The Jim Collins Foundation (JCF), a national nonprofit organization with a mission to fund gender-affirming surgeries, is delighted to announce that for the 2023 grant year, 6 surgical grants from our Founders’ Fund have been awarded to a diverse group of grant recipients from across the United States. JCF is grateful to the many individuals and organizations whose generosity and support have enabled JCF to award these grants.
The JCF Founders’ Fund Grants cover 100% of the surgical fees associated with gender-affirming surgery. The Founders’ Fund was named in honor of JCF’s co-founders, Dru Levasseur and Tony Ferraiolo.
The 2023 JCF Founders’ Fund Grant recipients include: Alexandra Dogwood, Aspen Ben Azulay, Jada Ayala, Jenna Van Pelt, Owen Lartson, and Michelle Harding.
“Each year we review hundreds of applications, consider each applicant’s personal and financial situations, and take to heart their stories,” said Jody Randall, JCF president. “While we wish we could make surgery a reality for all of them, it is a very special moment when we notify several applicants of their selection and become part of their journeys. On behalf of The Jim Collins Foundation, congratulations to this year’s Founders’ Fund Grant recipients!”
These grants would not have been possible without the support of JCF’s donors and the commitment to serving the transgender and gender non-binary community demonstrated by this year’s participating surgeons. JCF is very thankful for the pro bono services of Dr. Christine McGinn (Papillon Center, New Hope, PA), who has generously donated her medical services to many JCF grantees over the years. JCF also looks forward to working this year with Dr. Hope Sherie, Dr. Peter Raphael, Dr. Curtis Crane, and Dr. Dany Hanna.
Hundreds of people applied for this year’s grants, demonstrating the continued urgency and financial need for gender-affirming surgeries. With the addition of this year’s Founders’ Fund grantees, JCF has awarded a total of 51 grants since 2011. With many of these grants covering 100% of the surgical fees, JCF continues to be a leader among nonprofits providing financial assistance to transgender individuals who otherwise would not have the financial means to access these life-changing surgeries.
Alexandra Dogwood (she/her) of Mississippi was selected for a Founders’ grant for gender affirming surgery with Dr. Christine McGinn. When asked how this grant will change her life, Alexandra said, “This gender affirming surgery will provide me with a sense of security that I currently lack. I will be able to fully love myself and participate more fully in life. I grew up in a family that denied my gender identity and pressured me to undergo ‘conversion therapy’ to ‘cure’ me of being transgender. I was bullied in grade school, forced to drop out of college because of financial hardship, and faced discrimination repeatedly when trying to rent an apartment, apply for jobs, and obtain a driver’s license with a gender marker that matches my identity. Living without bottom surgery, I have been held back in so many ways, but with this grant from The Jim Collins Foundation, I will no longer have to live with the anxiety that prevented me from fully engaging in travel, exercise, and other activities with my loved ones.”
Aspen Ben Azulay (he/him or they/them) of South Carolina was selected for a Founders’ grant for gender affirming surgery with Dr. Hope Sherie. When asked about the meaningfulness of receiving a grant from The Jim Collins Foundation, Aspen stated, “Receiving this grant will allow me to enter a new chapter of my life as authentically myself. I am a first-generation college student and immigrant. For me, the last step in my transition is top surgery, and it will allow me to be proudly queer and comfortable within myself so I can pursue my dream of a career of community service. I am passionate about disability rights and immigrant justice, and having access to this surgery will help me manage my gender dysphoria so I can focus on giving back to my communities what has been given to me.”
Jada Ayala (she/her) of Illinois was selected for a Founders’ grant to receive gender affirming surgery with Dr. Peter Raphael. When asked why she is grateful to receive this grant, Jada shared, “Getting this surgery is so important to me because it will allow me to feel at home in my body. I can cultivate the acceptance within myself that others denied me growing up. I grew up in multiple foster home placements where I was emotionally, verbally, and physically abused because I am transgender. People who grow up in the foster system disproportionately end up in jail, struggle with substance abuse, and commit suicide. This is even more so for trans youth. I want this surgery to provide an example to other trans youth that they do not have to be another statistic, and to show that, against all odds, they can achieve their goals and there is always someone to support them along the way. After completing this surgery with the help of The Jim Collins Foundation, I can focus on my desire to give back to my community and create a space for people like me to feel safe, welcome, confident, and supported. The kind of space I wish I had when I was at the beginning of my transition and growing up.”
Owen Lartson (he/him or they/them) of Texas was selected for a Founders’ grant for gender affirming surgery with Dr. Curtis Crane. When asked what receiving this grant means to him, Owen said, “I am a black, transmasculine person living in Texas, and because of this and other factors, the road to medical transition has been an extremely long and difficult one for me. I suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and these conditions are exacerbated by my gender dysphoria. For my personal comfort and quality of life, gender affirming surgery is medically necessary to alleviate this, but because of financial hardships – experiences of homelessness, losing my job due to the pandemic, and lacking a support network of family and friends – affording this surgery would have been an impossible goal for me without the help of The Jim Collins Foundation.”
Jenna Van Pelt (she/her or they/them) of Texas was selected for a Founders’ grant for gender affirming surgery with Dr. Curtis Crane. When asked how this grant will impact her life, Jenna shared, “Getting this gender affirming surgery will be an absolute blessing and would not have been possible for me without The Jim Collins Foundation’s financial assistance. I was disowned by my family when I came out as transgender. I have been hospitalized for anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and suicidal ideations related to my gender dysphoria. Despite all the challenges I have faced, I am currently a college student studying psychology and I aspire to become a licensed professional counselor – I believe my calling in life is to help other people in the LGBTQ+ community who are in the same or similar situations as me. Receiving this gender affirming surgery will help me achieve this goal.”
Michelle Harding (she/her) of Colorado was selected for a Founders’ grant for gender affirming surgery with Dr. Dany Hanna. When asked why she is grateful to receive this grant, Michelle shared, “I am in my 50s and have been desperately waiting for decades to get this gender affirming surgery so my body will be the way it should have been since the day I was born. I have suffered homelessness, failed marriages, rejection from my family, and immense emotional pain and gender dysphoria. I need this surgery to live a full life as my true self, but I couldn’t afford it without help. I am receiving this grant with thankfulness to The Jim Collins Foundation for saving lives and changing lives like mine for the better.”
For press inquiries and interviews, contact email@example.com. For more information on The Jim Collins Foundation, grantees, and ways to support this work, visit jimcollinsfoundation.org.
The Jim Collins Foundation Board of Directors: President Jody Randall (Texas); Vice President Ezra Young (New York); Treasurer Ryan Rasdall (Massachusetts); Secretary Ava Keely Arnett (Connecticut); Jennifer A. Gay (Texas); S.D. Manning (Georgia); Erin Marie Meyer (New Jersey); Aydin Olson-Kennedy (California); Elijah Palles (Arizona); and Xander Rice (Tennessee).