Let's start with the something more. Anyone who knows him knows Stash Wislocki, the Telluride AIDS Benefit's executive director, operates on all four burners. When an idea catches his hair on fire, he pursues it until it happens. For years, there has been a disconnect – perceived or real – between what happens at TAB's fashion show extravaganza and the work of the five beneficiaries. Between the glam slam on the catwalk and life on the front lines dealing with individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS. Long-time model Molly Wickwire Sante had an idea that would help bridge that gap.
Similar to the mentorship model established by Telluride-based One to One San Miguel Mentoring Program, TAB's models would "adopt" kids, even families, who are part of the Children's Hospital Immunodeficiency Program (CHIP), a clinic with the Denver Hospital. If Stash has his way, this pilot program will grow into something bigger and more comprehensive.
"My hope from the start was that we (the models) could grow to feel more of a connection to the cause we are working so hard to support, while the groups that we support would get to know us and feel our interest in their lives and health," explained Molly. "I wanted to create a real 'One to One' connection and thought, 'What if each model were to adopt a TAB recipient during the time we are working on the show'?"
Stash helped Molly flesh out the idea, suggesting the best group to start working with would be the Children's Hospital Immunodeficiency Program.
"The children and their parents at CHIP create art work that is displayed and auctioned off during Baerbel Hacke's art event, and Stash was looking for a way to bring more recognition to to CHIP's contribution to this important fundraiser. So far, I think about 9 or 10 models have written letters to CHIP 'friends,' and we expect to receive receive letters back soon. The idea is to get to know more about these brave people, understand more about what's behind the works of art they create for TAB, and through our enhanced understanding, generate a higher level of interest in the art and in CHIP itself."
CHIP began attending to the medical needs of HIV-infected children in 1993, only one year before TAB came to be. Now in its 18th year, CHIP has grown into a multi-disciplinary program serving infected parents, expectant mothers, children and families. Its mission is to provide innovative, client-centered care, research and prevention programs that improve the health and quality of life for clients living with or affected by HIV, or at risk for HIV-infection.
The Telluride AIDS Benefit art auction starts at noon on Friday, March 4, at the historic Sheridan Opera House. The bidding closes at 9 p.m. At the auction, say "hi" to Jessica Forsyth, CHIP's program manager and Kari Hartel, client advocate.