The Camp 10 – Eric Thomas

(l-r) Jonathan Gregory, Eric Thomas and their beloved Golden Retrievers. Photo courtesy of Eric Thomas

The arrival of September means I’m seeing school buses and kids in backpacks, and the days aren’t quite as hot. With it being a little cooler, I am more willing to get outdoors to watch some of the local sports league games. This month, I interviewed Eric Thomas, who has been working with a great group of people to bring a nonprofit LGBTQ+ sports league to Kansas City. Eric is also the president of the AIDS Service Foundation and has worked with KC’s annual AIDS Walk. Thank you, Eric, for all that you are doing in our community!

Are you from the Kansas City area?

KC-born and raised in Independence, MO. … Graduated from UMKC, so I love this town!

I understand that you are the president of the AIDS Service Foundation. Please tell me about the work this organization does in the community.

 AIDS Service Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on raising funds that stay right here in KC to treat the 5,700 people living with HIV/AIDS, while partnering with AIDS Service Organizations such as Save Inc., Hope Care Center, Thrive Health Connection and KC Care Health Center, which are focused on prevention, treatment, education and awareness around this disease. We distribute grants to other organizations around town who share our desire to bring the HIV/AIDS conversation deeper into communities.

What things would you like to see the group accomplish in the next year under your leadership?

 We are here today because of the efforts of so many people within our city who continue to fight day in and day out against HIV/AIDS. I am excited to bring new friends into the fight and to combine these two forces to bring AIDS Service Foundation to the forefront of the HIV/AIDS conversation.

Former Mayor Sly James was an ally. Do you hope to have similar results with Mayor Quinton Lucas? Please explain.

Sly was a terrific city leader and a great partner to ASFKC!  We are thrilled to see Quinton ascend as our next mayor with his contagious charisma as we will all benefit from his leadership.  We share a similar passion in our desire to make KC a city that works for all people!

I know that you’ve been involved with the AIDS Walk, which is the last Saturday of April in Kansas City. How did you become involved? 

What AIDS Walk activities have you been involved in? [Combined answer for questions 5 and 6.]

I’ve always felt the need to align my energy with this important fight, and I’ve been involved with AIDS Service Foundation of Kansas City for nearly 15 years in many capacities, ranging from individual fundraiser to event co-chair. I was fortunate enough to start with Millennial League in hopes of bringing the HIV/AIDS conversation to a younger demographic. Last year, we had our best fundraising year for my AIDS Walk team – Eric’s Army – eclipsing $10,000 for our first time ever!  Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 25, 2020!

How do you see HIV/AIDS affecting your generation compared to previous ones?

 My generation isn’t dying of HIV/AIDS, but we are living with it, which creates an entirely new approach. While we have medical advances that have improved conditions, we still have … populations who don’t have access to medical care to diagnose and treat the disease nor the education and awareness around the spread to prevent further diagnoses. I am inspired by the caring hearts of people who have lost partners, brothers and family members to the disease and I am fueled by their passion to continue the fight to prevent anyone else losing a loved one due to HIV/AIDS.

You seem to be pretty busy! Are you involved in any other philanthropic organizations?

As the famous saying goes, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” It’s true. Throughout my philanthropic activities, I’ve maintained a love of community and for bringing people together while improving lives. I am also working with a wonderful group of people to bring a nonprofit LGBTQ+ sports league to KC – Stonewall Sports KC (www.stonewallkansascity.org).

(l-r) Johnathan Gregory and Eric Thomas. Photo: Studio Dan Meiners

What do you like to do when you’re not busy with work and your philanthropic work?

My partner, Jonathan Gregory, and I are extremely lucky to have a strong group of friends with tremendous hearts. We enjoy getting together to laugh and enjoy this crazy thing we call “life.” We love being outside and checking out local events, so chances are, you will see us around town. We also love to dance (twirl) and enjoy local cuisine!

I hear that you have two adorable golden retrievers!

We have two amazing golden retrievers, Jax (who just turned 12!) and Max (who we adopted in Fall 2017).