A few weeks ago, a Portland State University student, Aaron Salazar, was brutally beaten in Colorado on his way back to Oregon, as reported in The Portland Mercury. Tonight local business Fire on the Mountain is having a fundraiser for the young man. From 5PM-10PM Fire On the Mountain’s Fremont location is donating 10% of their sales to Aaron Salazar's GoFundMe page to contribute to his steep medical bills. PQ spoke with Benjamin Nason, assistant manager at the Fremont location who brought the story to his employers to see if they would help out.
Unfortunately, embracing Pride isn't always a celebration such as we are treated to in June. Sometimes, it means having to deal with discrimination we experience as a community. Fortunately however, the LGBTQ+ community has always taken care of our own. In the spirit of Pride Month, if you’re in the mood for a meal out tonight in the Fremont district, or if you just want to eat there to support the cause, head to Fire On the Mountain on Fremont, where your purchase fosters a much-needed, charitable cause.
ProudQueer: What inspired you to do a fundraiser for Aaron Salazar?
Benjamon Nason: I didn't even hear about this tragedy until about 2 weeks after it had happened. It's easy to feel helpless in horrific attacks such as these, but i knew immediately I was in a potential position to help. I sent news articles detailing the attack to the business owners, Sara and Jordan, and asked if we could do something- anything- for him and his family. Considering Fire on the Mountain is a partially queer-owned business, I knew the owners and fellow management staff would take my suggestion to heart.
PQ: How is he doing currently? What does his prognosis look like?
BN: The last update was five days ago on Aaron's GoFundMe Page. To my knowledge, he is still at a new Reno facility after being transferred there from the ICU. He is able to breathe on his own now and is capable of responding to certain direct commands; although it is still a bit touch and go, and the beginnings of his recovery are promising, he unfortunately has a long path ahead.
PQ: Fire On the Mountain is a beloved, local business. Have they done fund raisers like this before? How quickly did you manage to put it together?
BN: Fire on the Mountain does a benefit night every couple months or so- they really like to help the community out when they can; and give back to the city that helped them to prosper. It took about two weeks to get all the ducks in order and to iron out the details, and then I had about a week and a half to share the word, distribute fliers, etc.
PQ: Are Aaron & his family aware you're doing this fundraiser?
BN: I decided not to contact Justin and his family. I thought about it and figured they had enough on their plate as is; and that the end goal was to help out and the former seemed a little self-gratifying to me. I am just happy that I am surrounded by my very understanding (and a good amount of LGBT) peers who were all 100% on board from day one,
PQ: Any reason you chose today's date to launch it?
BN: Having the date come directly after pride weekend; I was hoping the community would carry over that pride and enthusiasm and use their dollars for the benefit of a local student who could not be here to celebrate. After all, it is just by happenstance that you or I were not on that train with a disturbingly homophobic bigot. It could have been any of us.