On Wednesday, July 31, Kiehl’s University Village location kicked off the 4th Annual LifeRide for amfAR. Seattle Mayor, Mike McGinn, declared the day “Kiehl’s LifeRide in Seattle Day.” Miss A writers Andrea Davis Gonzalez, Stacey Mertes, Laura Garcia Pendergrast, and I had the opportunity to attend the event.
Sponsored by Harley-Davidson Authorized Rentals and Delta Airlines and led by Kiehl’s President, Chris Salgardo, and amfAR’s CEO, Kevin Robert Frost, LifeRide for amfAR is a nine day philanthropic motorcycle ride raising funds and awareness for amfAR – The Foundation for AIDS Research. Food and drinks for the event were provided by Jones Soda, Sahale Snacks, Halfpops and Oberto Beef Jerky.
Joining Chris and Kevin at the kick off were celebrities John Corbett, Gilles Marini, Grant Reynolds, World Cup Champion rugby player Ben Cohen (who runs an amazing charity called The Ben Cohen Standup Foundation – whose mission is to raise awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying and to raise funds to support those doing real-world work to stop it), photographer Jon Beck and artist Conrad Leach. The Harley riders assembled together at the Kiehl’s Bellevue location in the morning and arrived in Seattle a little after 12 p.m. to throngs of doting fans.
Upon their arrival, they all mingled with the crowd, took pictures with fans and signed autographs before having group photos taken at the step and repeating.
Kiehl’s President, Chris Salgardo, opened the afternoon with a $150,000 check presentation to amfAR and spoke to the crowd about the Kiehl’s philosophy and their partnership with amfAR. Kiehl’s started as an apothecary before Abraham Lincoln became President of the United States. 160 years later, Kiehl’s remains committed to the service of their customers by giving back to the community. Kiehl’s is actively engaged in three different charitable initiatives, protecting the environment, children’s well-being and HIV/AIDS education and prevention. Right now, Kiehl’s customers can purchase the Ultimate Strength Hand Salve and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to amfAR. Kevin believes that the 1,550 mile journey from Seattle to Los Angeles is symbolic of the journey to the cure for AIDS.
amFAR CEO, Kevin Frost, spoke after Chris. Founded in 1985, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, is dedicated to ending the global AIDS epidemic through innovative research. With the freedom and flexibility to respond quickly to emerging areas of scientific promise, amfAR plays a catalytic role in accelerating the pace of HIV/AIDS research and achieving real breakthroughs. amfAR-funded research has increased understanding of HIV and has helped lay the groundwork for major advances in the study and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $366 million in its mission and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide. The research funding is made possible partly by companies such as Kiehl’s providing financial support. Kevin spoke about a Berlin patient, a child and two people in Malaysia who have all been cured of AIDS – all were funded with amfAR research dollars. Kevin hopes to one day look in the rear view mirror at HIV/AIDS.
We had the opportunity to interview Chris Salgardo, Kevin Frost and John Corbett.
How did you two meet and start this great partnership between Kiehl’s and amfAR?
Chris: I have personally been involved with amfAR since 1993 when all I could do was write a check for $20. When I joined Kiehl’s in 2000, I learned more about this great organization and, as President, I amplified it. I wanted to get out there and really make a difference and raise money for them. There are so many great organizations out there and amfAR is really making a difference.
Kevin: Actually, the partnership predates me and I’ve been at amfAR for 19 years. Early on in the AIDS epidemic, Kiehl’s got involved in the fight against AIDS. They were looking for a partner that fit their corporate culture. They are very community focused and really engaged in the community in which they work. They understood the threat of AIDS and they got involved very early and amfAR was one of the first organizations in America that was really fighting against HIV and AIDS. amfAR is not a service organization, we are a research organization and Kiehl’s was really invested in solutions. They wanted to figure out how to end the AIDS epidemic and not just make life better for people living with it. They believed we were the right partner and Kiehl’s was certainly the right partner for us.
What does it mean to you bringing the LifeRide for amfAR to Seattle?
Chris: John and I rode in together for the first time last year and after we finished, we were having a drink and I asked him where we should go next. He lived in Seattle for 15 years and I love Seattle and I knew we had two stores in the Seattle area. It worked out perfectly because I wanted to get out to the Northwest. Part of the idea of LifeRide is not only funding, but raising awareness.
Kevin: I’ve been in Seattle many times over the years. We have supported a number of research scientists from UW and other places. I love the Pacific Northwest, I love Seattle, I love the beauty of Seattle, I love the climate. I know some people complain about that all the time, but I love it. To be able to start the ride here and go south down the Pacific coast is like a dream come true. People who ride motorcycles like I do, this is the perfect ride! I’ve only been riding for two years, but I learned to ride because of this.
John: I helped bring the event here. Last year when we were taking our ride, we were having a couple beers one night. Chris, Grant and I were talking about where to go next and we were talking about going to Alaska. I said, “Have you ever been to Seattle?” I used to ride my bike through here all the time when I lived here, like through the Snoqualmie Pass. Chris said, “You know, I have two stores up there, that’s a great place to start the ride.”
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about HIV/AIDS that you have come across?
Chris: Without a doubt, it’s the fact that people think that it’s gone away. Unfortunately, it’s on the rise with young men, on the rise with lesbians and people just aren’t practicing safe sex. We’ve got to figure out a way to keep this on the radar in the United States, China and Africa. It’s an epidemic. We know what happened here in the late 80’s and early 90’s. But its human nature, if people are going to do it, they are going to do it. We’ve really got to get the word out there.
Kevin: Over the years, there have been many and I’ve probably come across all of them in my 25 years in fighting the epidemic. Today, the biggest misconception is that its over. Its faded in the headlines, there are other priorities like terrorism, wars, and the economy. All of those things are more in the forefront in most people’s minds, but there are over 50,000 people infected with HIV every year here in America and people are still dying from this disease. We’ve made tremendous progress, but we are far from this being over. We want it to be the end. Now the struggle is where we were 25 years ago, we are once again trying to educate people on how to protect themselves. We struggle with that now, because people think it’s gone. Knowledge is power.
What other charities does Kiehl’s work with?
Chris: I chose AIDS and HIV because the original owner of Kiehl’s had supported it, so I feel like I needed to continue that. But this cause is very near and dear to me – I lost a good friend to AIDS, many of my friends are living with HIV/AIDS and we’ve lost so many people, I don’t want to lose anymore. We also support environmental causes such as Recycle & Be Rewarded. They are absolutely going to change the recycling in this country. The planet will be fine, but we won’t be if we don’t start recycling. Lastly, we support children’s well-being. It is critically important that we do everything we can for our kids. There is an organization called Share Our Strength, and we are doing a big push to help them in December. Twenty four million kids are going hungry in this country, in the United States – it’s insane! We have to make a difference, we just have to. We are also committed to a lot of other things.
How long have you been involved with amfAR?
John: Last year was my first ride, Miami Beach to DC over nine days. The Smokey Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, it was beautiful but it was hot. We started earlier but mostly rode in t-shirts because it was so hot. This time I have my full leather jacket.
Do you have any shows coming up?
John: I do! We are going out in September and October and playing in Texas, Nebraska, Chicago – I’ll put them on the website. We don’t have any California or Seattle dates. We need to do a nice West Coast run, start in San Diego and work our way up. We’ve only played Oregon once but we have played in Seattle twice.