Scottdale resident dons kilts for AIDS fundraiser
Those who see Steve Clark will notice he is sporting a kilt.
However, the Scottdale resident donned the garb for a reason. He is attempting to raise funds and awareness for the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.
Clark first donned the kilt on Sept. 23 on his 50th birthday. That began his “90 Days in a Kilt” excursion, which continues through Dec. 21. He wears the kilt wherever he goes, including on a recent trip to New York and every day at his job as an elementary music teacher in the Connellsville Area School District.
“I just live my life in a kilt,” Clark said. “I've been blogging about it ... It's amazing. I didn't expect it to affect me the way that it has. It's really been transforming.”
The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force is dedicated to supporting and empowering all individuals living with HIV/AIDS and preventing the spread of infection.
Clark chose the task force as the beneficiary of his efforts so more people would be aware of what that organization is all about.
“I like their presence in our community in southwestern Pennsylvania,” Clark explained. “They do a lot with education, prevention, dispelling myths, all of that. I thought that it was a good fit for it being somewhat local, a local charity as opposed to a national charity. I approached them with the idea, and they thought it sounded like fun.”
Donations have come from many portions of the globe in support of Clark's endeavor; people from Scotland, England and Canada are following his fundraising mission. Clark said there are people throughout the world (including one female) wearing kilts as fundraisers for a number of causes.
Wherever Clark goes, he is equipped with his business card that contains information about his website (90daysinakilt.tumblr.com) and the task force's website. It is on those sites that people can make donations. He also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
Clark admits gets some quizzical looks from people as he walks through everyday life in his kilt, but he said it's a conversation starter at times. This, he says, is good.
“You get the looks; you get the stares. You get people nudging each other,” Clark said. “Eventually, you get someone brave enough to break the ice and say, ‘That looks good.' ”
That serves as a way for Clark to explain his undertaking.
“Most generally, I get a very positive reaction,” Clark said. “I've had one or two occasions where people were rude, but much less than I expected. (There have been) a whole lot more conversations with people about their heritage. Women just love the kilt.”
Clark said his family is strong in its German roots but does not pay as much attention to its Irish ancestry. With that in mind, he decided to wear the kilt.
“I thought, ‘Why don't I explore this?' ” Clark said. “One of the things I found was that the Irish may have been the people to introduce the kilt to the Scottish. ... It's a Celtic garment, and I thought it was a real neat way to explore those roots.”
He admits to being a little self-conscious during the first week but says he now is oblivious to being the “man in the kilt.”
“I'm less concerned about what people are thinking,” Clark said. “That's very freeing.”
Clark said his co-workers have enjoyed seeing how he will be dressed each day. He has about 12 kilts.
“Co-workers look forward to seeing what the new kilt is that day,” Clark said. “They look forward to seeing how I'm going to change it up.”
His students have taken a deep interest as well and ask from time to time what day he is on in his mission.
Clark will be hosting an event on Sunday at Miss Martha's Tea Room and Gifts, which will feature a Celtic-themed buffet dinner. It begins at 5 p.m., and the cost is $14.
The menu will include corned beef and cabbage, stewed chicken and salmon. There are plans for a Chinese auction and a 50/50 drawing.
Katie Pallone, Miss Martha's manager, thought the event was a great idea.
“He talked to us about it. In April, we had a benefit for autism, Autism Speaks. He probably heard about it and was just kind of hoping to have the same kind of event,” Pallone said, adding she likes Clark's fundraising idea. “I think it's a fun way to raise money. I think it's good that we do events that help nonprofits. I think it's good when businesses are able to reach out to those organizations. I hope we get a good turnout for it.”
Anyone interested in making a reservation for the event may call 724-887-6574.
There also will be a “Kilt Night” coming soon in Lawrenceville.
With winter months coming, Clark feels comfortable wearing kilts he's found to be “plenty warm.”
“The guys that have done it, very few have gone back to pants,” he said. “It's comfortable; it really is.”
Clark has no idea how much money has been raised and did not set a goal.
“I just want to raise awareness, send some money their way,” Clark said. “It would be nice at the end to find out how much it actually (raised). People have come out of the woodwork to help.”
Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or email@example.com.
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