On Aug. 11, Kiehl’s President Chris Salgardo posted an aerial shot of the World AIDS Memorial Quilt on Instagram, with the caption “Aerial view of the #aidsmemorialquilt . What an amazing day! @kiehlsnyc @kiehls #liferide5 #governorsisland.”
Salgardo valiantly led a tight band of road warriors, otherwise known as Kiehl’s Since 1851’s LifeRide 5 for amfAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) LifeRiders, who ended their triumphant 11 day, cross-country journey in New York City with an AIDS Memorial Quilt dedication ceremony on Aug. 11 and an Aug. 12 "New York Daily News" reported finale party which was hosted by Grammy winner Mary J. Blige.
According to a PR Newswire statement, 260 12-foot-by-12-foot sections of the international handmade tapestry were displayed at Governor’s Island and presented as a gift by Kiehl’s Since 1851 to New York in the inspirational opening ceremony. The quilt had not been displayed in New York in more than 10 years and U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer issued a proclamation which declared August 11, 2014 as Kiehl’s LifeRide for amfAR Day. Kiehl's also unveiled a new panel for the quilt.
The LifeRiders documented important journey milestones via Twitter, and tweeted their respect and reverence for this ceremony, in which they read the names of the people remembered on the quilt out loud, one at a time. This highly personal dedication offered a stark reminder that the staggering HIV/AIDS-related death statistics represent real people who were lost to the disease. The infamous international quilt in its entirety pays homage to tens of thousands of people.
The 2014 LifeRide 5 is the third ride for TV and film actor Gilles Marini ("Switched at Birth," "Devious Maids") who was humbled taking part in the quilt dedication. He tweeted a photo of the quilt on the day of the ceremony along with the message, “Proud to be part of the ceremony of the AIDS QUILT. Rip my friends... http://instagram.com/p/rksRSAMjcK/.”
Every person who has ever lived or will ever live weaves a story with their life. The names memorialized on the AIDS Quilt panels represent sons, daughters, husbands, wives, partners, family and friends whose stories ended much too soon due to AIDS. Sadly, the survivors who must live on without their loved ones are left with a deep void. A light has been extinguished by the life that ended and the survivors' own stories are forever altered and shaped by the weight of devastating loss.
The attached slideshow contains visual images of the quilt panels displayed on Governor's Island, including panels which pay tribute to Stephen Korzetz, whose sister Susan Korzetz traveled from Detroit, Michigan to New York to volunteer for the dedication and see her brother's panel displayed.
All of the exquisite panels are lovingly created by family and friends who courageously carry their deceased loved ones in their hearts. The quilt is maintained by The NAMES Project non-profit organization, whose ultimate goal is to place a “last panel” one day to represent the cure that was found which will prevent the need for any more panels to be added.
Unfortunately, UNAIDS reports the current harsh reality that as of 2013, 35 million people around the world were living with HIV. Some of these people are mothers and fathers. Some of them are sisters and brothers. Some of them are trusted friends and perhaps the most tragic of all, some of them are children.
Children, after all, represent the future and the future is ultimately compromised by young lives that end prematurely from AIDS. Something has to be done. A cure for HIV/AIDS must be found as soon as possible.
It is one thing to read statistics and absorb them. It is quite another thing to take action to prevent the numbers from growing.
Part of Kiehl’s LifeRiders’ heroic effort in making the cross-country trip was to take action against HIV/AIDS and raise awareness and money to support amfAR’s fight for a cure. The corporate leaders and celebrity riders that comprised the LifeRide 5 team clearly have a lot on their individual plates. Yet, they sacrificed their time to unite in the name of a globally important and urgent cause. They rode 1,600 miles across multiple states in all sorts of weather conditions to send the message that the AIDS epidemic must be stopped. Lives depend on it.
This year’s riders include: Kiehl's USA President Chris Salgardo, amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost, Tyson Beckford, Gilles Marini, Teddy Sears, Milissa Sears, Jay Ellis, Grant Reynolds, Conrad Leach, Katee Sackhoff, Scott Niemeyer, Vanessa Marcil, Malcolm Jamal-Warner and Ben Cohen.
There is frankly no better use of the entertainment industry platform than for actors and artists to use their notoriety to help those in need. A value cannot be placed on the tireless efforts the riders employed to help protect and preserve the lives of people around the world by helping to raise money to support amfAR's research and efforts to eventually abolish HIV/AIDS.
The charismatic LifeRiders were welcomed with open arms at each of the stops along the winding trail. A portion of proceeds from sales of special-sized tubes of Kiehl’s skincare lotions went to amfAR and in all, the LifeRiders raised over $170,000 in this year’s effort.
The riders celebrated their impressive achievement with an open-to-the-public finale party on Aug. 12 on West 12th Street in New York. Special guests included Grammy winner Mary J. Blige, The Misshapes, Bob Mould and Samantha Ronson.
Helmets off and hands raised in salute to the LifeRiders for a job well done. While they blaze on toward other pursuits, let’s remember those who have been lost to AIDS and those who are currently fighting the disease. Most importantly, let's never forget there is still a lot of work to be done.
Click here to find out more about donating to amfAR.
Follow Chris Salgardo @KiehlsPrez, @Kiehls, @amfar on Twitter.