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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Garofalo, Fred (Says) on Capitol Hill, re-launches charity
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

This article shared 1710 times since Sun Apr 14, 2013
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Dr. Robert Garofalo endured multiple personal issues over a near-five year span, including a cancer diagnosis, a breakup with his longtime partner and having to handle his own HIV-positive diagnosis.

"I found myself in a very dark and lonely place, was really struggling," Garofalo said.

So, a few years ago, at about 1 a.m, he went online and searched "Puppies, Chicago." The first picture he saw was an adorable 8-pound Yorkshire terrier, named Fred.

"I just knew I had to have him," said Garofalo, who had never been a pet owner up to that point.

Days later, Fred was living in Garofalo's northside home.

"Fred had this almost immediate therapeutic affect on my life. He really brought peace and joy back into my life," Garofalo said.

Fred didn't stop with Garofalo. He has been helping others worldwide after Garofalo in 2010 launched Fred Says, a Chicago-based non-profit charity that raises funds for HIV-positive teens. The charity first offered thank-you cards, e-cards, t-shirts and a $1 Makes A Difference Campaign.

Fred even scored more than 23,000 Facebook friends.

"So far, Fred Says has been great," Garofalo said. "The first year and a half [of the charity] was about finding our footing; this year it's about moving [the program] forward and having it be sustainable."

Fred Says was officially re-launched this week in conjunction with Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on April 10.

Fred Says is now an official 501(c) 3 charity, and the website now offers Fred Says coffee mugs, a dog leash, and even a plush toy made in the image of Fred. In June, Fred Says will announce two additional partners that will be recipients of funds raised—one in New York City and one in Los Angeles, to go with the existing Chicago location.

"I have been really inspired by how much this crazy idea, how much traction, how much support it's received," Garofalo said. "I think 2013 is going to be a real turning point for us.

"The goal is the same, to create a self-sustaining charity."

And who knows, maybe watch Fred, in the process, grow to Hello Kitty or Boo fame.

"If everyone who cared about HIV, or pets, would contribute $1, we would have millions of dollars and be able to support the care and services that HIV-positive teenagers need," said Garofalo, a physician and professor at Northwestern University.

"Another aspect of the re-launch was me really, for the first time, being able to talk openly about my own HIV-positive diagnosis, and have that be part of the story that is behind Fred and Fred Says."

Garofalo went to Washington D.C., to lobby with young people on Capitol Hill and support Advocates for Youth, hosted by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (California), and he said the event "was great."

"HIV is unlike any disease known to mankind. If you get cancer or any other disease, you will without question get the love and support of friends and family to help you get through. Not so for HIV/AIDS. With an HIV-positive diagnosis comes a lot of stigma and shame. You cannot just assume that, if diagnosed [as] HIV-positive, that you will have the love and support of your friends—and that makes HIV a very different disease."

Fred is part of Garofalo's way to lessen the stigma and shame of talking about HIV—and boy has the energetic four-legged friend taken to the task.

"To use an animal to talk about some complicated subjects, that was my plan, and the concept has really taken hold—and I hope that speaks to the creativity of [the charity]," Garofalo said. "Fred truly has saved my life in some meaningful ways, and the community has really embraced Fred and this novel idea. Things are great for me now;

I have my life back; I have my silly [ways] back."

Garofalo this summer will participate in the annual Ride For AIDS Chicago for the second year in a row. He raised about $20,000 for the Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) through his Ride participation in 2012, partially due to "a very generous matching-donation [offer] from an HIV-affected family that I know."

"The Ride was super emotional for me for multiple reasons," Garofalo said. "Last year's Ride was about closing those chapters in my life that were dark. This year, it's about moving forward."

Garofalo is again riding, and fundraising, this summer in support of TPAN.

-The "Men of Fred Casting Party and Fundraiser" is scheduled for Saturday, May 11, from 12 -3 p.m., at Sidetrack in Lakeview. The inaugural Fred Says calendar, for 2014, will feature Cyon Flare as the host of the event. The chosen men will be photographed by Chicago photographer Timmy Samuels of Star Belly Studios this summer. The calendar will be released in the fall. The calendar will feature all types of men from all backgrounds and identities, Garofalo said.

-To donate to TPAN in support of Garofalo's 200-mile bicycle ride in the annual Ride For AIDS Chicago, go to:

-For more information, go to:

This article shared 1710 times since Sun Apr 14, 2013
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