Fundraiser targets AIDS

by Beacon Staff • November 15, 2006

Early last Friday, a few intrepid souls fought to stay awake in the lobby of the Little Building, while the rest of the campus was still asleep. These Emerson students were preparing to go to Community Servings in Roxbury, a program helping to prepare meals for local residents affected by HIV and AIDS.

Nearly all-95 percent-of those eating the meals live at or below the poverty line.

Sixty-five percent are women and children.

"This is a good opportunity to actively participating and do something," Mary Caitlin Gilson, a freshman musical theatre major, said.

The trip to Roxbury was part of the sixth-annual Equity Fights AIDS (EFA) Week, organized by Emerson's Musical Theatre Society. MTS raised $5,600 for EFA this year.

The week offered nine different events over the course of the week. On Friday afternoon, for only $20, those who were interested could learn about theatre or special effects makeup by professional MAC Makeup artists. On Wednesday night, there was movie time with Rent in the back of the dining hall, and the audience could participate in a trivia contest, answering questions like "How many times do they mention the word 'rent' in Rent?" (Right answer: 26).

The activities of the week also included a Comedy Night with Emerson's comedy groups as well as Education and Sex 101, a "class" where students got the chance to talk about sex and learn more about AIDS prevention.

The Student Government Association granted $4,765.10 to fund the week, after Bara petitioned for $6,000.

Last year, Emerson students donated more than $6,000 to those affected by HIV and AIDS, making it the largest donation yet, according to Brittany Bara, a senior BFA musical theatre major and chairwoman for this year's EFA program at Emerson.

"Even though we didn't raise as much money this year, I feel like we did raise a lot more awareness about HIV/AIDS," Bara said. "I'm really proud of that."

EFA, headquartered in New York City, is the nation's leading industry-based, non-profit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization.

The organization raises about $12 million each year, according to Joe Norton, associate director of education and outreach at Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the parent organization of EFA.

Instead of giving the money to large research projects that already receive funding from a variety of sources, the organization focuses on direct care services.

Norton said half of the money is given to other organizations working directly with people affected by HIV and AIDS, which use it for food, medication, ovens and beds.

The other half of the money goes toward helping professionals of the entertainment industry living with the disease.

Scott Fisher, a freshman screenwriting major who attended EFA's Movie Night last Wednesday, said he admires the cause.

"This is really good," Fisher said. "This is one of few charities where the money actually goes to the people they're trying to help."

Emerson was the first school ever to join BC/EFA.

Today, six years later, 200 high schools and 75 colleges have followed Emerson's example.

EFA organizers at Emerson were also the first to dedicate a week to activities and events in order to raise money, in place of a traditional one-night charity show.

"We use Emerson's motto when we work with other schools," Norton said. "The students at Emerson are very, very organized and very talented."

He spoke at the annual opening gala Sunday night, which consisted of a dinner and a show by musical theatre students.

"Emerson is well known for its good theatre department," Norton said, and it was important for him to meet the people that have worked hard for EFA. "I wanted to say thank you."

"This is not a disease that affects just a few, but it affects everybody," said EFA board member Jaimie Granam, a sophomore marketing communication and theatre double major. "In the long run I think the world will be a better place if we try to fight it."