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Sybil goes on charity walk to raise funds for Russ Ford

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Mark Anderson, community activist, will be doing a charity walk across the island on Sunday (File Photograph)

A charity walk from St George to Dockyard is being held this weekend to raise money for a campaigner who helped increase HIV/Aids awareness and care on the island.

Mark Anderson, an activist and drag artist who performs under the name Sybil Barrington, Queen of Bermuda, is embarking on the estimated six-hour trek on Sunday in aid of Russ Ford, a former Nurse of the Year.

Mr Ford, 64, who was also a probation officer, suffered a “horrific fall” at his home last month, which resulted in a very serious spinal injury, according to his family, who have set up a GoFundMe page to assist with medical care and the cost of ongoing needs.

Mr Anderson told The Royal Gazette: “I would love it if people wanted to join me for part of the walk, or just show up at various points across the island to show their support.

“The family’s goal is to raise $200,000 for his care, at the moment the figure raised is just over $39,000.

“I have been practising walking about 7½ miles a day and have done the route once before, but that was about ten years ago.”

Mr Anderson, who is set to begin his journey at 6am in King’s Square, St George, said he would not be doing the walk in drag, joking: “I wouldn’t be able to – I would have to stop every thirty minutes to freshen up my make-up.”

Russ Ford helped raise HIV/Aids awareness in Bermuda (File Photograph)

Appealing for support on social media, Mr Anderson, said: “Bermuda has been fortunate to have many brave people who have created social change and understanding, and helped Bermuda’s society to grow in profound ways – Russ Ford is definitely one of those people.

“I was blessed to meet and work with Russ Ford in 1982, just as the world was being crippled by the Aids epidemic.

“We worked at the same hospital, which was then called St Brendan’s Hospital, which is now called MWI.

“Mr Ford watched as countless people were dying from this disease.

“Many people had been ostracised by some family members and some friends because they had contracted the virus.

“Some churches displayed a negative response to Aids victims.

“Russ Ford worked as a nurse and being a kind and compassionate human being, he put people first.

“He saw the fear and injustice happening in Bermuda, and set out to help people to understand the facts about the virus.

“He educated Bermudian society about love and care and soothed the growing fears and animosities had for those who were stricken.

“He began to be an avid voice and activist.

“His knowledgeable presence supported the gay and lesbian community by publicly speaking out in the midst of widespread backlash.

“As a result, Mr Ford was able to work with people who made it possible for the proper medication to be brought into Bermuda and a change in healthcare for this community.

“The death rate being so rapid, he saw the need for there to be a place where patients could go to receive love and respect and pass on with dignity. Out of this, he founded Agape House.

“Agape House, was Bermuda’s first hospice, specifically for those dying from Aids, and now 46 years later, it still functions as a respite for anyone who is in need.

“Not only did he see the urgency for this type of hospice, he recognised that there needed to be a support system for patients and their families. Russ founded Star, a counselling system open to anyone who wants help to understand their personal situations.

“His recent injury now requires all of Bermuda to step in and lift him up.

“He will need physical, financially, and moral support. Let us all give him the same support and love that he has given us.”

• Donations can be made at gofund.me/e62ceae0, to Butterfield Bank account No 06 007 631 900 19, or along the route of the walk

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Published March 29, 2023 at 6:35 am (Updated March 30, 2023 at 12:13 pm)

Sybil goes on charity walk to raise funds for Russ Ford

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