On Saturday July 12, Californians can mosey on down for the Ninth Annual Saddle Up LA, a fundraiser for Life Group LA, which assists people living with HIV or AIDS. Kicking off at Diamond Bar Riding Stables in Los Angeles, the main event is a horseback trail ride through the beautiful Griffith Park mountains followed by a country-style BBQ with a dance and silent auction that non-riders can enjoy as well. Life Group LA hopes to raise $100,000 through the event this year so that it can continue to provide education and emotional support for those infected or affected by HIV.
This year, Emmy award-winning actor and Broadway star Jai Rodriguez (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Malibu Country) will lead the ride as the Honorary Trail Guide. Ever since losing both his aunt and cousin to AIDS and playing Angel, an HIV positive character, in RENT on Broadway, Rodriguez has been extremely active in charity work for groups that support people with HIV and AIDS.
"It seems the stigma attached to the disease is as toxic as the actual virus," says Rodriguez. "That's why events like this for charities that spread so much hope, education and services to people affected and infected are vital."
Founded in 2005, Life Group LA serves the 52,000 people living with HIV or AIDS in the Los Angeles area and their loved ones.
"[People with HIV or AIDS] continue to be an underserved and stigmatized community," says executive director Sunnie Rose. "Although medical services and medications are and have been immeasurably successful and new pre- and post-exposure care regimens available, none necessarily support the emotional well-being of those living with HIV who may be isolated, living in fear, or even the needs of those who love them."
Four times every year, Life Group LA provides completely free POZ Life Weekend Seminars, a series of workshops designed to help those living with HIV or AIDS to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. The seminars are staffed by healthcare professionals, peer advocates, and legal counselors with beneficial expertise in many aspects of poz life. The organization also provides regular support group meetings led by trained facilitators and medical forums with the latest information about living with HIV.
Registration for Saddle Up LA is open now for those who want to help raise money for peole with HIV and 75 horses are available on a first-come first-reserved basis. Registration for the BBQ is open to everyone, even those who choose not to ride. Saddle Up LA won the WeHo Awards for outstanding community event in 2006, 2009, and 2010, so the evening is sure to be a great time.