Trailblazer and activist, Ashton Hammer (he/him), is nothing short of tenacious, bold, and brave. His determination for equality within the LGBTQ+ community has been the primary focus behind his creation of Smile Big Texas, a grassroots nonprofit organization founded in Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo is nestled in the epicenter of the Texas Panhandle, which remains a highly conservative area that remains under red rule. Ashton hails from the small town of Dumas, Texas, where he experienced first hand encounters of a myriad of injustices within his own life and the lives of other members of the LGBTQ+ community. Ashton's personal experiences, and those of his fellow community members, inspired him to create an organization that addresses all of the unique issues that face LGBTQ+ individuals within the Texas Panhandle. Ashton's driving force behind the creation of Smile Big Texas is to provide his community with resources that are lacking within the area such as: healthcare, civil rights, educational assistance, housing assistance, gender affirming care, and autonomy for youth and young adults. Growing up as an openly gay person in the Texas Panhandle was difficult for Ashton as he explains, "As I got older and reflected on my youth, I began to wish that I had a support system growing up. I wished I had someone to lead and guide me through my difficult journey of the coming out process. Unfortunately, I did not have this person or support system and I was terrified. I made decisions based on fear and the unknowns of being a young gay person, in such a conservative area." Ashton's epiphany made him realize what his community needed. Ashton explains his decision to form Smile Big Texas as follows, "Hey, I needed a mentor and a guide, and I decided that I wanted to be the person I needed when I was young. I wanted to show young people that there was a way to live a healthy and whole life as their true, authentic self. I wanted to help those that are experiencing pain or isolation and let them know that they are supported, valued, loved, and celebrated!" Ashton's refuses to sit back idly and watch his community being bullied back into the closet and to suffer in silence. Therefore, Ashton has expanded Smile Big Texas into the Northwestern areas of rural Texas. Research has shown that rural areas are more impacted by anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric than larger cities, and Ashton has personal experience with the cultural of the rural areas that surround Amarillo. Although Ashton and the organization have been met with adversity, and has operated without major funding, Smile Big Texas has been able to expand to the Lubbock, Texas area. Ultimately, Smile Big intends to reach all 50 states within the next few years. As Ashton explains, "We have a lot more work to do. We will not stop until we are all safe from prejudice, discrimination, and injustice. We will not stop until we are safe as a community and are free from threats of harm and violence. We will not stop until we are afforded the same privileges as our non-LGBTQ+ peers." For those that know Ashton, it has been an honor to watch his vision come to fruition, and it is best to close his introduction with his favorite motto, "Remember to always SMILE BIG!"