The Waltons, the family of Walmart founder Sam Walton, are launching a $1 million fund for LGBT+ groups in the state.
The generous statewide fund was established by several members of the Walton family, whose collective fortune makes them the richest family in America.
With support from the Alice L Walton Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, grants of $25,000 and above will be distributed among Arkansas-based organisations that provide critical services to the LGBT+ community, including legal, health, education and advocacy services, and other high-demand needs.
“Our state is in a moment of reflection where each of us must send a message of acceptance to the LGBTQ community that says – ‘you belong here,'” Olivia and Tom Walton said in a statement on 10 June.
“It is also a time for action by recognising LGBTQ Arkansans face growing challenges that need community-driven solutions.”
“Organisations from across our state are leading the efforts needed to build a sense of community,” Alice Walton added. “Let’s support this important work that ensures everyone in Arkansas can live their lives with equity and dignity.”
The fund will be overseen by the Arkansas Community Foundation with a grant selection committee that will include leadership and representation from the LGBT+ community itself.
The initiative was launched after Arkansas passed a “dehumanising” bill banning gender-affirming treatment for trans youth, set to become law on 28 July.
House Bill 1570 will prohibit medical professionals from offering lifesaving puberty blockers and hormone treatments, and also stop them referring patients to other providers for treatment. It’s been dubbed the “single-most extreme anti-trans law” ever to pass through state legislature, and has already resulted in a spike in teen suicide attempts.
Yet the Walton family’s philanthropy proves there are still LGBT+ allies left in Arkansas – and powerful ones at that.
“There are many organisations eager to stand up for a more inclusive, accepting environment for all who live in and visit our state,” said Adrienne Collins of Central Arkansas Pride, responding to the news.
“We are committed to showing up every day to ensure Arkansas’ LGBTQ community has the support needed to thrive.”