Twelve years ago, Doris Whitehair was in an auto accident which left her paralyzed. Coming back from that life-altering injury has been a long road, but Doris continues to give back to the community through fund-raising for AIDS research, volunteerism and being a huge encouragement to everyone around her. For these reasons, we wanted to introduce you to one of our favorite tomboys.
Doris Whitehair - Inspirational badass.
Tell our readers about your accident.
Well, 12 years ago, I was involved in a motorcycle accident. The guy I was riding with wrecked me and the girl who was driving behind me ran me over. It paralyzed me at T-4 which is from my chest down. That’s kind of where this all started.
You are well-known for your fundraising for AIDS research. How did you get involved with that?
About 3 years ago, I discovered Traci Dinwiddie and began to visit her fan page. She was talking about AIDS Lifecycle. I became interested in it and I started thinking about a close friend of mine who has been HIV positive since 1984.
It’s out of my comfort zone to ask people for money but I felt like it would be something worthwhile that I could do for others who needed help. For the first 2 years, I fund-raised as a virtual cyclist. But then, I started thinking about actually doing the ride. So next year, I plan to do the ride myself on a handcycle.
Tell us about the ride.
The ride is a 7 days and 545 miles. It goes from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It’s meant to bring awareness to people living with HIV and AIDS. It’s also to raise funds for the San Francisco AIDS foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. It’s quite the journey.
What are you doing to train for that?
I am working out at my local wellness center at my local hospital. I have an athletic trainer who has been helping me lift weights and do cardio. I also started riding a handcycle to try to get used to it since I normally get around in a wheelchair. I’m looking into purchasing a handcycle bike that would be ergo-dynamic and fit me better. The one I’m using to train with isn’t made to my specifications like a wheelchair.
Being in a chair for 12 years has caused me to gain quite a bit of weight. I have to lose that weight before I can ride. I’ve already lost 12 pounds. I changed my diet and am working out regularly. It feels great!
It’s a huge challenge but I’m passionate about the cause. The AIDS crisis has been going on for 33 years. I’m hoping that if people see me riding in my condition, it will inspire them to join in the fight as well. When I started 2 years ago, I raised $7,500 and last year, I raised $10,800. Now, I’ve set a goal of raising $20,000 on the next one.
Doris, working out in her TomboyX gear.
How can our readers support your fund-raising efforts?
Here is a link to my personal fund-raising page. I have a team all around the world that supports and encourages me but I’m always looking to grow that circle. It’s weird but many of them are in other countries – very far away. But often, they make me feel better than people who are right around me.
Aside from preparing for this race, what else are you doing?
I volunteer at my local hospital. Marietta Memorial in Marietta, Ohio. Right now, I work in the laundry stamping our logo on all of the towels and linens. That’s what I do right now but it can change and I could be doing something else next week. I’ve been volunteering there for quite a while. I have a van that has hand controls so I drive myself there. I love serving.
Is your local community supportive?
Actually, although we have AIDS and HIV here, it’s not something that a lot of people want to talk about. It’s why it’s been sort of phenomenal that I’ve been able to raise as much money as I have here – the conversations aren’t really taking place. The stigma that it’s a gay person’s disease is still here. It’s unfortunate, but until I starting talking to people here about wanting to raise money about it, their attitudes were like, “AIDS? That’s a thing of the past.” Part of my job is to spread awareness and educate them. I really enjoy having these conversations.
We always see you wearing our stuff. What’s your favorite TomboyX gear?
The softball shirts and, oh, and I just got the red and black TomboyX jacket. And who doesn’t love the underwear? They are so comfortable and well-made. I was recently at a taping of the Ellen show in Los Angeles and I wore my TomboyX polo shirt. I can’t really narrow it down to just 1 thing.
Who is your favorite tomboy?
Traci Dinwiddie! I discovered her through the movie “Elena Undone.” When I joined her fan page and saw how passionate she was about raising money and awareness about AIDS and HIV, I was inspired and donated to her. She emailed me a thank you and asked me if I would like to join her team because she felt like I had a lot to offer. She provided the encouragement I needed to get active and do something big.
Her kindness and compassion – the way she lives her life, it has made me realize that even though my accident was horrible and was so difficult for me to have that change in my life, it was for the best. At the time of the accident, I had a drug and alcohol problem. Now, I can see that my accident has changed me for the better and opened a lot of doors for me – given me opportunities that I may not have had if I wasn’t injured. It saved my life and to meet some of the people like Traci – they have helped me to appreciate what happened to me and that I do have a lot to offer.