Today was the first training ride for April’s Hill Country Ride For AIDS. I’m going to post several pictures, and tell y’all about the agencies that benefit from it. I’m not riding because I’m not recovered from my cold of 2 weeks ago. I’m going to ride a shorter, flatter route in my neighborhood this afternoon.
Here’s me and our wonderful Ride Director, Prentiss Douthat:
Prentiss has done such great work managing the Ride the past several years. This is his last year as Director, his replacement will have a lot to live up to.
The Ride benefits 9 agencies that help people with HIV & AIDS. As one speaker put it this morning they go from prevention through helping people live with AIDS to people who need hospice care.
Here’s the story of a woman helped by The Wright House: “My name is Annette Y. K. and I recently began receiving services from The Wright House Wellness Center. In a nutshell THE WRIGHT HOUSE lS CHANGING MY LIFE! I have drudged through 15 long years of medical negativity, mental anguish, and no help for my daughter’s stress level and emotions. The Wright House has addressed all of these issues and many more without once making me feel uncomfortable, out of place, judged or a burden. The Wright House helped me see I was not alone. And my beautiful l5 yr. old daughter, Jessica, is able to release years of pent up anger, hurt, rejection and pain for the first time in her life. To see her smile again, to hear her sing again, and to see the spark coming back in her eyes; these are things I was afraid I would never see again in Jessica. The Wright House is a safe place for her to talk with people who understand. That alone takes an unbelievable amount of weight off my shoulders and my heart. Once I opened the door at The Wright House I felt like the most important person in the world. A Peace came over me that I had not felt in years. I was greeted with smiles and handshakes by everyone I encountered. The staff was so kind and gentle. I was touched by their unconditional care. And when leaving I was given a hug or two. That’s very rare in my life.”
And here’s the story of someone who is getting help from the Waterloo Counseling Center: “It took me almost a year after I found out I have HIV to even tell anyone. I was only 24 at the time, and I thought my life was over. I wanted to talk to someone, but I just couldn’t deal with it. I wouldn’t even see a doctor because I thought that getting on meds would mean I was dying. I lost a lot of sleep, until I called Waterloo Counseling Center. At first, I just couldn’t talk about my HIV, even to my counselor. But he waited me out. He sure was patient! I finally opened up, and that’s when everything changed. My counselor helped me focus on “living with HIV” instead of “dying of HIV.” I felt like a burden had been lifted. I even worked up the courage to find a doctor and get on medication for my HIV. I was really surprised to notice that for the first time in a long time, I felt optimistic about taking care of myself. I know now that I have a future, and I’d better start planning for it! So I enrolled in college and am looking forward to what life brings. I can’t thank my Waterloo counselor enough.”
please help more people like them at my Hill Country Ride Page
Here’s a picture from this morning of the people getting ready for the training ride — such a gorgeous mosaic of humanity:
And here’s the story of a man who takes care of his six grandchildren with help from Community Action — this is the one that gets me every time I read it: “I have been a client of Community Action’s Rural AIDS Service Program for years. The compassion and sheer dedication of this agency continually amazes me. My spouse and I have had long term custody of six of our grandchildren. Without Community Action I know I would not still be healthy today and providing a safe, happy home for them. I believe this assistance is why my blended family has not only survived, but is now thriving. From a listening ear and assistance locating community resources to help with food, clothing, and gas for medical appointments, the existence of this agency has literally transformed my life. There aren’t many things in life you can count on so being able to count on this agency has been and remains a huge blessing in my life. I don’t know what I would have done, or where my family would be today without it.” and a story from The Care Communities: “Hello my name is Jack Foster. I was diagnosed with AIDS in June of 2010, which I got from a girlfriend. They gave me one year to live and sent me to Doug’s House to die. They didn’t know the care I would get, and here I am almost a year later, now living in my very own place! I am able to get around, but I need help from the volunteers of The Care Communities. They help me with groceries, getting to the doctor, and just someone to talk to. They helped me move from various apartments and find furniture for my current apartment. We also go out for coffee and they have taken me out to the circus and crop mazes. The volunteers I have from The Care Communities are great, I don’t know what I would do without them.”
and a story from Project Transitions that made me cry: “Jeff was a resident at Doug’s House for four separate occasions over a seven-year period. During that time, Jeff established himself as an integral part of the story of Doug’s House. Each time he came to Doug’s House he had experienced a significant decline, resulting in him no longer being able to live independently. At Doug’s House, Jeff was able to receive the critical services he needed, such as a safe place to stay and access to meals and medications. When asked how he felt about coming back to Doug’s House most recently, Jeff stated, “I feel like I’m coming home.” Jeff died peacefully at Doug’s House. Jeff’s mom stated about the staff, “They are the most loving, caring, professional group of people. I don’t know how we could have done it without them.” Jeff was always so grateful for the support he received at Doug’s House. If he were alive today, he would want to say “Thank You” to all of the supporters of the Hill Country Ride for AIDS. Your support helps to continue the great work of Project Transitions.”
Here’s a story of a woman being helped by AIDS Services of Austin: “Nine years ago, I got a flu that I couldn’t shake. Months went by and I wasn’t getting any better. I had a persistent fever, cough, and aching body. Visit after visit to the doctor, I was finally tested for HIV. When the doctor spoke with me about the results, I remember he started by telling me everything was fine, that my T cell count was up, that my viral load was way down, and that for the most part I was healthy, except….I was HIV+. I immediately felt a shroud of fear, abandonment, and disbelief come over me. The doctor left my exam room for just a moment and immediately I began to think about the end of my life. I felt so alone. There is so much stigma associated with being HIV+; so much to think about when dating or creating friendships. I’m cautious about whom I reveal my status too, but I reveal it often to help people see that mine too, is the face of someone with HIV. I use it as an opportunity to educate folks, to help remove some of the stigma. I joined the Women Rising Project at AIDS Services of Austin so that I could learn from the experiences that other women with HIV and AIDS face. I joined the Women Rising Project because I needed a fellowship of people who empower, encourage, and educate me. I needed a group of people to build me up and support me in reaching my goals. When I first found out that I was positive, I felt so demoralized. But with my faith and with the Women Rising Project, I have transformed. Now I want to be a motivational speaker, and help young women and girls avoid the challenges I have faced in my life. I am so overwhelmingly willing to talk about my story, to absorb as much information as I can to maintain my health, and to reach out to others to encourage and empower them. I think my story is a story of success.
and here’s something about Allgo, a statewide organization for queer people of color: “Allgo’s story is about the numerous clients who come to allgo for information and referrals for HIV testing. This is a vital resource to their health and wellness. They have expressed that many places will only allow them to take a couple of condoms at a time, and that because they are able to get the amount of supplies they need from Allgo, this contributes to their ability to take care of themselves. They have also expressed how they feel very comfortable coming to Allgo where they don’t feel scrutinized, questioned, or interrogated for trying to protect themselves. Your commitment and dedication to the Hill Country Ride for AIDS helps us do the work we need to do to provide this safe space for some of the most marginalized people living in Austin who are at high risk.”
And another pic from this morning. This Ride is such an example of how we wish the world was, people of all ages & abilities getting together to make a difference:
This is just some of the direct help to people you give when you give to the Hill Country Ride for AIDS. Please donate at my Hill Country Ride Page
And just so you know this isn’t an impostor, here’s the obligatory U2 song. I’m using Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way. Because I think that’s such an important message. Love this video with LGBTQ youth from Dublin: