AIDS LifeCycle: Honoring Memory of Friends & Fundraising for the Future
There’s a photo on the front of my bike this week. It’s a picture of my old friend Scott.
Scott Chirila was my wife’s best friend in high school. He was sharp, funny, and one of the nicest people I have ever met. Throughout high school, everyone thought Scott and my wife Gayle would end up getting married and live happily ever after, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Scott was gay, and he died of AIDS in 1991.
We all grew up together in Missouri before Scott moved off to LA in the mid-1980’s to follow his dreams. He worked at the University of Southern California in their grant department and loved everything about living in Los Angeles.
In 1987 we moved to Brea, California with our three-week old son, Teague. Initially, Scott was the only person we knew in the area, and he quickly introduced us to his wide circle of friends.
Brea is in Orange County, which was a pretty traditional place. Whether our friends knew any or many gay people I don’t recall, but they welcomed Scott and his friends to our birthday celebrations for Teague, going to the beach for bonfires, and lots of other slices of life.
We knew little about HIV/AIDS at the time, and Scott’s diagnosis was obviously devastating. We had all just turned 30 at the time and I don’t wish losing a best friend like that to anyone, regardless of age. Scott refused to let anyone be in denial, so we all lived in a very transparent and candid world during that time.
My wife and I were his primary care providers for a period of time prior to his death.
We were even more devastated when many of these new-found friends began to be diagnosed with either HIV or AIDS. One by one, along with Scott, we attended too many memorial services for friends lost to this disease. Les Miserables was his favorite play and he felt the song “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” really described well what he and his friends were going through.
Shortly after his death, along with help from a wonderful friend and incredible seamstress, Heidi, we created a panel for Scott on the AIDS quilt, with his favorite quote from his beloved Les Miserables. Scott only lived into his early 30’s but the quote on the quilt panel summed up what was a very full, though short, life – “No Song Unsung, No Wine Untasted”
These were still the early days of HIV/AIDS, and, as previously mentioned, we also lived, worked, and attended church in an area where very, very few people understood HIV/AIDS. Without intending to do so, before long we became educators on the subject repeatedly during that time, trying to calm fears and help provide knowledge on what can be a very scary topic.
Since then I’ve lived in several different places, and Memphis is now my home. But my experience with the early days of this terrible disease inspired me to join Team FedEx in the 2017 AIDS LifeCycle, a 545-mile fundraising bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
This is the single largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser in the world, raising funds for awareness and HIV/AIDS services. Team FedEx has supported AIDS LifeCycle for the past 12 years, raising about $100,000 each year.
Follow along with almost 30 cyclists and roadies of Team FedEx as we join more than 3,000 riders in this year’s AIDS LifeCycle.
This year I’m riding for Scott.
Check out the Team FedEx animated tracking map below created by SenseAware, a FedEx Innovation.