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AIDS Project L.A. Raises Funds with Concrete Hero

by Shaun Knittel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday May 22, 2012

On July 15, AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) launches Concrete Hero, the new fundraising event concept to help raise money to improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS. Positioned as The Ultimate Urban Obstacle Challenge, Concrete Hero will take place in downtown Los Angeles, the surrounding streets and alleyways.

Angelita Deleon lost both of her brothers to AIDS within nine months of each other. "It was very sad, and to this day, a very painful loss," said the 51-year-old Los Angeles resident. "Both of my brothers were just amazing people."

"Ruben particularly," she remembers. "He would bring any dying thing back to life, whether it was a plant or animal. He just had a magic touch. And Dimas was just a fun, happy-go-lucky person. He even served in the Navy for two years."

Deleon's brothers Ruben and Dimas passed away more than 20 years ago. But for her, it still feels like it just happened. On July 15, Deleon will participate in Concrete Hero in their honor. The urban obstacle course will pit individuals against iconic L.A. landmarks in a race to raise funds.

"We are absolutely thrilled about Concrete Hero," said Craig E. Thompson, Executive Director at APLA.

"It will be a fun, urban-themed obstacle adventure designed to help raise money that will be put to use supporting APLA-funded programs like the Vance North Necessities of Life Program food pantries, which distribute more than 115,000 bags of groceries to people facing HIV/AIDS and hunger in Los Angeles or APLA Dental Services, which offers more than 11,500 no-cost and low-cost dental procedures to people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County," added Thompson.

When asked what Concrete Hero will be like, Thompson smiled and said, "It's going to be very L.A."

According to Thompson, Concrete Hero will incorporate a mix of iconic LA landmarks, which are replicated as obstacles along the course route. Participants will complete the course by leaping over parked cars in a massive "Carmageddon" pile-up, scaling a mock "Hollywood Sign," and swinging over "Tar Pits" in addition to other exhilarating urban-themed elements, concluding with an urban-themed block party.

Despite more than 30 years spent fighting HIV/AIDS, the disease is still an evolving epidemic that evades the best medical efforts to find a cure or vaccine. Care, prevention and advocacy work must be nimble to keep pace -- and so must fundraising initiatives.

"Among supporters both existing and new, APLA beneficiaries of the Concrete Hero Urban Obstacle Challenge must offer new, exciting and engaging ways to raise funds," said Thompson. "And that's what makes Concrete Hero so compelling. It's the future of fundraising, and it's happening now in Los Angeles."

Janelle L'Herreux, 55, is a registered dietitian for APLA who said that the funds raised from Concrete Hero are important. The basic services APLA provides, assists with and on which clients rely include food, housing, dental, treatment, case management, and much more.

"I do not want to imagine what it would be like if we could not provide these services and did not have the support of those who help us via contributions, donations, and volunteering," said L'Herreux. "I am grateful everyday that we have such dedicated and knowledgeable staff to help our clients. I am proud that our agency has strength and stability in the community and is respected throughout the country. And I am proud to do Concrete Hero in support of APLA and the people we help each day here in L.A."

More than 60,000 Angelenos are living with HIV/AIDS, and that number keeps rising. Every day, eight more Angelenos contract HIV.

HIV/AIDS has killed 32,000 Angelenos throughout the past 30 years. And in the U.S., more than 1.2 million people are living with HIV and there’s another new infection about every nine minutes.

"My uncle was diagnosed with HIV in the mid-’90s," said Abel Arias, 30. "He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2005. Unfortunately, the chemo and the cancer were not so kind, and his condition deteriorated rapidly."

"By summer he was essentially bedridden," said Arias. "My Mom and my aunt would switch off taking drives from L.A. to San Diego to care for him. Eventually, he succumbed to the cancer."

"Would he have beaten it if he were not HIV-positive? Who knows," he said. "My Mom lost her closest sibling and seeing her go through that was hard. I suppose I never really felt like I had a chance to do something directly for it, until I learned about Concrete Hero. It sounds like a blast, but more importantly, it’s a fun time I can have in honor of my Uncle Jose. He’d be glad I’m having fun and remembering him."

Everyone from gym junkies to families and people of all ages can register by calling 323-462-HERO (4376) or visiting

AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), one of the largest non-profit AIDS service organizations in the United States, provides bilingual direct services, prevention education and leadership on HIV/AIDS-related policy and legislation. With more than 25 years of service, APLA is a community-based, volunteer-supported organization with local, national and global reach. For more information, visit

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.


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