Our Friends Together Family

Friends Together is one organization made up of many amazing volunteers. 

 
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CATHY ROBINSON PICKETT, Founder & Director

Cathy and her late husband Steve founded Friends Together in 2000. Cathy's journey with HIV began when she was infected as a result of a sexual assault in 1984. Their dream was to help make a better future one person at a time through education and compassion.

They began by helping families in Central Florida while educating thousands of students across the state. Their mission quickly expanded to serving families across the state of Florida and presenting countless programs in various organizations and universities across the country. Eventually, their dreamed crossed the world to help children and families in Tanzania, Africa.

Cathy continues to spread her message of compassion and education. Her unique perspective of living with HIV for over 30 years gives hope to those in need and inspiration to those in her classes.

KEN BARGAR, VOLUNTEER Hello, My name is Ken Bargar, 51 and Volunteer Coordinator with Friends Together. I was fortunate to have been involved with Friends Together since its inception. I have attended every camp but one. Watching the kids grow up and learn from us about how to live with this disease and to know that others out there were like them was the best experience of my life! They made lifelong friends and are still talking with most of them via e-mails, texts or social media. Our camps have been educational, fun and entertaining for all of us. We have been through many happy times as well as a few sad ones. We have always been there for each other and I think some of us are better people for it. I have made both (2) trips to Africa with Friends Together to take supplies, educate and learn from them, memories I will never forget. I hope you can take some time out of your busy life to join us.... We can always use good volunteers too!

KEN BARGAR, VOLUNTEER

Hello, My name is Ken Bargar, 51 and Volunteer Coordinator with Friends Together. I was fortunate to have been involved with Friends Together since its inception. I have attended every camp but one. Watching the kids grow up and learn from us about how to live with this disease and to know that others out there were like them was the best experience of my life! They made lifelong friends and are still talking with most of them via e-mails, texts or social media. Our camps have been educational, fun and entertaining for all of us. We have been through many happy times as well as a few sad ones. We have always been there for each other and I think some of us are better people for it.

I have made both (2) trips to Africa with Friends Together to take supplies, educate and learn from them, memories I will never forget. I hope you can take some time out of your busy life to join us.... We can always use good volunteers too!

KELLY ANDREWS, VOLUNTEER I met Cathy Robinson Pickett in 1998 when the AIDS Quilt was displayed on our campus here at FSC.  As an HIV/AIDS Advocate, I was thrilled to see FSC’s effort to educate our campus and the Lakeland Community about this disease.  Since then I have been an active volunteer with Friends Together participating in a multitude of events including summer camps, fund-raisers, bike rides, holiday gatherings, meetings, trainings, outreach programs and community prevention presentations.  For several years, we celebrated World AIDS Day here on campus with a full day of programming including free HIV/STD testing, chair massages, prevention education, speakers and a candle light vigil.  Cathy has always been the “Main Cog” in the wheel of this prevention work not only here in Lakeland but also in Polk County.  Her leadership with Friends Together over the years has created a ripple effect that has reached thousands, if not millions, not only across our country and but also around the globe.   The amount of love, kindness and compassion that Friends Together has provided our world is priceless.  Because of their work, many young adults are now attending college with the life skills they need to live happy and fulfilling lives.  I am so very proud to be a part of something that truly makes a difference.

KELLY ANDREWS, VOLUNTEER

I met Cathy Robinson Pickett in 1998 when the AIDS Quilt was displayed on our campus here at FSC.  As an HIV/AIDS Advocate, I was thrilled to see FSC’s effort to educate our campus and the Lakeland Community about this disease.  Since then I have been an active volunteer with Friends Together participating in a multitude of events including summer camps, fund-raisers, bike rides, holiday gatherings, meetings, trainings, outreach programs and community prevention presentations. 

For several years, we celebrated World AIDS Day here on campus with a full day of programming including free HIV/STD testing, chair massages, prevention education, speakers and a candle light vigil.  Cathy has always been the “Main Cog” in the wheel of this prevention work not only here in Lakeland but also in Polk County.  Her leadership with Friends Together over the years has created a ripple effect that has reached thousands, if not millions, not only across our country and but also around the globe.   The amount of love, kindness and compassion that Friends Together has provided our world is priceless.  Because of their work, many young adults are now attending college with the life skills they need to live happy and fulfilling lives.  I am so very proud to be a part of something that truly makes a difference.

Nadia rumbolt, VOLUNTEER Friends Together was the first opportunity I was a part of that showed me what a community working together towards a homogeneous goal looked like. I thought finding that outside of family was impossible and if possible, would be difficult. Somehow Cathy created and sustained this community and continued to invite affected and infected people into its family. I kept volunteering because I saw what our efforts could do. People were talking about HIV/AIDS and beyond that, they were learning the truth. Change comes from dialogue and truth. I am now a part of another organization that creates that framily atmosphere, but without Friends Together and Cathy, I won't know what that meant and how it felt. It means awareness and change. It feels like optimism, love, and home. So, thank you Friends Together!

Nadia rumbolt, VOLUNTEER

Friends Together was the first opportunity I was a part of that showed me what a community working together towards a homogeneous goal looked like. I thought finding that outside of family was impossible and if possible, would be difficult. Somehow Cathy created and sustained this community and continued to invite affected and infected people into its family. I kept volunteering because I saw what our efforts could do. People were talking about HIV/AIDS and beyond that, they were learning the truth. Change comes from dialogue and truth. I am now a part of another organization that creates that framily atmosphere, but without Friends Together and Cathy, I won't know what that meant and how it felt. It means awareness and change. It feels like optimism, love, and home. So, thank you Friends Together!

Mariah DepasS, VOLUNTEER In 1992, I was born HIV positive. I found out when I was seven years old and due to the stigma I experienced, I began to hate everything about my life. Around 2004, my grandmother sent me to Cathy’s camp, “Friends-Together.” At first, I hated going because it was a constant reminder that something was wrong with my. But the longer I attended, the more I realized that there was actually nothing wrong with me at all. At camp, I was surrounded by love and truth. I got to meet people of all ages from all walks of life who were dealing with life the best way they knew how to. At camp, I felt it was ok to be different and to make mistakes. We eventually began to refer to Cathy as “Mama Cathy” because she not only provided a safe place for families and individuals living with HIV, but she also provided education and correction when necessary. Now, that I am a young woman with my own child, I want to continue to live in the love and truth that I experienced at Friends-Together. I want to share my story in order to inspire and give back to people the way Mama Cathy did for me. I am now a volunteer with Friends-Together and I look forward to going to Tanzania in order to learn and to spread more love.

Mariah DepasS, VOLUNTEER

In 1992, I was born HIV positive. I found out when I was seven years old and due to the stigma I experienced, I began to hate everything about my life. Around 2004, my grandmother sent me to Cathy’s camp, “Friends-Together.” At first, I hated going because it was a constant reminder that something was wrong with my. But the longer I attended, the more I realized that there was actually nothing wrong with me at all. At camp, I was surrounded by love and truth. I got to meet people of all ages from all walks of life who were dealing with life the best way they knew how to. At camp, I felt it was ok to be different and to make mistakes. We eventually began to refer to Cathy as “Mama Cathy” because she not only provided a safe place for families and individuals living with HIV, but she also provided education and correction when necessary. Now, that I am a young woman with my own child, I want to continue to live in the love and truth that I experienced at Friends-Together. I want to share my story in order to inspire and give back to people the way Mama Cathy did for me. I am now a volunteer with Friends-Together and I look forward to going to Tanzania in order to learn and to spread more love.

GARRETT ROBINSON, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

My name is Garrett Robinson and I have been a Friends Together volunteer since the very beginning. As Cathy’s son, and Assistant Director of Friends Together, I have watched this organization change the lives of so many on our very emotional and powerful journey. Throughout the years I have been involved in every major event: camps, fundraisers, charity bike-rides, educational events, etc. In 2015 I took on Mt. Kilimanjaro during our third relief trip to Tanzania, Africa. It is my goal to make this organization something that continues to inspire and change the lives of others.

Outside of Friends Together, I am the PT Director at Gold's Gym in Lakeland, Florida. 

JESSICA KIRCHER, VOLUNTEER DESIGNER I met Ms. Cathy & Garrett almost two years ago. Garrett and I have been dating for the past year and a half. I am very excited to be a part of the relaunch of Friends Together because I have always wanted to help people in every way that I can. I'm ready to help take Friends Together to new limits and new places and to gather new achievements.  The work that Friends Together has done is inspirational to me. I know that God put me on this earth to inspire, motivate, and change lives. There's a reason why Garrett walked into my life and I couldn't be any more thankful.

JESSICA KIRCHER, VOLUNTEER DESIGNER

I met Ms. Cathy & Garrett almost two years ago. Garrett and I have been dating for the past year and a half. I am very excited to be a part of the relaunch of Friends Together because I have always wanted to help people in every way that I can. I'm ready to help take Friends Together to new limits and new places and to gather new achievements. 

The work that Friends Together has done is inspirational to me. I know that God put me on this earth to inspire, motivate, and change lives. There's a reason why Garrett walked into my life and I couldn't be any more thankful.

Tashoy Walters, VOLUNTEER I often reflect to my first time hearing Cathy Robinson Pickett speak at Florida Southern College back in 2005 during my week of orientation. I thought to myself that I had to have her as my friend or mentor. Fast forward to 2016 and she's is a very prominent woman in my life. In college I worked for Cathy on campus and volunteered for Friends-Together. Then I learned to teach various health related subjects from tobacco awareness, domestic violence,sexual responsibility, healthy eating habits, stress management and other hot button topics. One of the events that I loved every year was our World AIDS Days celebration. It was an event that brought all organizations, race and gender together. We spoke about the importance of knowing your status, we heard others stories, poems and presented gorgeous artistic displays. It was a time where we educated the campus community about sexual health. I am proud tohave continued to be apart of Friends-Together all these years later. A huge highlight of my life so far was my first trip to Tanzania in 2015 and I am so excited for our next trip in 2017. I look forward to continue to educate the world on health issues, changing lives one step at a time.

Tashoy Walters, VOLUNTEER

I often reflect to my first time hearing Cathy Robinson Pickett speak at Florida Southern College back in 2005 during my week of orientation. I thought to myself that I had to have her as my friend or mentor. Fast forward to 2016 and she's is a very prominent woman in my life. In college I worked for Cathy on campus and volunteered for Friends-Together. Then I learned to teach various health related subjects from tobacco awareness, domestic violence,sexual responsibility, healthy eating habits, stress management and other hot button topics. One of the events that I loved every year was our World AIDS Days celebration. It was an event that brought all organizations, race and gender together. We spoke about the importance of knowing your status, we heard others stories, poems and presented gorgeous artistic displays. It was a time where we educated the campus community about sexual health. I am proud tohave continued to be apart of Friends-Together all these years later. A huge highlight of my life so far was my first trip to Tanzania in 2015 and I am so excited for our next trip in 2017. I look forward to continue to educate the world on health issues, changing lives one step at a time.

BUTCH McKAY, VOLUNTEER My name is Butch McKay and I am 65 years old. I am the Executive Director of Okaloosa AIDS Support and Informational Services, Inc. (OASIS) In Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. I have had the great joy of knowing and working with Cathy for many years. She has been a great mentor along with her family. I feel Iike Lindsay and Garrett are my niece and nephew. I was also privileged to know Steve who felt like a brother and treated me as one. I had heard so many wonderful things about the Friends-Together Camps and finally had a opportunity to participate in a camp gathering that was a mind opening experience on the value of family support and love. HIV does not define people, people define HIV and the ways it impacts them. The camp experience made me realize the different ways people approach life, once they find empowerment and support. The people I met and interacted with did not dwell on a disease, the were too busy living. I was so saddened when Cathy had to let the camps go, noticing a void in her heart felt by us all. Later I had the opportunity to travel with Cathy and Garrett and others to Tanzania where my heart was forced to deal with every emotion known to man. At first it broke and I wept at the unbelievable poverty that surrounded me, the thousands of orphans left to become bread winners and caregivers for their siblings. I felt anger toward the world for the lack of medical care and education I witnessed. But forget the negative feelings, I left with the most positive gift. The people of Tanzania are a gift to the heart. They are gentle, loving, caring, responsible people eager to share, destined to love. Where I saw poverty, they saw opportunity to share and to love. They taught me the spirit of the human heart and the strength born within community. They were ONE and invited me in. The same is true of Family-Together, we are ONE and you are invited in. I'm excited for Cathy and her family, but more excited that this powerful love story we call Friends-Together is available for all of us to experience. Don't pass up this opportunity, become part of the Family.

BUTCH McKAY, VOLUNTEER

My name is Butch McKay and I am 65 years old. I am the Executive Director of Okaloosa AIDS Support and Informational Services, Inc. (OASIS) In Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. I have had the great joy of knowing and working with Cathy for many years. She has been a great mentor along with her family. I feel Iike Lindsay and Garrett are my niece and nephew. I was also privileged to know Steve who felt like a brother and treated me as one. I had heard so many wonderful things about the Friends-Together Camps and finally had a opportunity to participate in a camp gathering that was a mind opening experience on the value of family support and love. HIV does not define people, people define HIV and the ways it impacts them. The camp experience made me realize the different ways people approach life, once they find empowerment and support. The people I met and interacted with did not dwell on a disease, the were too busy living. I was so saddened when Cathy had to let the camps go, noticing a void in her heart felt by us all. Later I had the opportunity to travel with Cathy and Garrett and others to Tanzania where my heart was forced to deal with every emotion known to man. At first it broke and I wept at the unbelievable poverty that surrounded me, the thousands of orphans left to become bread winners and caregivers for their siblings. I felt anger toward the world for the lack of medical care and education I witnessed. But forget the negative feelings, I left with the most positive gift. The people of Tanzania are a gift to the heart. They are gentle, loving, caring, responsible people eager to share, destined to love. Where I saw poverty, they saw opportunity to share and to love. They taught me the spirit of the human heart and the strength born within community. They were ONE and invited me in. The same is true of Family-Together, we are ONE and you are invited in. I'm excited for Cathy and her family, but more excited that this powerful love story we call Friends-Together is available for all of us to experience. Don't pass up this opportunity, become part of the Family.

ASHLEIGH SIMON, VOLUNTEER To be honest, I can't describe how much working and volunteering for friends-together and healthy campus coalition has meant to me. It's changed my perspective of the world and helped me to truly understand how we are all connected and depend on each other. I would not be the person I am today without knowing all the amazing people I have met through these programs. We are a large family of misfits that never judge, only love & accept each other. Everyone is truly valued for their strengths and differences. Programs like this are a once in a lifetime opportunity and I have been truly blessed to be a part of it since 2005.

ASHLEIGH SIMON, VOLUNTEER

To be honest, I can't describe how much working and volunteering for friends-together and healthy campus coalition has meant to me. It's changed my perspective of the world and helped me to truly understand how we are all connected and depend on each other.
I would not be the person I am today without knowing all the amazing people I have met through these programs. We are a large family of misfits that never judge, only love & accept each other. Everyone is truly valued for their strengths and differences. Programs like this are a once in a lifetime opportunity and I have been truly blessed to be a part of it since 2005.