Tomas Soto tackled the Chicago Triathlon last Aug. 28 with a lot on his mindand not just that it was his first tri ever.
"I've lost many, many close friends in this 30-year fight against AIDS and I wanted to honor them, as well as honoring my close friends who are currently living with HIV," said Soto, who trained for the tri with the Team To End AIDS ( T2 ) , the endurance-training program of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) . " [ Plus ] , the date of the triathlon, Aug. 28, was the one-year anniversary of my neck surgery for cervical stenosis.
"In August 2010, I was laid up wearing a neck brace 24/7 with minimal strength in my right tricep. Although I wasn't at 100-percent strength [ during the triathlon ] in my right triceps, it was a milestone in re-claiming my health."
Soto also raised nearly $5,000 for AFC, thanks to the support of family and friends.
"I decided to start competing in triathlon at the age of 50 through T2 for many reasons," Soto said. "First, the fight against AIDS isn't over. While progress has been made, the epidemic is far from over, and HIV/AIDS budget cuts loom in the future."
Soto has worked at AFC for almost five years.
"AFC is a professional organization that still maintains a community-based feel," Soto said. "The projects I evaluate I find very interesting. We focus on real world solutions to better the lives of the clients we serve. I also get the opportunity to work with some bright, motivated co-workers who share a similar passion to social justice, and a strong desire to make a difference.
"I know that things can get kind of crazy when we need to submit a federal grant on short deadlines. There's lots of running around, little sleep, and long hours. That said, it's a great feeling when we do get awarded a new grant; it's something you need to experience."
Before joining AFC, Soto was working in academics and doing independent consulting, but needed a change.
"We work hard, but also play hard," at AFC, Soto said. "I can always count on somebody making me laugh after a long day at work."
Director of research, evaluation & data services; AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Working out, Brazilian jujitsu
Favorite local restaurant
Cannot live without
"My partner and my dogs"
Cubs or White Sox
It's a fact
Won a gold medal in martial arts at the 1998 Gay Games in Amsterdam