Keechl Welcomes Olympic Swimming Gold Medalist Greg Louganis and AIDS Activist Jeanne White-Ginder
There are plenty of gold medals on display at the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) in Fort Lauderdale, but one in particular has special meaning.
Earlier this month, Broward County Vice Mayor Ken Keechl joined Olympic swimming champion Greg Louganis and Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White, at a special event to reintroduce Louganis’ 1988 Olympic Gold medal into his in-house collection.
During the 1988 Olympics, in the midst of competition, Louganis hit his head on the diving board. Louganis, who is HIV-positive, kept his condition secret fearing that he would not be allowed to compete in the Games. Drawing on the force of character of Ryan White, one of the first children diagnosed with AIDS, Louganis was inspired to go on to win the gold medal. As a symbol of friendship and to thank Ryan, Louganis gave him that gold medal and dedicated his autobiography, “Breaking the Surface,” to him.
“Ryan White and Greg Louganis shared a common bond. They were living in a time when little was known about HIV and AIDS and there was great fear and discrimination. Their experiences were very painful and public, but they eventually brought about great change and we continue to benefit from that today,” said Vice Mayor Keechl.
In 1984, Ryan White became one of the first children to develop a full-blown case of AIDS. National media focused attention on Ryan when his school refused to let him attend, fearing he would spread the disease. He and his family fought many court battles and Ryan became a symbol for AIDS activism.
“One day, Ryan told me he had just talked to God,” White-Grinder recalled. “He told me I had nothing to fear. I would be taken care of.”
Ryan’s mother returned that special gold medal to the collection to benefit the “Golden Homecoming” event held at ISHOF on September 13. The evening was a benefit for Broward House, Stonewall Library & Archives, Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center, and the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
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