In July 2001 and then again in May 2010, my life changed significantly for the better. Glennda Testone was there both times.
The first time our lives crossed paths was at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, where we both had fairly entry-level jobs. Glennda served as regional media manager and I as a major gifts officer. We were a direct part of groundbreaking activism that changed hearts and minds -- and involved in dynamic fundraising efforts that made it possible.
Though our careers went in different directions, we remained close. Shortly after Glennda began her tenure as the executive director of The Center, she did something people in her position often do: she asked me to give.
It was not only money that she wanted -- though that was definitely part of it. She wanted my time, my competitive spirit, and my fundraising expertise. She wanted me to join her in a bike ride from Boston to New York and raise money for the life-saving and life-enhancing HIV/AIDS-related programs and services of The Center. I was intrigued. I was challenged. I was in need of a bike!
Due to an injury, I didn't actually ride that year. But because I raised more than $5,000, I simply couldn't sit on the sidelines. So I decided to join the crew. In this new role, I was paired with an incredible man named Fred. Fred and I drove one of the bike transport vehicles, slowly making our way from Boston to New York. Along the journey, I was educated and moved beyond belief by Fred's personal story and the stories of the hundreds of friends he had lost over the years as a result of AIDS. It put the ride into perspective in a way that nothing had ever done before.
Today I'm happy to call Fred my friend.
Last year there was a brief moment when I contemplated whether or not I had the time to ride. Then I remembered Fred's stories and was reminded that not riding was simply not an option. And so, like 100 other riders and crew members, I got to work on my fundraising efforts. Email after email, call after call, Facebook update after Facebook update, I communicated the urgency of the funding needs for The Center's HIV/AIDS-related programs and services.
Time and time again friends, family, and random people I haven't seen in years added their support -- and their words of encouragement. Their actions inspired me, as did their own motivations for supporting. So every mile I pedaled I carried the names of each of my donors, and the names of those they gave over $10,000 in honor and in memory of.
As thousands can attest, from the onset of the HIV/AIDS crisis, The Center was here. When the people in whose honor and memory our riders ride needed a place to turn, The Center was here. When people need unconditional love, care and support I want them to know that The Center is still here!
This year Glennda hired me to serve as the director of development for The Center, and I now have the honor of leading the fundraising efforts, including Cycle for the Cause, at this amazing organization. The Center provides more than 1,800 counseling and group sessions a year for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS; more than 1,000 LGBT youth come through The Center's Youth Program every day to attend HIV prevention activities and leadership training. Those are just two examples of our many HIV/AIDS related initiatives.
Glennda and I are honored and humbled to be leaders at this organization and proud to be riders in this life-changing event. Please consider supporting either or both of us in that effort!
JOSE LUGARO and GLENNDA TESTONE are members of Team CenterPieces; both are also proud Advocate 40 Under 40 honorees, in 2010 and 2012 respectively. Support this rider and the Center's HIV/AIDS-related services by visiting CycleForTheCause.org.