Richardt Scholtz is about to experience his very first Pride festival. The South African native immigrated to Canada in November 2019, and ever since then has looked forward to Toronto’s Pride festivities. This will also be the first Pride event held since he arrived in the country, and Scholtz says that he’s going all in–not only is he a Pride Run ambassador, but he will be walking in the Pride parade on Sunday with the LGBTQ+ Unity committee at his workplace.
Scholtz emphasizes that the Pride Run is far more than a race. He explains: “we don’t want people to lose the real reason behind the run. It’s a celebration, and an opportunity for a community to show love, support, and to raise funds to help others that struggle within LGBTQ+ communities here and in other countries.” Scholtz mentions Rainbow Railroad, a not-for-profit organization that helps people experiencing state-sponsored persecution across the world. “I am fortunate enough that I haven’t gone through any of the situations that Rainbow Railroad helps, but raising funds for them is so important. In some places you can receive a death sentence just for being gay.”
While the LGBTQ+ community has protected rights in South Africa, Scholtz says “it’s not like it is here.” Prior to coming to Canada, he says he felt stuck, personally and professionally, and was in an unhealthy relationship that he couldn’t envision escaping. Moving to Canada allowed him to feel free. “There’s a relief that comes over you, especially being a gay man,” Scholtz says. “I felt like I could breathe again. Toronto is a very welcoming and inclusive community. I could live as my true self.”
Scholtz says that the key to being a Pride ambassador is “having the fire within you to make change, to want to have an impact, even on one person. Our role is to show love, support and community and raise awareness of the event and its beneficiaries.”
The Pride and Remembrance Run is the only annual athletic event during Toronto’s Pride Week. Pride Run Toronto describes it as “promoting and fostering community spirit, goodwill, volunteerism, and sportsmanship in the Canadian LGBTQ+ community.” Founded in 1996 in Toronto, the 5K run and 3K walk are the longest-running Pride runs in Canada.
Scholtz, his boyfriend and their dog will be walking as a family in the 3K Pride Run event, and he is excited to experience the entire Pride festival. His advice for LGBTQ+ people who may be new Canadians, like he is, whether they are runners or not: “Don’t be afraid to live with pride. You don’t need to be scared or to worry about being judged here; be yourself and show up for yourself.”
The Pride and Remembrance Run will be held on Saturday, July 25, at 9:30 a.m.E.T. More information can be found on the website.