Muncie OUTreach celebrates 10 years as Delaware County’s only LGBTQ youth group

An award sits on a table ahead of the 10th Anniversary Celebration for Muncie OUTreach Oct. 27 at the Ball State Alumni Center. This award for Outstanding Community Partner was given to the YWCA of Central Indiana. Sarah Olsen, DN
An award sits on a table ahead of the 10th Anniversary Celebration for Muncie OUTreach Oct. 27 at the Ball State Alumni Center. This award for Outstanding Community Partner was given to the YWCA of Central Indiana. Sarah Olsen, DN

Laura Janney knew her son was gay. 

At 12 years old, Matt loved playing with Barbies, strutting around in his mom’s high heels and listening to ABBA day in and day out. What Laura did not know was how to cope with his identity, given it was far removed from her expectations. 

Although the signs were obvious — to the point even friends and family would acknowledge them, much to her frustration — she was in deep denial about Matt’s sexuality. 

“We had to process it by ourselves as a family to make sense of it,” Laura said. 

Thus began the family’s quest to understand him. 

Once Matt came out to them, the Janneys started driving their son two hours round-trip to Indianapolis, where he could attend Indiana Youth Group (IYG), a non-profit that “strives to provide safer spaces to build self-confidence, explore individualism and develop friendships within the LGBTQ+ community,” according to its website. 

Although they were able to find the support and education they needed at IYG, the drive and time commitment was a huge drain on the family’s time and money — a sentiment that rang true for many other adolescents there. 

As a result, the Janneys saw a subsequent need for a local safe space for LGBTQ youth in Muncie, which led Laura and her husband, Jeff, to establish Muncie OUTreach in 2012. 

“For kids, it doesn't matter what you’re talking about,” Jeff said. “If they can discuss it with someone their own age, they’d rather do that. That has made our collaboration with the Muncie community so important.” 

The Start of a Journey

The Janneys were able to get the initial program off the ground thanks to a collaboration with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Muncie. It connected them with another OUTreach program in Ogden, Utah, which helped them lay the foundation for their organization. 

According to the website, the goal for the OUTreach program is to “provide an accepting environment to enhance the personal growth of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth in the Delaware County area.” 

Though Laura knew building such an ambitious program — one that would be the first of its kind in Delaware County — from the ground up would be difficult, she was convinced the effort would be worth it. 

A decade later, Laura said the impact speaks for itself. 

“I never thought we’d be here 10 years down the road,” Laura said. “The few hours kids spend here help them have a light bulb [moment], or it helps them see something different, or maybe it makes them feel safe or gets them a warm meal. We also have lots of clothes to give them. That keeps me going.”

Laura Janney speaks to event guests at the 10th Anniversary Celebration for Muncie OUTreach Oct. 27 at the Ball State Alumni Center. Laura and her husband, Jeff, are the founders of the organization. Sarah Olsen, DN

Laura attributes the doubt she experienced during Muncie OUTreach’s formative years to stress that stemmed from the nature of running a non-profit: no one is paid for their work, and the organization’s existence relies solely on funding from donations. 

Now, the Janneys worry the future has grown even more unreliable following the pandemic. 

“[Laura] wants these kids to thrive and know they’re not alone, but it’s hard to do,” Jeff said. “It’s been an interesting ride because COVID has been horrible to navigate, but she’s trying to get things going again.”

Only recently have the Janneys been able to host in-person youth groups and events again — earlier this year, they held their first pride festival — as COVID-19 cases have been dwindling on an aggregate level in Delaware County since the onset of the pandemic, according to the CDC’s case count tracker

That is not the only problem the Janneys have had to tackle. 

“Sometimes parents come in just to yell at us, which I’m thankful for because that means they’re not yelling at their kid since they’re freaking out,” Laura said. “When you have a straight brain, you put your straight thoughts on your kids, and then, when they come out, there’s a freak out period for parents.”

Celebrating 10 Years

The ensuing rebound of Muncie OUTreach has been aided by its numerous community partners and organizations, including Spectrum, which has catered to LGBTQ students on Ball State University’s campus since its inception in 1974. 

Since they have similar goals, the two organizations have collaborated many times in order to widen their impact. 

“Traditionally in the past, Spectrum worked a lot with Muncie OUTreach, especially when it came to Spectrum's Drag Shows,” Cody York, Spectrum student government representative, said. “We are also invited to any events they are having to grow as a community on campus.”

The most recent event Muncie OUTreach hosted was its 10th Anniversary Celebration, Oct. 27 at the Ball State Alumni Center (2800 West Bethel Avenue). The celebration included a silent auction, dinner and an awards presentation. 

“There’s so many kids who don’t know how to approach identifying themselves or how to get involved in the [LGBTQ] community,” event guest Elijah Terry said. “It’s important for them to have the space to express themselves, express when they identify with a gender or sexuality that isn’t accepted in their communities.”

Terry is a Muncie local and a regular attendee at Muncie OUTreach events. In the year he has been a part of the organization, he and his younger siblings, Riley and Ezra, have all grown fond of going together. 

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to meet a lot of new people and try new things,” Riley said. “It’s been more welcoming than anything I’ve been to before.”

In addition to Muncie community members, Ball State students and alumni alike also attended the event. One guest, Teri Lightning — a 2022 Ball State graduate — reflected on her time at OUTreach.

“I joined OUTreach back in March,” Lightning said. “I remember looking up LGBTQ organizations in Muncie because I wanted to do more. I wanted to do more than protest. Donating and spending my time at OUTreach is how I fight back, and I’m really glad an organization like this is in the community.” 

Those interested in attending future events or long-term volunteer opportunities with Muncie OUTreach should email the Janneys or note their interest on the program’s website

Contact Sarah Olsen with comments via email at


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