Deputy Sports Editor
An assembly of Springfield College students, visitors and faculty stepped out of the friendly confines of the Flynn Campus Union and into the chilly December night, the final month of 2016 only 19 hours young. Shoes and boots scuffed across the stone walkway, as faint candlelight over white sticks lit the path towards Judd Gymnasium. Some flames flickered away in the winter wind, while others stayed illuminated.
Warmth greeted the group once again as they entered Judd and descended the staircase towards the Springfield College museum. There, they were welcomed by Springfield great Dr. Tom Waddell, in all his collegiate glory. A magazine opened on a small round table in front of the entrance depicted the iconic image of the Pride alum, javelin readied, his eyes looking skyward in determination. After cementing his legacy as a three-sport athlete at Springfield and founder of the international Gay Games in 1982, Waddell lost his battle to AIDS in 1987 after a two year fight with the disease. He is remembered for leading a life that advocated for those with the illness.
Behind Waddell at the museum’s center, among the richness of Springfield College’s history in photos and memorabilia, hung two large quilts on either side of the walls. The text among the lively fabric whispered words of impact, compassion, and those who have passed on.
The quilts, which had been on campus for viewing up until Dec. 2, were two smaller pieces of a larger fabric, which was last displayed whole in Washington D.C. Different quilt panels are shipped to different venues across the country.
On Thursday, Springfield College students, visitors, representatives of the AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts and members of the campus’ Division of Inclusion and Community Engagement took time to reflect, and remember those who lost their battle to AIDS on World AIDS Day.
Approximately 15 people from the community had gathered at the Peace Pole at noon in front of Marsh Memorial to pay their respects and offer their thoughts.
“We remembered those who passed from the virus and those who are living with it – celebrating those who are alive,” said Springfield College Director of Multicultural Affairs Felicia Lundquist. “We want to make sure that we’re spreading awareness, because the epidemic is something that is vibrant, yet not talked about that much.”
Lundquist said that it is important for young college students to understand AIDS as a prevalent issue. She explained that the goal of the event was to solidify the narrative of being aware of services, consistently utilizing AIDS testing, and being cautious when sexually active or using needles.
“It shouldn’t come with any judgment,” Lundquist said when referring to the aspect of services and testing. “People are here for them.”
As students and visitors surveyed the quilt and museum visuals, they clutched the white candles that had been provided to them at the Union in symbolism of respect for those who have passed and those who are living with AIDS today. The Union was also a site of discussion with members of the Springfield community and the AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts prior to the quilt viewing. This discussion touched on the availability of resources and ways to become involved in supporting those affected by AIDS.
“The most important thing we do is provide financial assistance to people who are infected with HIV and AIDS and who are having difficulty with the basic things in life,” said the foundation’s Paula Delskey. “We do things like back rent, sometimes its start-up rent, [and] we [have services] for people coming out of rehab or jail who just need help with that first month’s rent.”
The Foundation of Western Mass also helps out with electric, gas, medication, and car repair expenses. With the holiday season in full swing, it is ready to extend its hand of generosity in bringing gifts to children of families affected by HIV/AIDS.
As president of Pride Alliance, Amelia Shuler said she became more familiar with the epidemic of HIV/AIDS and additional information about Waddell.
“I think it’s really important that we’re highlighting this issue. It’s kind of given testimony to the case of HIV/AIDS,” she said. “That’s a history that I’m not as educated [in] as I should be, so it’s good that we have this opportunity. I knew who Tom Waddell was, but I didn’t know how amazing he was.”
Freshman Francisco Navarro explained how one particular quote on the quilt stood out to him, and how further word regarding the impact of HIV/AIDS must be spread.
“[I liked] the quote D.O.A., ‘Death Of Art,’” he said. “I think that’s a really meaningful quote, because it means people die of different things. I’m not saying AIDS is an art, but you can consider its [impact] in many different ways. [It reflects] how things happen to people, and why they happen.”
Vin can be reached via email at email@example.com