Todd Anderson faced a gut-wrenching scare in 1986. Rock Hudson had died of AIDS, and many people fearful of the disease were magnifying every symptom as a possible sign of certain death. Todd, who was already coming to the realization that he was gay as an adolescent, developed a skin lesion.
Some people believed AIDS was a punishment from God for being gay, and Todd began wondering if this were true for him, too. He didn't have the disease, but the experience he faced, along with fear and confusion about being gay, drives him today.
In part, it led him to become president of Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth, a nonprofit that works to support, educate and advocate for youth who come to realize they're in the sexual minority. Todd's fierce compassion has driven him to help expand ROSMY from a Richmond-area group to a statewide organization.
Last year ROSMY helped 2,200 youths and their parents with five staff members, 50 volunteers and a 24-hour hotline. “ROSMY is making great strides and our outreach is greater than ever before,” he says. But “we still have so much farther to go.”
Todd's not the only Anderson making an impact on Richmond. He and his sister, Mary, have become a powerful team.
Together they formed an endowment to help students at William and Mary in honor of their grandparents, who encouraged their children to be the first generation in their family to attend college.
They're also active in their church, St. James's Episcopal on Franklin Street, where they helped raise funds for the Fan the Flame endowment to build a new education center to be used for church activities, community gatherings and a children's center.
Mary volunteers with SCAN, or Stop Child Abuse Now, and works with Woman Kind, a nonprofit that every two years brings together women of all races, religions and spiritualities for a weekend retreat. The goal is to celebrate their differences and, with the help of nationally renowned authors, to learn about each other's different faiths and to grow together as diverse women in this country.
Mary's day job is at Snagajob.com, where she has the second-highest contract booking on record. “I feel overly fortunate,” she says. “My life has been blessed with so many opportunities. I have a great family and great support. I feel bad if I don't help give opportunities to others.”