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  • Riley Jay Sironen

Giving Back to the Community - Starting 2021 on an Amazing Note

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

Jadein Black & Riley Jay outside of Wurst Bar on Cross St in Ypsilanti, MI.
Jadein Black & Riley Jay outside of Wurst Bar on Cross St in Ypsilanti, MI.

My heart is beyond full. This week, my better half and I went to six local small businesses in Ypsilanti and purchased eleven $20 gift cards from each business from the money that we raised on New Year’s Eve. If you do not already know, my partner, Jadein Black, is the founder of Ypsilanti's most well-known drag group, Boylesque. Since we began our journey as a couple in 2018, she has allowed me to share the group's duties with her to the point that I now consider myself a co-runner of the group. On New Year's Eve (2020), we held an all-virtual event on Zoom. We had over 70 people in attendance and we hosted Trivia, Drag Bingo, a Drag Show, and a countdown to the New Year. Thanks to a generous donor who donated the show budget, we were able to give 100% of the proceeds and tips to that evening's cause. In one night, we were able to raise $1,556. This money bought eleven $20 gift cards from six Ypsilanti Small Businesses - Beezy's Cafe, the Rocket, Wurst Bar, Stone & Spoon, Unicorn Feed & Supply, and This, That, & the Odder Things. So what is happening with these gift cards? Well not only does the store benefit from the original $220 we spent at their store, but they also will gain from new customers coming in to see their products. All the gift cards will be given to Frontline Workers at St. Joseph Hospital as a thank you for everything they do for the Ypsilanti Community.

Originally, when Jadein came to me with this idea, I was more than hesitant. I mean, this sounded and felt like a huge feat for our small group of five. But, like she knew we would, we pulled it off without a single hiccup! I am beyond lucky to have such an inspiring and selfless partner like her in my life. We have been through a lot this pandemic, as a couple, as best friends, and as leaders of a "once in person, now virtual" drag group. We have learned a lot, we have hit many bumps in the round, and we continue to push forward. Because the work we do together is amazing and it is beautiful.

Want to see what else we are up to? We host a variety of virtual shows on Facebook & YouTube every week! You can always see the latest by checking my Homepage (near the bottom) or visiting my Linktree.

Thanks for reading. And remember, we will get through this if we continue to support one another, stay positive when it seems impossible, and just love each other through this pandemic. You are loved, and you are worthy of love.

- Riley Jay (he/him)


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