Do you have what it takes to be a hero? On July 15, AIDS Project Los Angeles will hold its first ever Concrete Hero fundraiser in Downtown L.A. This "Ultimate Obstacle Course Challenge" begins at L.A. Live and will take participants through the surrounding streets and alleyways of Downtown Los Angeles. Proceeds from the event go towards programs that benefit people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles. Think of it as AIDS Walk on Creatine but with an L.A. twist.
"The event itself is revolutionary," says Craig E. Thompson, Executive Director of APLA. "An obstacle course event has never been done in Downtown LA. Obstacle courses have become quite popular, and AIDS Project Los Angeles has been waiting for the right time to deploy a new fundraising concepts that will appeal to a broader range of demographics, specifically a younger generation who no longer views HIV/AIDS as a problem today. With dozens of worthy causes to choose from, time and donations from the older generations are becoming stretched, so we are always looking to engage our straight allies, given that HIV/AIDS impacts everyone. That’s what makes Concrete Hero so compelling—it’s the future of fundraising, and the movement is starting here in Los Angeles."
The money this innovative event generates will go directly to APLA funded programs, specifically those that supply food and dental care to HIV-positive citizens of Los Angeles.
"There are over 62,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles Alone," says Thompson. "The Vance North Necessities of Life Program distributes more than 115,000 bags of groceries to people in need of them in Los Angeles. APLA Dental Services offers more than 11,500 no- and low-cost dental procedures to people with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County. House Support Services help provide housing needs to people in Los Angeles. Other services that funds raised by Concrete Hero will support include psychotherapy, short- and long-term counseling, support groups, prevention programs and care management for substance abusers in Los Angeles. Our APLA Test Programs makes testing services available to targeted, at-risk communities."
In addition to benefiting a necessary cause, the Concrete Hero boasts a challenging obstacle course that strongly embraces L.A.'s unique identity.
"There will be over 10 obstacles for participants throughout the 5K route, making it a challenge for even the hardcore athletes," describes Thompson. "In Concrete Hero, participants will take on 'Natural Disaster Alley' with insanely strong Santa Ana winds, trembling earthquakes and flairing brushfires. Participants will sprint the 'Dodgeball Dash' as they race directly through a quintessential L.A.-style dodgeball game. Other obstacles include 'Carmageddon,' featuring over 24 vehicles and two busses that participants must make their way over and under, a mock-sized Hollywood sign participants will scale and a messy 'Tar Pit Traverse,' in addition to other exhilarating urban-themed obstacles. Participants can run the event as individuals or teams, but with individual times—that way families can create a team and race in the same heat."
One of these participating families consists of Nicholas S. Cacarnakis, Branch Manager of Prudential California Realty’s Beverly Hills office, and his partner F. E. Cornejo, an actor/freelance writer/housewife. As parents of two, their children are major motivators to their inclusion in Concrete Hero.
"We want out children to grow up connected to their communities and those in need. The more involved we are in helping to fund treatment, prevention, legislation and ultimately a cure, not only can we help people in need, but our children will grow up educated about HIV/AIDS. That education could save their lives or that of their friends," says Cacarnakis.
"Our team has a monetary goal, which is very important, but beyond that, and perhaps more crucial, we really wanted to get people excited and active in Concrete Hero who had never been involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS," adds Cornejo. "Even some our biggest supporters in the heterosexual community still don’t see how HIV/AIDS can affect them directly. They still see it as a priority only in the LGBT community. That is a huge misconception that is scary for anyone who is a parent.”
Concrete Hero is but a part of social awareness the Cacarnakis-Cornejos are instilling in their progeny.
"We’re very open with our kids; they ask, we answer. They accompany us to a variety of benefits for HIV/AIDS, and we tell them exactly why they are there. Of course, we get some strange looks because they are usually the only children there, but it’s important. Our daughter, Katarina, is 12 years old, so it is pretty pertinent to the oncoming surge of her development.”
Besides striving to enrich both the community and their family, the couple has a personal goal:
"To get to the finish line in one piece!"