of leadership Empath has within the company.”
To learn more about EPIC, visit MyEPIC.org.