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Advocacy

Friends Together’s advocacy stretches from school board meetings in small towns to Congressional Hearings in Washington DC. Friends Together volunteers have served in active positons for Florida Community Planning Groups in both Patient Care and Prevention seats. Our volunteers have been actively involved in the Consumer Caucus and ADAP working groups. Several of our volunteers currently serve in leadership positions on FHAN. (Florida HIV AIDS Network)

Our advocacy roots proceed Friends Together’s formation. As many of you know Cathy’s story served as the backdrop to many visits in the halls of Tallahassee and DC. Cathy was one of the founding board members of Florida AIDS Action Council which eventually evolved into the AIDS Institute, one of the leading HIV policy and advocacy organizations in the United States. Cathy has also served on a number of national patient care advocacy boards.

Friends Together has worked hard to educate patients and families to take an active role in the political structure that shapes their care and services.

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Education

Education and Prevention are the foundations on which Friends Together was born.  Cathy spent countless hours in hundreds of classrooms between 1992-2002. There was hardly a school day she wasn’t teaching in a classroom somewhere. As the years passed stories began to mount from children and educators impacted by HIV/AIDS. These stories were what eventually moved Cathy and Steve to form Friends Together.

Education and Prevention continues to be the moving force behind our programs. Awareness and Prevention programs for HIV/STD’s, Domestic Violence and Bullying are available for students and faculty of all ages. Cathy also continues to teach CE and CME for medical professionals on the topics of HIV/AIDS, Domestic Violence and Medical Errors. We have volunteers willing to speak at any conference, school, church or organization who ask.

Tanzania, 2015

Africa

Our first journey to Tanzania was to fulfill our late cofounder Steve Pickett’s lifelong dream to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. The trip served as a fundraiser for our local programs and an educational event for our volunteers who teach in U.S. schools. Once we set foot in Moshi we fell in love with the people and realized that Tanzania had been ravaged by the AIDS epidemic and we had the ability to help! We have maintained close relationships with local people and groups over the last decade and have continued to support local schools and orphanages in the region. According to the United Nations, AIDS is the leading cause of death of young people in Tanzania, and we want to help them have a future!

Our second trip to Tanzania we spent 3 ½ weeks in the Moshi region. We visited schools and orphanages throughout the region and delivered close to 1000 pounds of medical and school supplies.

Our most recent trip to Tanzania was in July, 2015. We conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro and hand-delivered over 2,000 lbs of school and medical supplies.

How can YOU help with our next trip?

  • You can help by collecting medical and school supplies for schools, orphanages, and clinics in the Moshi region. Ask your friends, churches, organizations, or schools to host a collection drive.

  • You can contribute or raise funds for one of our volunteers’ GoFundMe sites. GoFundMe is an online way for our travelers to raise money for travel expenses and supplies. You can also promote our volunteers’ sites to your friends and on social media.

  • You can donate miles toward a volunteer’s airfare or fund an airline ticket.

  • You can donate gift cards from Bass Pro Shop, Dicks Sporting Goods, WalMart, or Target. They will be used for volunteer needs, such as travel gear and safety equipment, and to purchase easily transportable sports equipment for the Tanzanian children.

 

Can YOU go with us? Absolutely just ask us how!

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Bike Rides

Friends Together is famous for our 500 Miles in 5 Days Bike Ride from Tallahassee to Naples, founded by Thomas Croce. Tom, a teacher at Gulf Coast High School, in Naples Fl was moved to action when he heard Cathy speak to students at his school. For 6 years Tom led the charge and the ride raising thousands of dollars and donating countless hours. The ride is a huge part of our history. As our camp kids got older we transitioned the ride to 300 Miles in 3 Days so that our teens could be involved. We held our last ride in 2010…….but as we remerge we will soon be riding for a cause again so stay tuned for details and dates!

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Christmas

Christmas is so important to children of all ages. Friends Together hosted our first Christmas party for families in Central Florida in December of 2002. Our first party was a whole day event and we collected gifts and food for over 200 people. That set in motion our annual Christmas party. We have hosted an event every year since. Over time as our Friends Together camp program began to take shape we began to host weekend Christmas events in Lakeland and would bring our families from all over the state. 

As our kids grew up and our family’s needs changed we changed as well. Since 2009 we collect gift cards and movie passes and host a holiday dinner. Though our kids no longer look for Santa they do look forward to seeing their friends and the fellowship of being together. You can always help with this event as we need volunteers and gift cards. You can email us for information.

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Camps

Friends Together camp programs were the brain child of Steve Pickett. Cathy was extremely ill in 2001, and was literally planning for her transition. Steve and Cathy brought about 25 people together in Lakeland to talk about what her legacy should be. As Cathy talked about the children she would meet in schools and the stories they would tell her about the secrets they were keeping that they shouldn’t have to keep….Steve proclaimed that they should host camps for families. These camps would be places for people to get a plan to live instead of a plan to die. 

Friends-Together hosted 32 camps for families, whatever someone’s family was…gay couples,, straight couples, single parents and grandparents raising grand babies. Our families have all grown up now. We are still in contact and continue to be Friends Together and family forever!