Saturday, May 28, 2011

AIDS Walk NYC | Impact Red

AIDS Walk NYC is an enormous event that rain or shine, brings together 45,000+ people who all walk for different reasons.  I walk because I constantly fight to destigmatize people and groups who are treated differently or disrespected by society.  I walk for someone special, and he knows who he is. This year, I walked with Impact Red, a team founded by Tyler Helms, who one year ago, disclosed his HIV+ status on his Facebook status.  And his world was turned upside-down.  Since that moment, 355 people have shared their status with him in confidence, admitting that they have not and will not tell anyone else and have not sought medical care for fear of mistreatment, disrespect or denial of service.  Impact Red’s byline is Conversation + Awareness + Change -- a perfect match with what I advocate for – opening dialogue about something that’s sometimes scary and misunderstood and therefore pushed aside in order to create awareness and educate people to affect positive change.  I am honored to be a part of the Impact. Watch Tyler’s story HERE.

Tyler Helms, Founder Impact Red
Impact Red was the AIDS Walk NYC’s featured team this year, who set a goal of $100,000 in fundraising, and surpassed it.  At about $64,000 in online fundraising, Thursday night after my day in Staten Island, I went straight to the Impact Red fundraiser at La Pomme where a huge crowd gathered to support Impact Red.  By the end of the night, they were nearing $100,000 and made a final push that took them over their goal.   It was really fun to spend this evening with Kandice Pelletier (who introduced me to Impact Red), Jackie Swerz, and Katie Berry, a Miss NJ contestant with an AIDS Awareness platform. 

Gossip Girl anyone?  Thanks for your support,  Matt

Sunday, someone even more special joined me for the AIDS Walk – my sister, Sarah!  In town for my birthday weekend, Sarah got to come to the AIDS Walk opening ceremonies with me, experience the crowd of thousands gathered in Central Park, witness the incredible celebrity and corporate support of this fundraiser, and hear a beautiful story of a woman who’s life has literally been saved by the work and support of GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis).  She found out she was HIV+ and spent the next 14 years of her life hiding in her apartment, continuing to abuse drugs and not expose herself to the outside world.  Two years ago, she found GMHC and was seeking treatment when she found out that each of those years she was hiding, her daughter was doing the AIDS Walk in her honor.  Last year, they got to do the walk together, and this year she was on stage alongside the cast of Modern Family, Laura Innes from The Event, Matt Bomer from White Collar, the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Project Runway star Mondo and Audra McDonald.  What an evolution.  She starts college in the fall. 

Modern Family "stretching"
Erik Bottcher, Sarah & me, Matthew Berritt from Impact Red
Sarah and me with Wilson Cruz - she was so excited to meet someone famous :)
After hearing Tyler’s story, he is now another reason why I walk.  We all have different reasons, but this year alone, we came together to raise a total of $6,214,768 .  That’s over six million dollars. Now that’s an Impact.

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