Quilts, cycling & HIV

By Corey Ralph, Founder & Organizer of Fight Song


Growing up in a small fishing village 90 kilometres west of St. John’s, Newfoundland I was blessed to have parents that encouraged my brothers and I to do everything.  My dad taught us how to fish, cut wood, do plumbing and electrical and a host of other chores required in a family that owned and operated an inshore fishing enterprise. My mother instilled in us the need to learn all of the important daily tasks, like learning how to cook. As a result, my brothers and I developed many necessary skills to be successful.  Given my early childhood and the way my parents raised me, I’ve never been afraid to set high goals for myself.  My friends call me an overachiever and say that “Corey does everything well.”  I completely disagree with them. The fact is, I do well with the things for which I am passionate.

People often ask me how I started quilting.  Upon reflection, there isn’t one event that got me started on my quilting journey.  Rather it was a collection of events that piqued my interest. Again going back to my hometown and the values I learned growing up there was a big influence in my decision to begin quilting.  From as far back as I can remember, there were quilts in our house.  Some gifts from my grandmothers, some made by my mom, some store bought.  Each quilt held a story.  Whether it was made from old clothing, given as a present or simply created to toss on a bed to keep us warm.  I was visiting my mom in September of 2014 and at that time she was working on a quilt.  She exclaimed that she feared the art of quilt making, particularly in our village, would be like so many other traditions and replaced by modern or store bought items. Having a deep respect for tradition and value for the artwork that kept me warm throughout my humbled upbringing, I asked my mom to teach me how to quilt; to teach me another skill, not unlike the other skills she had taught my brothers and I so many years ago.  Since November 2014, I have completed 22 quilts and I have 6 others in various stages of being completed.  The fact is, I have become addicted to art form.  I’ve become a member of two local quilts guilds, I am a member of the Canadian Quilter’s Association, and have participated in a world ‘Share Jane” quilt project that will be premiered in France in September and Houston in October 2016.

Quilting has also become a perfect segue to my fundraising and awareness campaigns for HIV & AIDS.  For nearly 30 years, quilting has become a way to honour the lives of those lost to HIV & AIDS.  The AIDS Memorial quilt is the testament to the number of individuals impacted by the disease and the diagnosis.  Just as a quilt brought me comfort as a child, so does a quilt bring comfort to those left behind to mourn for a lost loved one.  I am very proud to be able to use my new skill to help raise funds and awareness for HIV & AIDS.  I am particularly proud to be working with HIV Edmonton on our current Quilt Raffle.

A big part of my journey to bring awareness and fundraising for HIV/AIDS brought me to California for the annual AIDS Lifecycle ride in 2013.  This coming June, I will once again be joining over 3,000 Cyclists, Roadies and Virtual Cyclists in the 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise funds for the life-saving services offered by San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. My personal goal is to raise $3000 for our American friends and to raise an equal amount for HIV Edmonton.

The AIDS Lifecycle ride is truly a life changing experience.  It challenges you physically, mentally and emotionally.  The route itself brings you through some of the most beautiful country on the West Coast.  On day one, all 3000 riders leave San Francisco and head south to LA.  Day one is relatively easy, we ride about 90 kilometres before tenting for the night.  Day two is most challenging as it includes 179 kilometres of riding, 45 kilometres of which are at 8% incline. Days 3-6 see us going through several well-known California cities, (Santa Barbara, Malibu) and landmarks (and by Cher’s house).  It isn’t until Day 7 when you see the finish line and hear the throngs of people that are there to cheer you on, that it really hits you what you’ve accomplished.  There are always tears, and exuberance once you cross the finish line.  For me, the experience was summed up by a man maybe in is late 40’s who said that he could rest easy that night because he knew he would have his medication covered and that he was not going to be evicted from his place.  He thanked everyone that crossed the finish line for making that possible for him.

I am proud to say that I came back from the 2013 Lifecycle with a better awareness of HIV & AIDS and a deeper appreciation for those who work with vulnerable populations. I also came away with a desire to know more about the work being done by HIV Edmonton.  On the flight back home from Los Angles, after 7 days of the most challenging physical exercise I’d ever done, I committed to doing the Lifecycle ride every second year for as long as I am physically able. I also committed to including our local HIV organization in the proceeds I generate – I am happy to have HIV Edmonton as a partner in my journey!

For tickets to Fight Song, please click here.


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