By Marene Gustin
There are 27,650 people in Harris County living with HIV/AIDS. Chefs Paul Hill and Carlos Villarreal are just two of them.
“I really don’t know if we would still be alive without the help of AIDS Foundation Houston,” says Villarreal.
The couple, together for 20 years and married just last year when Texas was forced to allow their union by the Supreme Court ruling, are both restaurant veterans. But four years ago they decided to follow their dreams and started Skratch Food Truck, one of the first food trucks to offer lobster rolls. Skratch is the only gay-owned and -operated food truck in Houston, and it turns out some mighty fine food. If you want to try their Bayou City fried chicken sandwich, you can chow down on one at the AFH’s 27th Annual AIDS Walk Houston this March 6 presented by Marathon Oil in downtown Houston.
“I’d like to walk,” says Villarreal, “but I might have to man the truck if it’s really busy. I’m organizing some other food trucks to be there as well.” Ten percent of food sales will go to AFH.
But that’s not all he and Hill are organizing.
Three years ago they started Team Skratch to garner donations and walk. Last year they raised $8,000 for the foundation that supports those in our community living with the virus and that also funds prevention efforts. Villarreal also bought red umbrellas for his walkers, “because it always rains on the walk.”
The image of a pack of volunteers with those red umbrellas was so powerful that the foundation decided to incorporate red umbrellas into the whole walk, giving them to walkers who raise a certain amount of money by the deadline.
AFH CEO Kelly Young says they fought hard to bring sunshine to last year’s walk. “But it did rain, and when we saw what Team Skratch did, we said, ‘Why fight the weather! Let’s get lots of red umbrellas.’” And the Red Umbrella Stroll was born.
“Of course,” says Young, “that means it will be sunny this year.”
She says Team Skratch is amazing. “They adopted our model of team-building, and they are so engaged. They take this idea that everyone needs to be involved—they really remind me of why I do this work.”
AFH is hoping to garner 100 teams this year and raise $600,000.
As for Team Skratch, Villarreal says they are hoping to get 100 walkers and raise $15,000. They are off to a good start. They raised $2,000 at a kickoff fundraiser and are hosting other events including a bake sale. If you’re planning to walk this year and don’t already have a team, you can’t do better than Team Skratch. Go red umbrellas!
What: AIDS Walk Houston 2016
When: Sunday, March 6, at noon
Where: Sam Houston Park
Marene Gustin is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.