For My Uncle Fred...

Posted December 15, 2011

One of my very first memories is from when I was 2 years old.  It was 1982 in Saint Augustine, FL and my family went to see my Uncle Fred conduct an orchestra at the ballet.  I remember the breeze in the parking lot of the theater and the fresh ocean air.  I remember the darkness inside the theater.  I remember seeing a dim light from the stage area and then the back of my Uncle's arms moving and creating music.  I remember the curtain coming up and white angels floating across the stage. 

I was completely mesmerized and this was the beginning of my love for the ballet, music and art.  For the next year I drove my mother crazy cause I wanted to take ballet lessons.  She finally found a studio that would take a 3 year old.  I danced for years to come.

Every time I visited with my Uncle Fred there was a magical gift that he left behind for me.  In many ways he gifted me the world of the arts by opening the doors.  I always knew there was something very unique about my Uncle.

Fast forward...

By the time I was in high school the AIDS epidemic was exploding.  It was the early 90's and I was drawn to this cause.  This was the first time I was passionate and on fire about the world around me.  I was devastated by the things I learned; hospitals in fear and not wanting to treat victims of this terrible disease, the government ignoring HIV, the history of the epidemic and the prejudice towards gay people like calling it GRIDS (Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome as it was known before it was called AIDS).  All of these things struck the core of my heart and I had to act. 

It was during this time that I helped to start an HIV/AIDS awareness club at my High School and volunteer with a local non-profit that helped people who were HIV positive get the treatment they needed.

This was also the time in which I started denying to myself the long dark secret that would take years for me to confront, my own sexual orientation.  In these years I had so much internalized homophobia which one might think is odd since I was really into helping out with HIV/AIDS because I really didn't understand the stigma.  I mean it was okay for other people to be gay but not me. Right?  Well I got over that!

Now in 1994 my Uncle Fred got really sick and eventually died from AIDS related complications.  I was 16 and in the middle of such a confusing time in my life.  The loss of my Uncle was not a surprise, though he was not "out" with his diagnosis and he was closeted with the family about his own sexual orientation, I instinctively knew he was gay and I thought he might be positive.  Fred lost his partner at the beginning of the epidemic when it was still called GRIDS

Losing my Uncle filled me with sorrow.  Such a beautiful man gone from this planet along with so many others due to this disease seems so wrong. 

In 2010 I did my first AIDS/LifeCycle and rode my bike 545 miles in 7 days from San Francisco to Los Angeles in loving memory of my late Uncle Fred.  With the help of a ridiculous amount of people (1,004 to be exact) I was able to raise $21,238.21 because no amount is too small, it all adds up.  The entire experience of AIDS/LifeCycle was extraordinary.  So extraordinary I registered to do the ride again but as fate would have it bigger plans were in store for me. 

In September of 2010 I started working for AIDS/LifeCycle full time.   In the past year there have been so many wonderful changes in my life, including working on a daily basis to help in the fight to end AIDS.  I am now a Cyclist Representative for the Ride and I get to help other participants make a difference by getting on their bike, spreading awareness and raising vital funds for HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and education.