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The Paths That Led Them to Fighting AIDS
April 2, 2010
by John Long

Click For Full Size There are thousands of stories of why people walk, volunteer or do other events to raise money in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Here are just a few.

The Frye Family

Three of the most hard-working volunteers at the AIDS Walk events are Rick and Anne Frye and their daughter, Koree Frye. The Fryes have been married for 30 years and they have seven kids. For them, AIDS Walk is a family affair — they’ve involved all their children as volunteers or walkers at some point in their lives.

Anne and Koree have served as co-chairs of AIDS Walk for the last two years. Anne said they had been walking for 15 years and had been on the steering committee for four years.

Anne and Koree’s responsibilities include handing out flyers to area businesses in an effort to get donations to the Union Hill Parties Silent Auction. She said they’ve done this with the help of Claire Fitzsimmons and Katie Heschmeyer. The Silent Auction is a great success, but Anne said it’s amazing how many times they contact a business and get shunned when the person finds out the cause is HIV/AIDS.

“We’re just in awe, and they almost don’t want to take the paper. Koree is so good — she’ll lay the paper down and she says, ‘I’m going to leave the information with you, and if you want to donate we’d greatly appreciate it,” she said with a laugh.

Rick, who does house painting and construction for a living, said he had had problems with one man that he knew through work, who said to him, “Aren’t you afraid of getting AIDS by being associated with these gay guys?”

“I said, ‘You dumbass, you can’t get it by hugging them or being around them or drinking a beer with them.’ ”

Anne Frye said, “Being a straight woman having been raised in Johnson County, [I see that"> there’s still a lot of people who think it’s a gay disease, and it isn’t. I was thinking last night — the reason we do it, the majority of the reason, was because Harvey [a friend who died of AIDS"> touched our souls so much. Harvey touched a core in the Fryes’ hearts that he’ll never know. It’s so sad that he’s not here.

“But the main reason why I do it is for our seven kids and our three grandbabies. If I could do anything for them to wipe it all out, that’s why I do it. Just not to see people suffer, but to educate my kids, my grandchildren, whatever. That’s why I do it.”

Rick, Anne and Koree know the routine of the AIDS Walk events well by now. Rick likes work behind the scenes, and Anne and Koree do a combination of whatever else is needed to make sure the events and the walk go smoothly. Whether it’s the BeerFest, AIDS Walk Open, Union Hill Parties, the AIDS Walk or any of the other events, the Fryes are doing tasks that range from schlepping ice and boxes, to transporting people and materials on golf carts, or monitoring the AIDS Walk Open miniature golf stands.

Rick said, “The enthusiasm at the putt-putt [AIDS Walk Open"> this year, for an example, was so good, and the organization of the core people with Michael Lintecum and Josh Strodtman and everyone that they have surrounded themselves with went off so clean that people on the steering committee and the directors all stayed and danced and had a good time at Missie B’s, where usually everybody was so worn out that they would all split and go veg out at the house. …Everybody and the people that created this organization are thrilled to death at all the people and all the enthusiasm.”

The family’s dedication to AIDS Walk means they’ve attended many fundraisers at the gay bars. It’s not uncommon for Rick to put on camp drag and do his best to lip sync as only a non-drag queen can do. It’s pure fun, and he helps raise lots of money. Rick spoke of the recent AIDS Walk retro party at Missie B’s where he did his signature bad wig/bad dress/bad makeup drag on a cold winter night with low attendance. He was amazed that they still raised $750 from the small crowd. Anne said that she’s amazed how often people come up to her and Koree in bars and think they’re a lesbian couple.

The Frye family will be setting up for AIDS Walk the day before the walk with volunteers from State Street and other AIDS Walk volunteers, and then return to Theis Park early the next morning and stay until late in the afternoon.

“It’s a long day, but a good day,” Anne said.

“We don’t do it because we want a pat on our back. We do it because of what we feel in our hearts,” Rick said.

Castro Movie Nights & Russ Ptacek

An investigative reporter at Kansas City’s KSHB television station, Russ Ptacek finds another way to provide a service to the community through Castro Movie Nights. The event is held on the third Thursday of every month at the Screenland Armour theater in North Kansas City. Ptacek credits the station as being very supportive of his endeavor.

“We’re encouraged to get involved in the community,” he said. “I’m amazed. It’s been a great place to work. “

Ptacek reports, “So far, we’ve raised about $5,000 for metro charities that provide services to people with or at risk of HIV/AIDS. We just had our 10th Castro Movie Night. Our one-year anniversary will be in June.”

Tickets are $8 for general admission and $25 for VIP recliner seating. Screenland Armour only retains $4 on each admission, and the rest goes to the beneficiaries serving the HIV/AIDS communities: Good Samaritan Project, Save Inc., the Kansas City Free Health Clinic and Hope Care Center.

Castro Movie Nights start off with a cocktail party in the Screenland lobby, which helps it become more of a social event. Ptacek said the crowds range from 70 to more than 100 people.

“We were inspired by the Castro district in San Francisco and the historic Castro Theatre,” he said. “Our logo is an artist’s rendition of their marquee. We called the people at the Castro movie theatre and said, ‘Hey, is this OK?’ and they said, ‘as long as it’s for charity work, sure, go ahead and have fun.’ ”

Ptacek encourages businesses or individuals to earn a “starring role” on the marquee by pre-purchasing larger numbers of tickets and making a donation to the featured charity.

Tickets are available at the door. VIP Lounge seating is also available with advance reservation for $150 and includes five seats, a bucket of beer and appetizers. The leather lounge box seats are located in the reserved corners of the theatre and are great for groups or special events like birthdays.

For more information about Castro Movie Nights, and to see pictures from previous events, visit: www.facebook.com/CastroMovieNights.

André du Broc

André du Broc came up with a unique way to raise money for AIDS Walk. It’s based on the concept of the “Julie & Julia” movie, in which the central character sets out to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

For du Broc’s effort, he chose the book Martha Stewart’s Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share, which has 175 recipes, and announced on his AIDS Walk First Giving website page that he will bake every one of those recipes if he meets his goal.

Needless to say, he’s already been baking. He’s now on the 12th recipe from the book.

“I do four recipes a week,” he said. He indicated on his First Giving page that the beneficiaries of his baking are usually his work colleagues at Hallmark, although he’s open to giving them to other groups, such as Passages.

Du Broc moved to Kansas City from New York six years ago, and he said his friends from out of state gave much of the money he’s raised on his FirstGiving page. He moved to Kansas City to be with his partner, Dan Briardy.

“He’s always supporting me,” du Broc said. “He said, ‘Do I have to bake any?’ and I said no, and he said, ‘Go for it.’ ”

He set a goal of $3,000, up from last year’s goal of $2,500. His goal that year was $1,500. When the walk was still nearly a month away, he had already exceeded his 2010 goal, raising $3,600.

“I believe that people give to people and not necessarily to causes,” he said when asked about how he’s exceeded his goals.

In an email, du Broc explained that his involvement in AIDS Walk is personal for many reasons.

“I moved from Louisiana to NYC in 1987,” du Broc said. “AIDS was a death sentence. I was just exploring my own sexual identity at that time and remember so many men holding their partners on the benches in Sheridan Square, clutching each other in the wake of a positive diagnosis. It was a death sentence.

“I remember all the funerals, all the sorting through departed friends’ belongings, all the many years of fear, grief and worry. When I participate in these events, it is an act of defiance. I am stronger than any virus or syndrome. I know that the community in which I live is stronger than any virus or syndrome, too.”

You can follow André on his blog at www.toomanycookies.wordpress.com and contribute to his fundraising on his AIDS Walk First Giving page at www.firstgiving.com/Andredubroc.
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