My dear friend Rob Vassilarakis, also known as "Simply Rob" of the unique and wonderful Grito de Poetas, is running to raise money for Harlem United (and to keep his sexy body tight and healthy.) He is a truly inspirational person who touches thousands with his genuine soul and downright gritty words that reveal the beauty of overcoming adversity and the joy of redemption. Below is the copy from his Harlem United pledge page. You can click on the photo of him running to donate!
I have decided to run 13.1 miles in the NYC Half Marathon on March 20th in benefit of Harlem United AIDS Services Center, although I must admit that I was a bit reluctant.
If you're anything like me, you too are experiencing the brutal winter blues. I HATE the cold and I'm affected by light deprivation during a normal winter. Add to that all the bad weather we've had this year and a horrible 2-3 week flu (my first flu in years). All of this has really taken a toll on my spirits. The harsh winter and streets full of snow, slush and ice have also made for less than ideal running conditions, making it difficult to train BUT despite all that, I have decided to represent anyway.
First and foremost, I have to keep it gully with myself. When I was in my active addiction to crystal meth, not winter, bad weather, icy pavements, flu, hell or high water EVER kept me from going out and getting high. At my lowest point, I was a strung out iv crystal meth abuser, homeless on the streets of NYC with little more than my life and the clothes on my back. My dependency was a fierce problem and Harlem United (HU) was part of my solution.
I came to HU's El Faro site day program on East 116th Street in the Spring of 2007. At the time I was staying in an in-patient drug treatment program called The Addicts Rehabilitation Center (ARC), a 6-9 month in-patient program in West Harlem. ARC was a step up from a homeless shelter or a minimum security correctional facility. I stayed there (in a 6 man room) for 11 months with hundreds of other residents who had either been released to ARC as a condition of their parole, as an alternative to being locked up or who had walked in homeless off the street like myself. I never disclosed my sexual orientation or HIV status for concern of my safety and well being.
Luckily, Harlem United El Faro was just blocks away. I attained permission to attend support and recovery groups there by bending the truth a bit and saying they were health, nutrition, and art therapy "classes" which in fact were all group services that HU offers. Attending these groups allowed me to process my issues as a gay, HIV positive, addict in a safe space with other individuals like myself. I don't know if I would have made it through without HU. To date I am more than 2 years free of Crystal Meth.
I am currently an alumni of the El Faro day program but I still receive my medical services and weekly therapy sessions there. I am forever grateful for HU and as I continue to receive support, I think it only right to give back. Please help my by donating to this agency that continues to serve as a port in the storm for so many in the Harlem area and beyond.