I am JR Witt, current co-lead of Out Families. I joined Out Families in February of 2016 when it was just a Facebook group for people to connect through. My daughter was born in January of 2016 in Texas, and when we brought her back to Wisconsin, a friend who was part of the group invited me to join, and I have been a part of the organization ever since.
Out Families started in February of 2016 by Laurie Marks and Joseph Brooks. Out Families was originally called Miltown LGBT Families. After a number of years and our group growing to many families outside of the Milwaukee area, we decided to rename it to Out Families. The name seemed very fitting for a group of out LGBTQ+ led families to connect and share resources with one another—a large part of the connecting is through “out”ings for our families.
When the group started, there wasn’t a thought of needing a financial aspect for the group, however after some time, the potential for the group was realized and Cream City Foundation was approached as being our fiscal agent. Cream City was our main funder and took care of the accounting for the group. Through this, we were able to use their 501c3 status and continue on as a nonprofit organization. After four years of the collaboration, we realized we were growing, and it was time to begin our own nonprofit. An official board of directors was created for the newly named Out Families, and all the paperwork was submitted. In December of 2020, we were officially recognized as our own 501c3.
The Out Families mission is to connect our members socially, share educational resources, and raise the visibility of LGBTQ+ parents within the queer and wider community. The group has grown from a few families to well over 1000. Another aspect of our group is helping people who are interested in starting their families find the right journey for them. We have had many people reach out and ask what is out there for them. We are always able to connect them with someone who has already done the adoption, surrogacy, or multiple other routes that are available for them.
Every year we organize many events so children can connect with families that look similar to their own. Our biggest event of the year is the Annual Water Park Weekend at Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells. Prior to us organizing this weekend, Rainbow Families of Wisconsin had been putting the event together. This year, we had 100 families, about 420 individuals, attend the waterpark weekend. All weekend long we connect in the waterpark with other families from across the Midwest. We host parent socials to meet one another at night once the kids are asleep, two pizza dinners are held in their largest dining room as we cannot get everyone in at one time on Saturday night. During the dinner, Milwaukee Drag Queen Channel D’Vine performs and then hosts drag queen bingo for the families to play. After dinner we have a movie set up for all the kids to enjoy and the parents to socialize. The weekend isn’t cheap, so we are fortunate enough to have many amazing businesses support us with items for a silent auction. We also started a new auction this year where our children created some amazing artwork and everyone was able to bid on them. Outside of this event, we also hold an annual Breakfast with Santa or Brunch with the Grinch, many local park meetups, and a summer picnic with bounce houses, games and a fairy godmother.
To find out more about us, or to join our group, go to outfamilies.org and click the Facebook link or sign up for our email list. We have at least one event per month planned for this year. Everything from baseball games to picnics to pumpkin picking to camping. We look forward to connecting with you and your family.