Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-07-10
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Chicagoan raises money and pride walking to fight HIV/AIDS
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2018-09-19

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Christopher Pazdernik was filled with fear and shame that day in 2009 when he learned he is HIV-positive.

"I was so embarrassed and terrified; I had no idea what was going to happen next," he said. "At first, I had to come to terms with it myself, just like I did with my sexuality, and honestly, that took a few years. Once I started telling more than just my close friends and family and talking about it more in public, it just got easier and easier."

Flash-forward to 2018—Pazdernik is a staunch advocate for the HIV community as a whole, spawned by his "lightbulb moment" when he was on the train and saw an advertisement for AIDS Run & Walk Chicago. He immediately thought he should participate.

"That first year [participating in the event, which is now five years ago], seeing so many people out walking together, fighting against this disease that I live with every day, was just overwhelming. And beautiful. And I've never looked back," he said.

Pazdernik is on the Ambassador Committee for the annual AIDS Run & Walk Chicago, and has organized his own team for the event, which will be held Saturday, Sept. 23, at Soldier Field. The event includes a 5K and 10K run, and a 5K walk, starting with the opening ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Pazdernik is doing the walk.

Pazdernik, who was one of Windy City Times' 30 Under 30 in 2016, serves on the Community Advisory Board at Howard Brown Health, including the past two years as chairperson, and he produces a benefit concert for Howard Brown Health every year, called Chris' Birthday Belt Fest, which features dozens of his friends, who just happen to be musical theatre performers from Chicago, with one other from Wisconsin.

"This fall, I'm also directing a musical set at the height of the AIDS crisis, The Last Session, for my company, Refuge Theatre Project, and we'll be using that production to bring awareness and raise funds for all the terrific HIV/AIDS organizations here in Chicago," he said.

Pazdernik, after learning he was HIV-positive, attended support groups at the Broadway Youth Center which, he said, "[were] critically necessary to me."

He remembers "breaking down and crying during my first session saying, 'I'm never going to want to have sex again.' Over time, it got better. But I needed to be there and hear other people's stories and know I wasn't alone during those early years.

"Now I try to be that kind of beacon and support for other people."

Pazdernik, 32, lives in North Center and primarily works as a freelance artist in musical theatre as a director, choreographer, audition coach, casting director and producer. He also does numerous speaking engagements since moving to Chicago in 2008. Plus, he serves as the artistic director for Refuge Theatre Project and he joined the staff at Porchlight Music Theatre earlier this year as the Company Manager & Casting Associate.

He is originally from Neenah, Wisconsin, and is celebrating 10 years living in Chicago this month.

"I am so excited to spend the day with many of my good friends [during the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago]; the time I get to spend with them during the walk is really special to me," he said. "[I have] overwhelming gratitude [for the event]—for my friends who walk with me, for my friend Donica Lynn who sings at the opening ceremonies every year, for all the organizations including the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and their efforts to fight AIDS, and for the opportunity, once a year, to feel like my status makes me part of a community, rather than an outsider."

Pazdernik's team, Option Up, always walks in honor of all the sensational musical theater artists who died at the height of the AIDS crisis. "This year, I'll be thinking about Broadway composer Michael Friedman in particular, who passed away a year ago due to complications from HIV/AIDS," he said.

One of his favorite past AIDS Run & Walk Chicago memories was the 2016 event—when it was pouring rain, and yet none of his friends skipped the event.

"We all walked together in the pouring rain and sang lots of show tunes about rain, [including] Don't Rain on My Parade, A Little Fall of Rain, Stranger to the Rain, River in the Rain, the list goes on," he said.

Pazdernik has raised $5,000 each year for the past three years for the event, and he's shooting for the same total this year in hopes of pushing his grand total to $20,000 for the programs at AFC, "and that feels really special," he said.

Pazdernik knows he will, once again, be all tears after the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago when he sees the AIDS Quilt.

"There's this thing called survivor guilt, which is very real for me—I don't feel worthy to live at a time where living with HIV is possible, when so many before me weren't given that opportunity," he said. "Why them, and not me? It's rough [seeing the AIDS Quilt], but it helps me connect to the past, which fuels my fire to fight for the future."

To donate to Pazdernik's fundraising through the annual AIDS Run & Walk Chicago, go to: events.aidschicago.org/site/TR/RW/RW18 .


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Cell Block parties to benefit HIV services 2019-07-13 - Cell Block, 3702 N. Halsted St., is holding a series of fundraising parties to benefit HIV services. The new owners of Cell Block—a ...


Gay News

WOMEN'S WORLD CUP U.S. wins championship 2019-07-07 - On July 7 in Lyon, France, the United States claimed a fourth Women's World Cup triumph with a 2-0 victory over European champions ...


Gay News

Lesbian tennis player: More athletes should 'come forward' 2019-07-07 - Professional tennis player Alison Van Uytvanck told The Guardian that more of her fellow athletes should come out of the closet, according to ...


Gay News

Cubs affiliate calls out Kaepernick, draws flag 2019-07-03 - The Tennessee Smokies—a minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs based in the town of Kodak—deleted and apologized for a tweet in which ...


Gay News

WOMEN'S WORLD CUP U.S. beats England, advances to final 2019-07-02 - The United States is returning to the World Cup final, thanks to a 2-1 victory over England on July 2 in Lyon, France. ...


Gay News

Moments in the Public Health Response to AIDS, CDPH LGBTQ Outreach Keynote June 28 2019-07-01 - Chicago Department of Public Health LGBTQ Outreach Keynote Speech, given by Tracy Baim, June 28, 2019, Chicago Cultural Center The following keynote speech ...


Gay News

PRIDE WEEKEND 2019 Proud to Run marks 38 years with first-ever half-marathon race 2019-06-30 - Proud To Run, presented by Frontrunners Chicago, celebrated 38 years with its annual 5K run/walk, 10K run and, for the first time ever, ...


Gay News

WOMEN'S WORLD CUP U.S. beats host France, advances to semis 2019-06-28 - Scoring two goals for the second consecutive game, Megan Rapinoe led the U.S. women's national team to a 2-1 quarterfinal win over host ...


Gay News

Mayor Lightfoot promotes National HIV Testing Day, gets tested 2019-06-27 - Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined representatives from Beyond Care and Walgreens to highlight the importance of HIV testing in observance of National HIV ...


Gay News

Softball player reflects on sexuality in sports, teamwork 2019-06-26 - From morning to night, Chicago Bandits pitcher Aleshia Ocasio commits herself to two things: softball and benevolence. During the season for the ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.