General Amherst’s “Run for Rocky” helps promote GSA’s

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

General Amherst High School hit the streets last Thursday to help raise funds and awareness for its Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) as well as GSA’s in other local high schools.

The “Run for Rocky” came to Amherstburg after five years of being in Windsor. Money raised will go to a project fund in memory of Rocky Campana, with funds being accessible to any school to tap into for guest speakers, library materials and other projects.

The event included a 5K run/walk from the school that saw the route cut through Toddy Jones Park, go down Dalhousie St. to the Blue Haven Motel and then return.

Rob Campana, Rocky’s father, said he and his wife Nancy envisioned local schools picking up the torch after they committed to running the event in Windsor for the first five years. He said they wanted it to become “a legacy project” and have individual schools pick it up.

During its five years in Windsor, Campana said that General Amherst either raised the most money or had the most students participate in four of the five years.

General Amherst High School presented its own “Run for Rocky” last Thursday. Students and staff cut through Toddy Jones Park en route to Dalhousie St. for the 5K run/walk. In the foreground running are principal Melissa DeBruyne and teachers Dan Campana and Lisa Voakes.

“General Amherst has been unbelievable from the beginning thanks to (physical education and leadership class teacher) Greg Scott,” said Campana. “This is no surprise to us that Greg has carried the torch with the students and did this run. Hopefully this inspires other schools to do the same thing.”

The biggest thing the “Run for Rocky” does, Campana believes, is create awareness of GSA’s. Campana said GSA’s keep students safe and educated. He recalled Rocky being pleased when GSA’s became mandated.

“He did have difficulties in high school being a gay man,” he said.

Educating adults and educators is another one of the goals for “Run for Rocky,” Campana added.

“It’s all about educating people,” he said.

People in the LGBT community are “no different that you or I,” he added.

Campana told the students that “it doesn’t matter who you love, just love each other.”

“It’s a tough enough world,” said Campana. “Let’s start coming together and loving each other.”

Rob Campana (far right), father of Rocky Campana, addresses the Run for Rocky participants outside of General Amherst High School last Thursday.

Scott said the event was run by his fitness and leadership class and the General Amherst GSA. When the event ended in Windsor, “we decided we wanted to run one here.” It could become an annual event but in its first year in Amherstburg, at least half of the General Amherst population signed up with additional members of the public joining as well.

Scott told the RTT late Friday afternoon that the event raised $1,400, “which will go to the Run for Rocky Legacy Project which helps support and fund high school GSA programs.”

Jenna Fiala, a student in the fitness and leadership class, noted there is a family connection as well as Rocky’s uncle Dan Campana is a teacher at General Amherst High School.

“I think this is a good event we organized at our school,” said Fiala, adding they also oversaw food preparation, safety precautions and event management in addition to promoting the GSA.

“It’s good to see how many people are supportive of what’s going on in the community,” added Karlie Simon, a Grade 9 student who is a member of the GSA.

Trevor Klundert, a guidance counsellor and faculty advisor to the GSA, said having about half of the school sign up shows great enthusiasm for the cause.

“From the GSA’s perspective, we’d like to do it annually,” he said.

The subject of sexual orientation sometimes carries a stigma, particularly in a small town, said Klundert, but that is not the case in Amherstburg as he said the community is very supportive. A number of former students supported the “Run for Rocky” as well, he pointed out.

Klundert added the GSA wants students to be comfortable if they come out as being gay so that they can be the students that they want to be. One of the messages from the event was that “every face you see in the run supports you, loves you and has your back,” he said.

 

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