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Bill Cartwright lends his support to sports camp that fosters tolerance

Former Chicago Bulls player Bill Cartwright is chairman CartwrightDownes Inc. Park Ridge firm providing background investigations prospective employees for wide

Former Chicago Bulls player Bill Cartwright is chairman of CartwrightDownes, Inc. in Park Ridge, a firm providing background investigations of prospective employees for a wide range of companies and organizations. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 27, 2013 11:12PM

Bill Cartwright understands what it’s like to grow up feeling different.

At 7-1, the former Bulls player and coach was always abnormally tall and dealt with the feeling of being different from other kids his age. So Cartwright has sympathy for those in the LGBT community who feel they are disenfranchised.

Cartwright was quick in deciding that he wanted to participate in the inaugural YOU Belong Sports and Leadership Camp for LGBTQ & Straight Allied Youth, which brings those kids together to participate in sports.

“For a lot of athletes, especially guys like me, do I look normal compared to everybody else in size?” Cartwright said. “So I can relate that you have to be who you are.

“When you’re young, you have problems anyway. Who doesn’t feel inadequate growing up? I don’t know of one person, let alone to be either gay or lesbian and throw that on top of it. That’s a normal feeling.”

With NBA player Jason Collins having come out this offseason, the level of acceptance of LGBT athletes has increased in professional sports.

Collins and his brother Jarron are scheduled to be at the event Saturday in Chicago.

Cartwright knows the twins, having worked with them as an NBA assistant. Considering Jason’s personality and likability around the league, he isn’t at all surprised his announcement has come with such acceptance.

“This event is not only about gay and lesbian, it’s about people’s rights to be able to come into a place and feel comfortable and be able to feel accepted no matter what circumstance you’re coming from,” Cartwright said.

“Of course when [Jason] came out everyone knows him because they know how great he is. So he had nothing but great response.”

Wade Davis, an openly gay former professional football player who spent some time on NFL practice squads and played in NFL Europe, was a co-founder of the event.

As someone heavily involved in the advocacy of LGBT rights, Davis wanted to encourage LGBT and straight youth to come together and participate in the event.

“[We thought] How could we combine our passion for sports and youth leadership and advocacy in a way that could really impact the lives of young people? I had, as young person, going to sports camps as a kid though that there was never a component that was specific about social justice, leadership all these things. So we thought why not combine both of them?

“We wanted to do a sports camp that really lets young people that are LGBTQ and also straight exist in the same space together and realize that they are the same.”

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