The 7th annual Running of the Gays took Denver by storm Sunday as about 60 runners—in heels—strutted down 17th Avenue to fundraise for at-risk LGBTQ youth programs and suicide prevention.
Participants sported “I brought the gay” t-shirts, feather boas and all kind of vivacious attire for the three block strut. Noticeable pre-run performances included a song by drag queen Ms. Kennedy and poetry readings from kids in Art from Ashes —a program designed to provide at-risk LGBTQ and marginalized youth with empowering creative outlets.
Director Catherine O’Neill Thorn said the event is almost a cliche, but it is all in good fun.
“People think, ‘I can’t believe you are representing gays this way, it’s such a stereotype,’” she said. “But we make light so we can serve a population at risk of abuse, homelessness and suicide.”
Art from Ashes has served about 10,000 youth over the years by providing a support network for kids and empowering them through creativity.
“People write their own stories about you, and you are forced to live that reality,” said Ray Rodriguez, president of the Art from Ashes board. “We give [kids] the opportunity to write their own stories.”
Rachel Icolari, 17, was one of the program participants who read poetry before the run. She said she found Art from Ashes through a rehab program and has been attending workshops at least once per week for a year. Icolari said Arts from Ashes changed her life.
“I decided that I’m not going to drop out [of school] and live on the street,” she said. “ I’m going to do something meaningful with my life. I want to be a special ed teacher.”
Participants were encouraged to raise money for Voz y Corazon, a Denver-based suicide prevention program designed specifically for teens. And runners came from all different backgrounds. O’Neill Thorn said about half of participants were heterosexual-identifying allies.
Mariesa Ho and Xavier Gitiaux came clad in bright attire.
“We only had one tutu,” Ho said.
“I got the tutu,” Gitiaux laughed.
Both immigrated to the United States, Ho from the Philippines and Gitiaux from France. Ho emphasized the importance of having a support network in high school—something she badly needed when she first arrived in the U.S.
Although the subject matter was heavy, participants kept the mood light.
“I know I walked out of here with a ton of shoe envy,” Ho said. “Unintended consequence: Everyone goes shoe shopping after.”
After the strut, the group headed to X Bar on Colfax, where there were more performances, foot rubs and all around good times.
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