Dallas Voice LifeWalk team may be almost as smart as some drag queens

No thanks to yours truly (who left early after advancing past the first round due to having Rain Man as a partner), the Dallas Voice Elizabeth Trail’rs team captured both first and third place on Sunday at “Are You Smarter Than a Drag Queen?” a trivia fundraiser benefiting LifeWalk at the Brick & Joe’s.

From left are Elizabeth Trail’rs Katie Deeds and Andrew Phifer, who won the bronze, and Rich Lopez and Jen Davis, who are now reigning world champions of this event. The first runner-up was a duo from the Green Team.

Congrats to everyone who participated, and thanks to the Brick for hosting. For more on LifeWalk, go here.

—  John Wright

Miss LifeWalk 2012 crowned

Heather Thomas

The ninth annual Miss LifeWalk Pageant raised more than $20,000 for North Texas AIDS services that benefit from the annual walk. Heather Thomas was crowned Miss LifeWalk.

Tiaras, glamorous gowns and house rocking performances were in full effect at the Rose Room at S4.  The 2012 pageant was produced by the Guys and Dolls LifeWalk Team and hosted by Ima Lush and Victoria Weston.

Guys and Dolls co-captain Jerry McDonald said, “The Guys & Dolls team is so pleased that our charity pageant continues to grow and produces much needed funds for the clients of AIDS Arms, Inc and our Partner Agencies. Each year all the performers and contestants work very hard to create an evening of great talent and fun and without a doubt it gets better each year.”

The 2012 Miss LifeWalk Contestants were Miss Heather Thomas representing Guys & Dolls, Veda Chardonnay representing the Green Team, Brandi Amara Skyy representing Resource Center Dallas, Elizabeth Trail’r, representing the Dallas Voice Elizabeth Trail’rs and Sienna Silver representing Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.

Special guest performances included Victoria Westin, Jenna Skyy, Gloria Screamer and former Miss LifeWalk winners Anita Nother, Ima Lush, Lotta Pink and Sebrina Starr. The 2012 Miss LifeWalk winning categories are:

Miss Congeniality — Brandi Amara Skyy
Miss Spirit of LifeWalk — Brandi Amara Skyy
Miss Money Bags — Heather Thomas
Evening Wear Winner — Brandi Amara Skyy
Talent Winner — Brandi Amara Skyy
2nd Runner Up — Veda Chardonnay
1st Runner Up — Brandi Amara Skyy

Thomas raised $10,000 of the total alone. All proceeds generated from the pageant go toward LifeWalk, which takes place Sunday, Oct. 7, at Lee Park at 11 a.m. This year’s walk benefits AIDS Arms, Inc. and other partner agencies: AIDS Interfaith Network, AIDS Services of Dallas, Bryan’s House, Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund, Happy Nia Dance Company, Legal Hospice of Texas, Resource Center Dallas, Turtle Creek Chorale, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas and Youth First Texas.

—  David Taffet

Scenes from Saturday’s LifeWalk Waterpalooza (which we won in case you hadn’t heard)

In 2010, the Dallas Voice didn’t advance too far in our debut at Waterpalooza, but after our confident claims (mostly to make ourselves feel better) we redeemed ourselves to take top honors on Saturday during the Razzle Dazzle daytime street fair. As the DV Elizabeth Trail’rs (also our LifeWalk team name), we crushed through the opposition (OK, two teams) to come out as the winner of the Sploosh Ball Tournament and win $100 toward our LifeWalk goal.

Find pics of the event (mostly us) after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Avita Drugs opens at Trinity Clinic

Pharmacist-in-Charge Kent Helvey, left, and Pharmacy Technician Krystal Dorsey

Avita Drugs at Trinity Health and Wellness Clinic in Oak Cliff held its grand opening this week. Last year, the company merged with RX Partners, which has a store now also under the Avita name on Oak Lawn Avenue.

The company was founded in 2003 to specialize in HIV medications, according to Mike McBride, vice president of business development. He said that the company’s oldest pharmacy is attached to the NOAIDS Task Force clinic in New Orleans.

Avita also specializes in mental health, transplant and hepatitis medications, but is open to the public to fill any prescription.

McBride said that the company’s partnership with AIDS Arms helps them maximize their funding and stretch their services. In addition to traditional insurance, they are in-network with ADAP and Medicaid, as well as Resource Center Dallas’ co-pay assistance program.

COO Tim Jacobs said, “We accept multiple funding sources many pharmacies don’t want to deal with.”

Avita offers free delivery at no charge.

McBride said the company is putting together a financial assistance program to help patients in need with their co-pays and deductibles.

“We’ll roll that out in the next 30 to 60 days,” McBride said.

—  David Taffet

Eat for charity: Fish City Grill giving back to AIDS Arms LifeWalk today

If you are looking for somewhere to have dinner tonight, consider Fish City Grill over at 2323 N. Henderson, because the restaurant will be donating 15 percent of the proceeds from sales through 10 p.m. tonight to AIDS Arms LifeWalk.

And if you want to keep those New Year’s resolutions about eating healthier alive, then Fish City Grill has what you need there, too. Check out the menu and start planning your meal.

You don’t need a coupon or a flier, just an appetite and some cash (or credit card)!

—  admin

LifeWalk 2011 on Oct. 2 at Lee Park

[youtube 8RuKIR_UZKw&feature=youtu.be youtube]

—  John Wright

LifeWalk may have topped last year’s total

“LifeWalk was extremely well attended,” said AIDS Arms development associate Hannah Orsburn.

The AIDS walk stepped off from Lee Park on Sunday, Oct. 2 at noon.

Orsburn said numbers are still being tallied for dollars raised and number of walkers. Those figures should be available Tuesday. The only figure available was for online donations and that number is higher than last year. She said that donations can still be made through the LifeWalk website through Oct. 14.

“There was more to see, more to do,” Orsburn said. “The energy was so great this year. More groups participated.”

One group of walkers from Worth Ross Associates, an Oak Lawn-based real estate management company, said that its team had more than 40 people participate. In addition to the money raised by each of the walkers, the company underwrote at the $5,000 level.

Orsburn said after the walk, people stayed in the park later.

One reason may have been additional vendors and the Passport. Walkers were given a passport that had to be signed at each of the vendors’ booths. Once completed, they were turned in for a drawing that will be held later this week.

For a slideshow of images from LifeWalk, go here.

—  David Taffet

Scenes from LifeWalk 2011 on Oct. 2

Photos by Chuck Dube/Dallas Voice (MarceloMedia)

—  John Wright

LifeWalk steps off Sunday in Lee Park

Nobles says that park will not be fenced this year but is worried about added cost and barrier affecting next year’s event

KICKING UP THEIR HEELS | The LifeWalk organizing committee gets ready for Sunday.

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

New requirements by the city of Dallas could affect proceed totals from this year’s AIDS Arms LifeWalk, and at least one more new requirement is expected to be added to the list next year, according to LifeWalk organizers.

The 21st annual LifeWalk steps off from Lee Park on Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. for the 3.2-mile walk. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. Last year’s event raised $401,000 and this year’s goal is $500,000.

Although thousands of people are expected for the event, Lee Park will remain unfenced this year, even though the city has said such gatherings will require fencing in the future.

Officials with the Dallas Tavern Guild, which stages the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and the Festival in Lee Park each year as part of Dallas’ annual LGBT Pride celebration, decided to get ahead of the new requirement by fencing in Lee Park this year for the festival, although the city requirement had not yet gone into effect.

Tavern Guild officials also chose to charge a $5 admission fee to the festival this year to help offset expenses and raise extra funds that will be distributed to parade beneficiaries.

The admission fee raised the ire of some in the community, and attendance at the festival was down compared to last year. But Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said the drop was not significant, and noted that the admission fee brought in about $25,000 that will be divided among beneficiaries.

But AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said new city requirements have already had an impact on LifeWalk, and she is worried that the new fencing requirements could affect next year’s walk.

“There were a lot more expenses from the city this year,” she said. “It really hits the bottom line.”

The cost of fencing next year will add an additional, unwelcome expense. But Nobles said she isn’t going to worry about that until after this weekend’s event. Right now, her main concern is getting people out to participate in this year’s fundraiser.

“Anyone can participate in LifeWalk,” Nobles said. “You can walk alone or bring friends or join a team. We even have poop-out vans: In case you can’t walk the entire three-mile route, someone will pick you up and bring you back to the park to have a good time.”

She also invited people to just come to the park and cheer.

“We need cheerleaders at the start and finish and at the water stations,” Nobles said. “We have pompoms for anyone who wants to cheer the walkers on.”

Registration for LifeWalk is $40 for people and $10 for dogs participating in LifeBark. People get a T-shirt and dogs get a bandana to show their support for people with HIV.

AIDS Arms is the primary beneficiary of LifeWalk, but other organizations also receive funds from the event, including AIDS Services of Dallas, Legal Hospice of Texas, Turtle Creek Chorale, The Women’s Chorus, Bryan’s House, Resource Center Dallas and the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.

Money raised goes toward programming rather than capital costs. The chorale uses funds for their HIV fund, including giving tickets to performances through the year to people with AIDS.

Nobles praised that effort, saying that socializing is an important holistic element in treating HIV.

The Women’s Chorus will present a program at AIDS Arms in March on National HIV Women’s Day. Those expenses, Nobles said, should be covered by the group’s LifeWalk proceeds.

Nobles said it would be tempting for AIDS Arms to use the money to finish paying off the agency’s new Trinity Health and Wellness Center in Oak Cliff. She said that the new facility cost more than $2 million, and AIDS Arms needs to raise just $35,000 more to pay off the facility.

Trinity Health and Wellness Center opened in September and will have its formal grand opening in two weeks.

But despite the temptation, AIDS Arms will instead use proceeds from LifeWalk to support programs for clients at Trinity as well as at AIDS Arms’ older clinic, Peabody Health Center in South Dallas.

AIDS Arms also uses the money to administer HIV tests to more than 3,500 people a year and for case management for more than 3,400 people.

LifeWalk began in 1990 as a fundraiser for Oak Lawn Community Services. When that agency closed, management of the event moved to AIDS Arms.

LifeWalk Co-chair Marvin Green noted that his Green Team will mark its 20th year of participation in LifeWalk. He said he put the team together for the first time in the second year of LifeWalk because he had already lost 20 friends to AIDS.

That first year, three team members raised $75. This year, the 32-member Green Team has collected about $22,000.

Co-chair Fred Harris said that there were quite a few new teams this year.

“We’re reaching out to new communities,” Harris said. “There’s new energy. We’re branching outside Oak Lawn.”

He said teams are using creative new ways to raise money and AIDS Arms has actively brought in new sponsors such as Chipotle.

“Stoli is coming with a first-ever LifeWalk drink,” Nobles said. Returning sponsor Caven Enterprises will serve beer and Ben E. Keith donated iced tea.

Harris said planning has gone well, and that “LifeWalk is a well-oiled machine.”

Harris said he has seen more use of social media this year than ever, reaching out to people outside the Metroplex.

“This year Facebook has become a very powerful tool,” he said, not just for fundraising but also for recruiting walkers.

Last year, about 3,500 people walked, and this year, “Registration is ahead of where we were this time last year,” Harris said.

Waterpalooza, another AIDS Arms event, was moved to Pride weekend this year, just two weeks prior to LifeWalk. Harris said they took advantage of that event to sign up teams and walkers and generate excitement for this weekend’s walk.

Among the new teams, Harris said, are the DFW Sisters.

“Their efforts have been tireless,” he said. “They raise the bar.”

Nobles said that WFAA Channel 8 morning anchor Ron Corning will serve as M.C. in Lee Park. Although he’s appeared at several events since arriving in Dallas, this is the first big public event the openly gay television host has emceed.

LifeWalk received the Human Rights Campaign family-friendly designation, and Nobles said there will be bounce houses, clowns and face-painting for children.

Harris said the event is pet-friendly as well, “because pets are our family.”

There will be games and puppy pools for dogs as well as doggie adoptions, Nobles said.

She said the day would be a lot of fun but asked people to participate because the need is greater than ever.

“With the growth in the number of newly-infected people in Dallas County who need help in this economy, we’re seeing people who never would ask but must,” she said.

Next year, Nobles said, she would like to see LifeWalk return to Oak Lawn, but new city regulations for events may change those plans. Among the events changing plans this year because of the city involved Lone Star Ride.

Last year, Lone Star Riders participated in LifeWalk on bike. This year, city regulations banned bikes from walks so LSR riders who participate will have to walk.

Green was thinking about bigger plans for future LifeWalks. Other cities that raise more money stage longer walks. He said he’d love to use the new Downtown Deck Park that should be completed next year and dreamed of seeing LifeWalkers crossing the new suspension bridge that should be open in March 2012.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Overcoming fear and finding passion

Landon Starnes had to step outside his comfort zone to compete as Lotta Pink in the Miss LifeWalk Pageant

lotta1
Landon Starnes as Lotta Pink

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Talk to Landon Starnes about his involvement with LifeWalk, the annual walkathon benefiting AIDS Arms and its partner agencies, and you’ll hear

Starnes repeat the words “passion” and “fear” a lot.

Starnes said he let fear rule him for too long. But in the end, there’s no doubt that “passion” wins out.

Starnes, who works as a hairdresser, said that he was diagnosed with HIV in October 1998. But he wasn’t prepared to deal with reality, and so for years, he said, “I ignored my diagnosis emotionally.”

But then some friends began to encourage him to confront his HIV status by getting involved in LifeWalk, specifically by joining the Guys and Dolls LifeWalk team.

Starnes said it took him awhile to get up to speed, and he was involved with LifeWalk just “off and on” for several years. But three years ago, he decided to really take the plunge and has been an active member of the Guys and Dolls team ever since.

This year, even that got ratcheted up a notch when Starnes finally gave in to his teammates’ cajoling and entered the Miss LifeWalk Pageant.

“My team had been asking me for two years to enter the pageant, but I declined every time. I was just scared to death to do drag,” Starnes explained. “But this year, I decided to accept the challenge, even though it scared me.”

The first challenge was to come up with a character, so “I started brainstorming about a character, about who I would be,” Starnes said. “I started thinking about things I, as a person, am passionate about. And I am passionate about the singer Pink.

“Her music gets to me in a way that no one else’s does,” Starned continued. “Her lyrics inspire me. I think, if I had to pick just one, my favorite Pink song is ‘Glitter in the Air.’ It says, ‘Have you ever wished for an endless night?’ ‘Have you ever thrown a fistful of glitter in the air?’ It made me look into myself, literally. Last summer, while we were on a road trip, my friends and I stopped and actually threw a fistful of glitter in the air. It was silly and fun, and now it is a memory that will last forever.”

But there is one line in the song, Starnes said, that really touched him, one lyric that made him think and gave him the determination to set aside the fear that had held him back: “Have you ever looked fear in the face, and said, I just don’t care?”

It was, Starnes said, a spark that made his passion for LifeWalk and for doing something to help others blaze even brighter.

“I knew I wasn’t going to try to be Pink, but I love what she does. So I decided I would kind of pay tribute to her with my character,” Starnes said.

And so, Lotta Pink was born.

And lo and behold, Lotta Pink won the Miss LifeWalk title on her first try, helping Starnes bring in about $7,000 for LifeWalk this year, bringing his total over all his Guys and Dolls years to about $11,000.

Starnes said he and Lotta Pink obviously have a lot in common. “We share our passion for the cause, first of all, and second, we both want to step outside the box,” Starnes said. “I was afraid of doing drag. But my favorite quote is ‘Do it scared,’ so that’s what I did. I stepped outside the box and challenged myself, and in doing that, I learned that fears are just fears, nothing else.”

Starnes said that while his fears still remain to some degree, Lotta Pink “has no fear,” and she is helping him overcome his own.

“It’s easier when you can put on a wig and some makeup and kind of step outside yourself,” Starnes said. “Now, learning to step out without that disguise is what comes next!”

Knowing that what he does is all to help AIDS Arms and the clients the agency serves makes it even easier to put the fear aside, Starnes said.

“The Guys and Dolls team works all year, not just on the day of LifeWalk. And the people at AIDS Arms work all year trying to help other people. I love AIDS Arms, and I love what it stands for,” Starnes said. “The walk itself is symbolic, to me. It’s a short walk, yes, but just going through the movement of walking allows you to release your passion.

“Everybody who participates is there for their own reasons, but whatever the reason, they are passionate about it,” he continued. “That alone speaks volumes. The biggest thing that came out of all this for me was seeing how good people really are.”

Again, it all comes down to overcoming fear and fully realizing the passion.

“It’s so important for everyone to find their passion, whether it’s LifeWalk or something else,” Starnes said. “Finding my passion has lifted me to a whole new level of awareness, understanding and joy. It’s just such a positive energy when you are around all these people at LifeWalk who work so hard to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s helped me find a happiness I have never known before.”

AIDS Arms LifeWalk will be held Sunday, Oct. 2, at Lee Park. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., and the walk begins at 1 p.m. For more information, go online to LifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas