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Op-ed: Anyone Can Be a Hero for the Community

Op-ed: Anyone Can Be a Hero for the Community


This Sunday in Los Angeles will be quite special as Concrete Hero -- The Ultimate Urban Obstacle Challenge -- debuts at L.A. LIVE. But one team member explains why it's especially meaningful for him.


Raising money for AIDS-related initiatives has became a passion of mine ever since my long-time best friend Kevin, who was the first person I came out to, told me in confidence that he had AIDS. This was back in 2002.

I'll never forget the day Kevin called me from his hospital bed during his final hours as he died of pneumonia. So when Concrete Hero organizers approached me and my partner Jason Duguay about being community chairs and suggested we form a team for the event, we absolutely jumped at the opportunity.

This initiative and all of the various walks, dances, rides and marathons I've done over the years in support of AIDS Project Los Angeles and other charitable causes are quite personal for Jason and I. But Concrete Hero is an entirely new fundraising concept and one that we definitely want to be a part of. Our goal is to raise as much money as possible, but more importantly to bring attention to this ground-breaking event because we want to see it continue not only in LA, but also around the country.

A first of its kind in fundraising and obstacle challenges, Concrete Hero will be a fun, but not too serious 5K race at L.A. LIVE through the streets and alleyways of downtown. With more than 10 obstacles, each thrilling and themed around iconic elements of Los Angeles such as a massive car pileup obstacle called "Caramageddon," a mock "Hollywood Sign" to climb over or a messy rope swing called "Tar Pit Traverse," the event will attract people of all ages and athletic abilities before wrapping up a quintessential urban-themed block party at L.A. LIVE.

Craig E. Thompson, Executive Director at APLA says Concrete Hero, by its very name, is all about mobilizing and empowering people to be heroes in their communities. Participants will raise vital funds to help improve the lives of more than 62,000 people in Los Angeles living with HIV/AIDS.

Since the event was announced in April, Jason and I have assembled the largest team with the highest fundraising for Concrete Hero. "Team KickA$$" is motivated by camaraderie and passion to help inspire others to fight this epidemic. The energy that resonates from each email exchange, team meeting, or Facebook post is just awesome. What encourages us the most, though, is the life-saving work APLA does for those with HIV/AIDS here in LA.

Thompson tells us all the time that the support of established and connected members of the community is vital to the success of fundraising initiatives -- especially those like Concrete Hero that are in their first year.

Anyone can be a hero to his or her community. We had little to no experience working with charitable causes when the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center first approached Jason and I in 2005 to discuss philanthropic initiatives with the LGBT community. Newly partnered, and with little experience in mega-fundraising or charitable work, we took the meeting on an instinct that together our social skills, passion to help people and ability to motivate others to join in could help make someone else's life a little bit better.

Since that initial discussion, we set out to establish connections and jointly developed a philanthropic board of individuals called the Young Professionals Council. It aims to raise awareness of the programs and services offered by the LAGLC.

Since the inception of the YPC, we've helped the LAGLC to raise more than half a million dollars while elevating their fundraising initiatives such as Poolwatch, YPC Beach Volleyball Classic and Halloweenie to the national stage. Those contributions have improved the lives of thousands of LGBT people in L.A.

Thompson at APLA say word-of-mouth is priceless when advertising and media dollars are limited. Anyone can mobilize their various networks of their friends, families and colleagues to register and fundraise for an event like Concrete Hero that is new and not yet well known. So we need more community champions.

Concrete Hero - The Ultimate Urban Obstacle Challenge -- is set for July 15 at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles.

FRED ARENS is a Co-Captain of "Team KickA$$" and a Studio Prop House Manager in Los Angeles, CA. To Register, Donate or find more information on Concrete Hero, visit www.concretehero.orgor call 323-462-HERO (4376).

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Lucas Grindley

Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.
Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.