Tuesday, October 25, 2005

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

American Heritage caravan update: 4

By Vaughn Frick
American Heritage caravan rider

October 24, 2005
Laramie to Cheyenne to Casper Wyoming

Last night all 13 of our caravan riders slept upon sleeping pads and air mattresses in one large room donated to us by the University apartments community center across the street from the University of Wyoming. Before dawn I walked the campus grounds under the immense star-shot sky, the ground was covered in twinkling ice crystals mirroring the lights of the universe far above. A sky as wide as this land in middle America that our caravan is transversing on our journey to Washington D.C. Wyoming is still a frontier state today, where coal and bone turned to stone are dug out of the hills and bedrock eroded by Millenia.
We ate breakfast in the student cafeteria and showered in the gym before leaving on our next stop at Cheyenne. We thank the generosity of John Wiggins and the Albany county AIDS project for donating the funds for our meals while we stayed in Laramie, and to Travis who as host met all of our needs, and who also looks very lovely dressed in his "I got candy" t-shirt.
We arrived in Cheyenne at their local CBS affiliate KGWN newschanel 5 where we were interviewed for the evening news about who we are and our message of hope and life that we are taking to Washington, D.C.
This was a very bittersweet stop for us, as we had planned on several events here organized by a tireless volunteer for this caravan named Jeff Palmer who had suddenly stopped communicating with us days before we set off from Portland. Jeff was one of the founders of an AIDS advocacy group called Positive for Positive,and in the end even though his illness was severe,he would spend hours on the phone organizing this caravan and action, inspiring many with his passion to make the Campaign To End AIDS a reality.
A few days ago we finally learned that Jeff had died.
Since he was the life for this caravan stop in Cheyenne, so also were the events here snuffed out prematurely. As we were filmed for the evening news we held hands and circled there in Jeff's town that he loved and remembered him. People are dieing needlessly from AIDS again, new people are still getting infected with the HIV virus. Tragically both of these grim statistics are so easily preventable by what we already know works.
Our final stop for today was at Casper where we were greeted by members of a local church shared by two denominations, the First Congregational Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalists. A banner in their chapel reads: "We care more about rights than rites,"and this church has worked much to bring diversity and tolerance to the Faith based community of Casper.
A pizza and pinata party, press conference, and candlelight memorial were organized here, all put together by a 17 year old 11th grade student named Caitlyn Metcalf. Caitlyn is the leader for the Youth Empowerment Council of Casper, and worked to see this event happen for the past two months, pulling together Wyoming AIDS project, the Matthew Shepard Foundation,and all the dedicated local people who came to this event. Last summer she attended a training by the Wyoming AIDS project, and was shocked by the prior misinformation she had been told about HIV. Before this she had never known anyone who had been infected by HIV. Based on her belief that she needed to do what was right, Caitlyn has become one of the leading AIDS activists for this whole area.
American Heritage caravan rider Levi Ferns spoke to the media about his personal experiences living with HIV. In his own words " My Late husband Charles Morton Krayerdied of AIDS on June 5, 2005. His death was hastened due to a lack of access to adequate health care and medications. In 1990 Congress established the Ryan White Care Act to provide funding for vital services including health care. But now in 2005, the Care Act remains depleted in funds. People are on waiting lists for vital medications in several states. There is an across-the-board squeeze on vital services. Let's demand that Congress and Mike Enzi reauthorize and fully fund the Ryan White Care Act. Let's give it the 2.5 billion dollars it needs.
For the candlelight vigil, 43 people circled in the dusk in front of the church, lighting each candle in a circle as each participant remembered a friend or family member lost to AIDS, or sharing a hope. One young boy said "I light this candle in hope that a cure is found."
Wyoming. It's people proud of their land and community, a people very kind and generous to us. I met many wonderful individuals here who had left then moved back because in their hearts they love this place. A people dedicated to prevent another Matthew Shepard from dieing beaten and bloodied tied to a fence alone on a cold northern night.
At around 7:30 the organizer for tonight's events had to go home to finish her homework for school tomorrow.

For more information on how you can help with HIV/AIDS in Wyoming, please contact Pamela Reamer Williams at the Wyoming AIDS Project: wyaidsproj@wyoming.com

To learn more about the Campaign To End AIDS and the American Heritage caravan, please log onto www.c2ea.org


At 11:37 PM, Blogger Jaffe said...

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