Coming from a vibrant LGBTQIA+ community in Jacksonville, Florida, Monica Claridge wanted to bring a piece of that to her new home on The Rock.
She succeeded in a tremendous way.
This past weekend, Kodiakans took part in the first Virtual Pride 5K Run/Walk on the island. Claridge, who moved to Kodiak to teach at East Elementary in 2018, was the ringleader of the event that provided visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community.
“The coolest part for me has been the stories people have shared,” Claridge wrote in a Facebook message to the Daily Mirror. “About how this has made Kodiak feel like home … and that the walk has resulted in conversations with parents and grandparents and their kids about why this walk is so important. And why they are doing it and the importance of everyone becoming the person they are meant to be.”
The event wasn’t supposed to be as big as it was — more than 145 people walked or ran 5 kilometers on the five virtual courses scattered throughout Kodiak. Initially, Claridge was looking for a few people to participate in a national virtual Pride 5K, with proceeds going to the Trevor Project. Her Facebook post grew legs. Before she knew it, locals jumped on board. Courses were designed, stickers and shirts were created, and rocks were painted. Businesses and individuals donated 70 prizes for people who found rocks on the trails. Funds from the stickers will be donated to the Kodiak High School Gender Sexuality Alliance Club.
“The outpouring of love and support from this community for the LGBTQIA+ community was/is incredible,” Claridge wrote. “There was clearly a need for this event.”
Pat Gibbs took part in the virtual walk.
“My grandkids had such fun searching out what to wear and were eager to find rocks,” Gibbs said. “We have had some good discussions going on the importance of everyone becoming the person they are meant to be.”
Claridge and Kim Saunders had talked about creating a community gay-straight alliance in Kodiak before the COVID-19 pandemic halted those plans. Claridge said the virtual run/walk — possibly this first pride event of any kind in Kodiak — was a “great first step” in creating an LGBTQIA+ community on the island.
“If you are watching from a distance or feeling isolated or alone — please know there are allies here, and we see you, cherish you, and are proud of who you are and who you are becoming. Please know, it does get better. Every day, it gets better,” Saunders posted on Facebook.
For Kim Streeter, the event was empowering.
“Before the event, I felt apprehensive about being ‘out’ here, but knowing there are so many caring and open-hearted people who have our backs makes this island feel like a safer place,” Streeter said. “For the first time since I moved here last year, Kodiak feels like home.”
For those who would like to order a shirt or are interested in being on the committee for Kodiak Pride 2021, contact Claridge at email@example.com.