Lead Feet and Heavy Hearts
Fueled by amfAR and Kiehl’s, 5th Annual LifeRide motors across states to Governor’s Island for an unveiling of the Quilt
Text and Photos by Sean Black
On Monday, August 11th, after a 12-day motorcycle journey from Milwaukee to New York City, a band of not-so-weary travellers revved their engines onto a ferry bound for Governor’s Island, New York City. Concluding the 5th Annual LifeRide event sponsored by Kiehl’s Since 1851, the philanthrophic warriors blazed a trail for press and public alike to The AIDS Memorial Quilt, adorning the rolling green lawn of the 172 acre island/national monument. The first of a two-day public display, featuring 260 12-foot-by-12 foot sections of this internationally celebrated, handmade tapestry included an unfolding ceremony, new panel dedication and a Reading of the Names. Presenting speakers included Julie Rhoad, The NAMES Project Foundation CEO; Dr. Howard A. Zucker, Acting NY State Health Commissioner, Kevin Robert Frost, amfAR CEO; Chris Salgardo, President Kiehl’s USA; and Ousman Laast, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s NYC Regional Assistant and representative for LGBT outreach.
“Wherever it is displayed the quilt provides balm for the painful wounds of grief, pours oil into waters made turbulent by controversy, opens eyes that refuse to see and enlists everyperson who experiences it in the fight to end AIDS,” shared Julie Rhoad The NAMES Project Foundation CEO. “It is difficult to walk away from this quilt unchanged.”
Notable guests in attendance, many repeat riders of this annual event (reading names as well) include: Tyson Beckford, Model; Gilles Marini, Actor; Jay Ellis, Actor; Teddy and Milissa Sears, Actors; Grant Reynolds, TV Host, former Marine Sniper; Conrad Leach, Artist; Katee Sackhoff, Actor; Scott Niemeyer, Producer; Vanessa Marcil, Actor.
Many of the caring riders expressed grief over the loss of so many friends and loved ones. “It’s not right that people are still dying, it’s just note right,” compassionately voices actor Katee Sackhoff with partner Scott Niemeyer at her side.
About amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research:
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $388 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide.
In 1996 Kiehl’s made HIV/AIDS a key philanthropy. Over the past two decades, the fervent support of HIV/AIDS organizations has been at the heart of Kiehl’s efforts, leading to partnerships with organizations such as amfAR, The Magic Johnson Foundation for AIDS and Youth AIDS. Since 2001, Kiehl’s has raised approximately $3,000,000 for HIV/AIDS organizations and continues to do so.
About The NAMES Project Foundation:
Established in 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation is the non-profit organization that is the caretaker of The AIDS Memorial Quilt. The agency’s mission is to preserve care for and use the ever-growing AIDS Memorial Quilt to foster healing, heighten awareness and inspire action in the age of AIDS and beyond.
Sean Black is an Editor at Large for A&U.