OPALGA+ board member Anthony Didato stands for a photo on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Forest Park, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

Anthony Didato is 53. He’s lived in Oak Park for more than 18 years. And earlier this year, in February, he joined the board of the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association+ (OPALGA+).

At 53 he is among the younger board members as the organization, founded in 1989, has aged even as it notes its many accomplishments both locally and in the region. OPALGA+’s primary focus has been to advocate for inclusion, equity and protection for the local LGBT+ community.

Didato’s passion is to advocate for LGBT+ youths. “It’s a crucial time for LGBT+ youths to feel like who they are is OK, that they are enough,” said Didato.

He said he also joined the group to find socialization, relatability, educational and professional comradery close to home. He has found that in OPALGA+.

Didato, who is of Mexican heritage, also joined OPALGA+ in hopes that lending his voice and experiences will promote further ethnic diversity within the association.

“A fair representation of what our world looks like can only serve to enhance OPALGA,” said Didato. “A myriad of experiences from a diverse OPALGA+ will only serve to highlight the gifts each individual brings. Together we can share [our] different life experiences and expose ourselves to see that there is a lot more love and care beyond the difficulties of our [past] experiences.”

Many OPALGA+ members have been around long enough to recall the stigma attached to being openly gay. And today, though there is still much work to be done to ensure equity, that stigma has lessened as a result of the work done by associations like OPALGA+. The outcome of its dedicated work aimed at helping LBGT+ youths to further achieve their educational and professional goals through community events, fundraising and scholarship programs have often been successful.

“I think the hard work that OPALGA+ does for the LGBT+ community, locally, has helped many to take pride in who they are and to accept others for who they are,” said Didato. 

OPALGA+ board member Anthony Didato stands for a photo on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Forest Park, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

For Didato, Pride is about being comfortable with who he is and the gifts he brings. He has learned to embrace and celebrate his natural and developed gifts, and he wants the same for all in the LGBT+ community.

At 53, “I wish that I had been prouder earlier,” added Didato.

With his optimistic mindset, sage advice and determination to keep getting up no matter how many failures one faces, Didato is a perfect fit within OPALGA+.

“My five-year plan is to keep improving, leading, prospering, traveling and partnering,” said Didato.  As a contributing board member of OPALGA+, “I want to be remembered for living my life helping others to fully embrace themselves,” he said.

For more information about OPALGA+ mission, scholarships and future community events, visit opalga.org.

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