Raising money seemed like the easy part compared to having to be at Dodgers Stadium by 7 a.m. on a Saturday.
But an enthusiastic team representing the Los Angeles LGBT Center showed up by check-in time on March 7 to participate in The Big 5K. The team raised more than $32,000 to benefit the Center’s vital programs and services.
Team members were tasked with raising at least $350 in donations. In the end, 36 met that goal, 12 raised more than $1,000, and two team members reached the $2,500 mark. Several other members raised hundreds of dollars each.
“We didn’t have huge expectations in our first year, we really just wanted to rally our troops together,” said the Center’s Membership Manager Rani DeMesme-Anders who served as team captain. “We have an enthusiastic Center community, and it really has been just a joy. We are over the moon grateful.”
The course shared a starting line with the Los Angeles Marathon which was to take place the next day. The 5K finished steps from Dodger Stadium after team members completed a 3.1 miles route through Elysian Park.
“Raising money for the 5K has given me a chance to explain to people all that the Center does and why these funds are important for our youth, our seniors, our legal services, and so much more,” said participant Robert Gamboa who is a policy advocate and community organizer at the Center.
Mike Freeman, program supervisor of the Center’s Community Action Network, enjoyed the camaraderie of being a member of the team comprised of more than 90 members.
“People just really care and want to work together,” he said. “We are all collaborating together to make it to the finish line.”
For crew member Shelby Vasco, participating in the 5K on behalf of the Center was deeply personal.
“I’m part of the LGBT community, and I know how important funding is for those who can’t afford their own resources,” she said. “People liked that I gave some heartfelt reasons about why I wanted to raise some money.”
Vasco explained that she grew up in a conservative, religious area of Virginia “where I was told to live silently and not be who I am,” she said.
“There’s so much happiness that can be experienced if you don’t listen to those voices and find your own truth,” she said. “I moved to Los Angeles with such great resources and to have a Center like this is life-changing.”