The San Francisco Aids Foundation (SFAF) and and the Los Angeles LGBT Center has a new fan. New San Francisco resident CSOFT International is sponsoring employee Nate Denny in the AIDS/LifeCycle Ride 2015, a 545-mile (877km) bike ride, down from San Francisco to LA from May 31st – June 6th . Of course, he has the full backing of CSOFT and has received a colossal amount of support so far, so please visit his website and consider donating: any contribution helps towards the final goal.
Here is a Q&A session with the man himself including: Nate’s opinions on volunteering, how he got involved in the foundation, and the story of when he donated a kidney to a total stranger!
Q: Tell me how you first got involved in with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF).
A: I moved to the Bay Area just over a year ago. When I lived in NYC, I volunteered with GMHC (which provides similar services as SFAF) so when I moved to the Bay, I sought out the equivalent organization for San Francisco, which led me to SFAF.
Q: Volunteerism goes to the core of who you are, so much so that I understand you donated one of your kidneys to a complete stranger, can you tell me about that experience and what prompted this act?
A: I had read a New York Times article about the longest kidney donation chain in history and was immediately inspired to do something. Kidney donation chains work in a way where multiple people benefit from collaborating together towards one common goal. In order to kick off these donation chains, there needs to be an altruistic/non-directed donor at the start of the chain. Once I realized that I was a potential candidate to be such a donor, I immediately started looking into it and, about one year later, started the donation process. When people ask me why I specifically chose to donate my kidney, I tell them there are two reasons: 1. It just made sense to me (for whatever reason), and 2. It hurt. I believe everyone should be giving to others in ways that are reasonable, but also in ways that require sacrifice to the point that it hurts. That’s how you know you’re truly giving from the heart.
Q: What has surprised you most about your volunteer time there?
A: I used to carry some negative judgments about people with HIV, which particular verbiage in our culture only fueled (thinking of them as “dirty” since HIV-negative people sometimes refer to themselves as “clean,” for example). I no longer differentiate HIV-positive from HIV-negative people, at least not in the ways I used to. Just as someone’s sexual orientation does not have much of an impact on my personal view of them, neither does a person’s HIV status.
Q: What is the biggest need you see at the AIDS Foundation?
A: Resources. This comes in the form of financial donations, corporate contributions, and additional volunteers. While the AIDS LifeCycle Ride is the largest fundraiser annually, there is always more that can be done. And the Foundation is really wonderful about providing opportunities for those who want to help.
Stay tuned for part two of Nate’s interview next week as he shares the challenges he encounters while preparing for the ride and the biggest life lesson he’s learned.