2011 Readers Voice Awards: Up, up and away!

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SEE YOU NEXT TRIP | Brian Garrison voted and won. He plans to go to the Caribbean with his husband. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Voting in the Readers Voice Awards paid off for Brian Garrison — he won 2 tickets on American Airlines

Dallas Voice: Congratulations on winning the tickets! I’m jealous. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Garrison: Well, I work in IT, marketing and sales in various industries such as travel, investment banking and telecommunications. I’m a native-born Texan from Austin but raised in Luling, renowned for its barbecue and the Watermelon Thump Festival!

Where were you when you found out you won and how did you react? I was on the way to an early dinner and a movie. I was quite surprised because I thought it might be a solicitation call for donations.

Who is your dream travel companion? That would be my husband and partner, Cory Smith. Seriously!

Oh we believe you. That’s very sweet. Do you know where you’ll be going? I do extensive travel, domestic and international, for work and pleasure, but for this, we plan to go somewhere in the Caribbean, maybe the British Virgin Islands.

Why there? The sun, sand, sin.

You know that’s right. What prompted you to vote? Pardon the pun, but I really wanted my voice to be heard in our community.

What was your favorite category to vote in? Home and gift [Services and Shop].

Did you vote for any friends or yourself at all? No.

You might be our first unbiased voter. OK, so this is your acceptance speech…go! “It is thrilling! I’m so grateful to you all — my wonderful fans who made me a star! Mommie!” I’ve always wanted to say that in public.

And now you have. Have fun on your trip!

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

I ride to do my part against HIV

Valerie Holloway Skinner  |  HOLLOWAY FAMILY FOUNDATION

Valerie Holloway Skinner

Do you recall where you were in the spring of 2000? Perhaps not. Don’t feel badly; I have to confess that ordinarily I couldn’t tell you where I was last Friday, much less 10 years ago.
But I had a conversation in April of the beginning of this decade that changed my life and the lives of so many others so drastically that I’m sure I will recall it distinctly 10 years from today.
The then-executive director of AIDS Outreach Center, Mike McKay, called me to meet him for a cup of coffee and to discuss an idea he had been tossing around in his head about a fundraising event — an event we now know as the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.  Since I was the V.P. of the Holloway Family Foundation, he asked me to ask our board to consider being the presenting sponsor of the event, which would raise money and awareness for the AIDS Outreach Center, AIDS Services of Dallas and Resource Center Dallas.
As our foundation was already committed to supporting these agencies individually, even a dull blade like me could figure out pretty quickly that having a $40,000 contribution potentially return $100,000 to these agencies was a sharp idea.
And so, here I am, 10 years later, enthusiastically anticipating the thrill of pedaling my way across what seems like a thousand miles of searing Texas wasteland — straight uphill!
A rational person might ask, “Why not just write a check and, pardon the pun, move on down the road?”  Let me see if I can explain. In 2001 I was that sensible person, and so I never even considered riding a bike in the scorching Texas sun for 175 miles into the middle of Nowheresville.
The thought literally never occurred to me.
In fact, the last time I had ridden a bicycle, I was fairly certain my mother was walking alongside of me making sure I didn’t fall over.
And so with a fair amount of detachment and nonchalance, I showed up at the closing ceremonies that first year to congratulate the riders and crewmembers for their dedication and determination. But standing on that platform, staring into those exhausted, exhilarated faces and hearing that enthusiastic, endearing crowd — well, I knew in an instant that I didn’t want to be in the audience, I wanted to be in the show.
And it’s been showtime ever since.
Is it hot? Yes. Does it sometimes rain? Yes. Are there potholes the size of Kansas and hills that would bring tears to Lance Armstrong’s eyes? Yes and, well, no.
But there are also themed pit stops to refresh and rehydrate you; motorcycle riders to guide and protect you; crew members to pamper and encourage you; and an old friend or a potential new one just around every corner — or “on your left” as it were.
Those are a handful of the somewhat superficial reasons that I have participated in some form or fashion in this ride for the past 10 years (well, maybe not in ’05 when Hurricane Rita hit, but hey, nobody could expect the Queen of Damn Near Everything to cycle in a typhoon!)
But the primary reason, the reason that keeps me coming back year after year after year after — well, you get the point — is that if I don’t ask, somebody won’t give, and if I don’t do, somebody won’t have, and if I don’t tell, somebody won’t know.
And when my kids and my grandkids look back at this decade and the crisis that is AIDS, and ask me what I did to help, I want to be able to look into their faces and tell them I did my part.
And so, as is my way, let me close with a few lines of corny prose:

If you’ve never been a part,
Ask yourself, “Why?”
You don’t know if you can do it
Until you give it a try.

You’ve nothing to lose
But a few pounds of sweat,
There’s so much to gain
And so I just bet

That 2010
Will be the year that we see
Over 200 riders
And YOU are the key

To the success of the Ride,
To the future of those
Who are counting on you.
And so I propose

That you join the Ride Family,
Even if now you don’t “get it.”
Trust me, I know,
You will NEVER forget it!
God bless and godspeed and I’ll see you in September.
To donate to Valerie Holloway Skinner, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas