Volunteer’s run to honor former HIV advocate

November 22, 2011 | News, UToday
By Kim Goodin

Danielle Van Fleet, left, and Sue Carter hold a photo of Ann Locher, who founded the University’s Ryan White Program in 2000.

Danielle Van Fleet often thinks of Ann Locher.

When her running shoes strike the pavement, she thinks of Locher’s tireless efforts on behalf of those with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

As she keeps pace in the rain, faces from UT’s Ryan White Program cross her vision. And when Van Fleet designed a T-shirt for her next race, a half marathon in Las Vegas Dec. 4, Locher’s dedication somehow seeped into the art.

“I wanted to be Ann Locher,” Van Fleet said. “Everyone wanted to be her, to somehow capture her passion for her work and the compassion she had for the people she helped.”

Locher, a clinical nurse specialist, educator and advocate, passed away unexpectedly in June 2010. UT’s Ryan White Program, which Locher founded in 2000, is a legacy of her dedication to serving those with HIV and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) for most of her professional life.

Van Fleet is one of Locher’s foot soldiers, volunteering with the Ryan White Program for five years. She administers tests, educates and counsels those who probably would go without proper medical care if the program didn’t exist.

This is the back of the T-shirt Danielle Van Fleet designed for her Dec. 4 run.

She said she will honor Locher, as well as the approximately 750 people served in UT’s program, with each stride of the 13.1-mile race, and would like to raise at least $1,000 in Locher’s memory.

“The money I raise will go directly to UT’s HIV clinic and will be used to ensure our clients receive the life-sustaining medication and other help they need,” Van Fleet said.

Those interested in giving through Van Fleet’s run may go to give2ut.utoledo.edu and direct their donation in memory of Ann Wayson Locher. Additional information is available on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/runforhiv.

Sue Carter, social worker and clinical counselor in the Ryan White Program, said Locher will be in her thoughts during Van Fleet’s race, as well. The night before, Carter will represent the Ryan White Program at a fundraiser, continuing Locher’s work.

Some days, Carter admitted, when financial burdens seem too great and resources too few, she ponders, “What would Ann Locher do?”

Carter has worked in the Ryan White Program during her entire 20-year career at UT. She recalled her first encounter with Locher, who founded the first grant-funded HIV clinic in northwest Ohio before coordinating UT’s program for 10 years.

“Her joy of living and working with our patients, even with all she’d seen, was just striking,” Carter said. “She started out working with HIV-positive babies who, at that time, were going to die. Now women who are HIV-positive can have babies who are HIV-negative, and both can have long, healthy lives.”

Shortly before her death, Locher had been preparing the Ryan White team for her future retirement, focusing on particular gaps that would need to be filled, Carter said.

“After Ann died, as we floundered in our grief, we just filled those holes faster than we’d planned,” she said with a fleeting smile.

Since Locher’s death, the Ryan White Program has added seven testing sites to its original two on UT’s Health Science and Main campuses. New sites are at the Lucas County Department of Job & Family Services, Migrant Farm Laborers campsite, Owens Community College, Perrysburg Community Care Center, Adolescent Medical Clinic, Center for Choice and the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio.

“The Ryan White Program was Ann’s baby, but she brought us all along with it,” Carter said. “Everything here is her dream come true. Our team now includes pharmacists, therapists and nurse practitioners, and we have a great package of care that keeps our patients as healthy as possible.

“When she started, we had nothing. Just look how far we’ve come.”

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