Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Gay Are We: Choir Teacher Runs to Raise Funds to Support Youth

Mario Clopton admits he is lucky. When he came out at 21 years old, he had a strong support network. "Whether I came out at 13 or 21, I knew my family was going to be there for me," he says. But he Shaker Heights choir teacher is aware that not every kid is as lucky. So he decided to run in the Gay Games half marathon this Saturday and raise $40 a mile to donate to youth programs at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. So far, he's raised $600. “I look at some of these kids and their families are abandoning them, but they are steadfast," he says. "They still have their goals, and I felt that I have to support them in some way. Listening to their stories and how strong they are just inspires me.”

Common Ground: He has been pleased to find people from all walks of life at the games, even those outside the LGBT community. “I was waiting in line for a drink, and the guy in front of me turned around," Clopton says. "It was one of my teacher friends, and he was there with his girlfriend. I mean everyone feels welcome here.”

Chief Moment: Clopton took a year off from college to campaign for then-Sen. Barack Obama. So he was ecstatic when the president expressed his support for the games via a video shown at the opening ceremony. “Sometimes it just kind of seems, as a gay man, that the stars and stripes doesn’t include you," he says. "But when I saw that I was like, ‘The gay community is represented in that flag.’”

Sidewalk Therapy: As a choir teacher, Clopton says there is constantly noise in his head. “Running allows me to just clear that space and just have time with myself,” Clopton says. Struggling with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as a child, Clopton found that running was a great combatant. “I didn’t want to take medication, because it made me not feel like myself so my doctor said, ‘Well, you should try running to get rid of some of that energy.’ I was going into seventh grade, and I signed up for cross-country. I loved it, and the rest is history.”

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