Cheers, queers, beers, and tears: Dr. Peter Centre kicks off Pride 2019 with fundraiser both festive and poignant

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      Things became both nippy—due to strong winds—and nipply—due to strong shirtless men—at the eighth annual Pride kickoff fundraiser last week for a local HIV health organization. As cheerful and colourful as it was, it also wasn't without its emotional moments.

      The Dr. Peter Centre held its sold-out Pride Cocktail Kickoff 2019 on the rooftop of 745 Thurlow Street on (July 18), which served as the start of fundraising efforts that will continue throughout the Pride season.

      A silent auction, a raffle, DJs, a variety of libations, and bites from tacos and hors d'oeuvres to ice-cream sandwiches (featuring catering by the Lazy Gourmet) rounded out the evening.

      Shirley Young
      Craig Takeuchi

      Shirley Young, Dr. Peter’s mother and Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation honorary director, thanked for the support from everyone.

      “It’s unbelievable that it’s 27 years since Peter passed away,” she said. “And to have so many young people—who likely weren’t even born in 1992—support this foundation is just a gift.”

      Vancouver physician Dr. Peter Jepson-Young, who was diagnosed with advanced AIDS in 1986, brought a human face and personal story to the onset of the AIDS health crisis through CBC TV's Dr. Peter Diaries over two years until his death. His parents, Shirley and Bob, worked to launch the foundation to continue his legacy.

      Shirley also thanked Gary Serra, Ryan McKinley, and Kevin Mazzone for helping to organize the event.

      Kevin Mazzone, Ryan McKinley, and Gary Serra
      Craig Takeuchi

      Like many LGBT events and even Pride itself, underlying the celebratory event was a serious cause that a special guest speaker brought attention to. 

      Adding a sombre note to the evening, a client of the Dr. Peter Centre, Eduardo, told his personal story that served as a moving tribute to what the centre has to offer.

      He said that despite being diagnosed with HIV when he was 19 years old, he continued on with life as usual.

      “For the next 10 years, I spent a lot of time not paying a lot of attention to my health. I was heavily into partying. I was doing crazy stuff, always thinking that I was invincible.”

      Then he said that two and a half years ago, he was diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma, a skin cancer which is prevalent among people who have HIV or AIDS. It was the same cancer that Dr. Peter had.

      Craig Takeuchi

      Even after that diagnosis, he said, he failed to attend to his health.

      Consequently, he said he had to be placed in medically induced coma for a few days last year. Doctors, he said, had “very little expectations” about him leaving the hospital—but he did.

      Since that time, he became client of Dr. Peter Centre, which he credited with playing a “great part” in his recovery.

      “To be honest, I was just coming for the food at the beginning,” he said with a laugh, before turning serious again. “I would love to tell you that everything is great with my health right now but as you can obviously see it’s not.”

      He said that speaking at the event was part of his gratitude for the help he received.

      “This is the least I can do—to share my story with you guys,” he said.

      TD Bank's Grant Minish
      Craig Takeuchi

      The evening also included speeches from ViiV Healthcare community relations manager Matthew Halse and TD Bank LGBTQ2+ business development regional manager Grant Minish.

      The evening managed to raise over $77,000.

      ViiV Healthcare's Matthew Halse
      Craig Takeuchi

      Fundraising efforts continue on throughout Pride season in Vancouver, including tonight (July 25) with the Lady in Red Pride Ball from 7 to 10 p.m. at Hotel Vancouver (900 West Georgia Street) and at the Pride Parade Waffle Breakfast from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on August 4 at Whole Foods Market (1675 Robson Street).

      Dr. Peter Centre
      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.