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In Their Own Words: AIDS Fundraisers Share the Personal Stories that Motivate Them

In Their Own Words: AIDS Fundraisers Share the Personal Stories that Motivate Them


Angelinos will dodge obstacles Sunday on their way through the city's downtown in a new effort to raise money for AIDS Project Los Angeles called "Concrete Hero -- Ultimate Urban Obstacle Challenge." In their own words, here are the personal reasons some are joining in.

Joshro_400Josh Robers, 33, of West Hollywood, is a nurse practitioner who cares for people affected by HIV:

"I have seen the great advancements in care and how that has truly impacted the quality of life of those living with HIV. I believe people with HIV are now able to live a long and healthy life long beyond what they ever thought was possible.

"Two years ago, I lost a very close friend to complications of advanced HIV, and it really made me realize people are still struggling.

"Unfortunately, with these new advances, many young people downplay their risk and engage in risky behaviors, as they never witnessed entire generations being decimated by the disease.

"I have had to tell young patients that they are HIV-positive and watch their faces when they hear the news. Three of my close friends have all become HIV-positive in the last few years.

"I believe events like Concrete Hero bring the community together and awareness to the fact that this disease is still here and it still needs critical funds that are being cut every year in order to help those living with HIV and to further the research in order to find a vaccine or even a possible cure."

Blanca_400Blanca Mora-Nunez, 41, of Monterey Park, is a stay-at-home mom, full-time runner and fitness advocate:

"During my junior years, I worked as a field nurse program at General Hospital in Los Angeles and was assigned to work with people living with HIV and AIDS. At the time, many of us were misinformed and terrified that we would get AIDS from basic exposure to those already infected. I have horrible regrets from that time - when even trained medical staff didn't properly care for those who were HIV-positive. I took a few days to research the facts and came back to see him without unnecessary 'protective gear' and wanted to motivate and nurture him, but he had passed. I was devastated.

"Concrete Hero is my chance to give back to people who represent that one person that I could not help. I will be given the opportunity to race for him and give him the proper thank you for educating a young girl who came with no real information on how to serve people with this disease and to educate others, especially the young people."


Steve Lapuk, 45, of Los Angeles:

"I am participating in Concrete Hero because I have lost several friends to AIDS. I have several friends managing life with HIV, and HIV/AIDS is a major focus of my training and practice as a therapist.

I came of age during the height of the AIDS crisis in the mid-'80s and the association of the disease with being gay kept me from coming out until age 27. There was never a time in my life when I didn't associate sex with HIV, and this is true for many gay men, adding an extra layer of shame many have felt from society just for being gay."

Concreteheroannouncement_400x300The 5K Concrete Hero obstacle course begins Sunday at L.A. LIVE and takes participants through the streets and alleyways of downtown. They'll leap over 26 parked cars and two buses in a "Carmageddon" pile-up, scale a 14-foot "Hollywood" sign, and swing over two bubbling "tar pits," plus seven more obstacles.

"Nothing like Concrete Hero exists today," says Craig E. Thompson, executive director at APLA. "Other obstacle challenges have been done in Southern California, but none have taken place right here in urban, downtown LA."

Funds raised go to APLA programs including its Vance North Necessities of Life Program food pantries, which distribute more than 150,000 bags of groceries annually to people facing HIV/AIDS and hunger, and APLA Dental Services, which offers more than 12,000 no- and low-cost dental procedures to restore the smiles of those who are HIV-positive but who often can't afford basic dental care.

Participants must raise the minimum of $400. All ages and athletic abilities are welcomed. For more information or to register or donate to Concrete Hero, visit or call 323-462-HERO (4376).

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