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Pride calls for volunteers

More details about this year's celebration revealed

READY OR NOT. Pride Toronto is calling for volunteers to help ensure this year's celebration runs smoothly. Credit: RJ Martin

With just over a month to go before Toronto’s annual Pride celebration Pride Toronto is gearing up by launching a new initiative pairing parade participants with art students, calling for volunteers and announcing its 2009 Pride Toronto Award recipients.

In anticipation of the Pride Parade on Sun, Jun 28, Pride Toronto has launched Project Parade. The project will partner art students from art and design colleges and universities with community groups to help them jazz up their parade floats.

According to a Pride Toronto release, “This will offer art students and creative individuals a platform to flaunt their creative talents, while fostering ties with the community.”

Pride Toronto’s parade committee will match groups who are marching, waving a banner or preparing to build a float with a team of art students to develop their entries in the areas of art direction, choreography, audio design, costumes and special effects.

The deadline for parade entries is Sun, May 31. Those interested in participating in Project Parade can apply through Pridetoronto.com.

But in order for Pride to go off without a hitch, Pride Toronto says it needs volunteers. With that in mind the organization has a separate website, Makepridehappen.com. The site includes role descriptions and volunteer applications.

“Volunteers bring a wealth of experience, knowledge, as well as specialized skills to Pride Toronto and Pride Week,” says Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands, “and their dedication and commitment are the key to the success of the organization.”

Pride Toronto is recruiting volunteers for Pride Weekend to assist in running all aspects of the festival. TD Canada Trust is the corporate sponsor of Pride Toronto’s volunteer program.

One of the premier events during Pride Week is the annual Gala and Awards fundraiser. This year filmmaker and activist John Greyson, businessman and philanthropist Salah Bachir, and unionist and sports organizer Stephanie Johnstone are among those who will be feted on Wed, Jun 24 at The Carlu.

According to organizers award winners best personify this year’s Pride theme, “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.”

Greyson, whose award is in the category of arts and culture, is a former writer for Xtra’s predecessor The Body Politic. He won praise in 1993 for his AIDS-themed film, Zero Patience. His latest work, the AIDS doc-opera Fig Trees, recently played to rave reviews at Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival.

Johnstone, who has lobbied for same-sex benefits with the Canadian Autoworkers Union, will be given the sports award for her work with the Gay Games as well as her success with the International Gay Bowling Organization.

Activist and Mexico native Leonardo Zuniga will receive the human rights award, while the 24-year-old founder of OUT-niagara Matthew Cutler will be given the youth leadership award.

Bachir, the president of Cineplex Media who is also heavily involved with the 519 Community Centre and the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, will receive the lifetime achievement award.

The newly created Pride 2009 Theme Award will be given to parade grand marshal El-Farouk Khaki, immigration lawyer, activist, politician and founder of Salaam, a group for gay and lesbian Muslims.