TAB: Education Initiatives & Student Fashion Show
The Telluride AIDS Benefit continues to wave its “Fight.Fund.Educate” banner on high – and with good reason. With regard to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, today’s political environment is, at best, a giant question mark; at worst, toxic. On the scientific front there may be cause for optimism, but to date there is still no definitive cure for the virus. The Telluride AIDS Benefit is celebrating 25 years of community involvement and dedication to the cause: raising money to help HIV/AIDS clients of its beneficiaries, literally hundreds of individuals and families of all demographics living with HIV/AIDS from the Western Slope to the Front Range of Colorado to Africa.
TAB is also laser-focussed on prevention through education. Join in TAB’s week of events, beginning Friday, February 23, 6 p.m., with the Student Fashion Show at Telluride’s Michael D. Palm Theatre and culminating in the Gala Fashion Show. All happening in town and Mountain Village between March 1 – March 6.
To read about TAB’s beneficiaries, go here.
Scroll down to listen to a podcast featuring the Student Fashion Show director, model and peer educator, Joey Hunt; choreographer, model and peer education Fern Garber; and faculty coordinator/sponsor Jessica Heady.
History, where TAB fits into the HIV/AIDS picture, a thumbnail overview:
With a swiftness that imitates the spread of the disease, AIDS became enmeshed in the fabric of our society. Over the nearly four decades, the virus has killed millions of people and continues to infect millions worldwide each year. Globally, according to the World Health Organization, about 37 million people were living with HIV by the end of 2016.
From the get-go, AIDS victims and their families flocked like moths to flames of hope – a miracle cure whispered here; a sudden recovery talked about there. The pot of gold everyone is seeking at the end of the rainbow is a vaccine, but so far, nada – though progress is being made.
At the same time, as people have watched friends cut down in the prime of life, they have tried to make sense of the scourge by channeling their experience into ways to help. The Telluride AIDS Benefit evolved from that impetus.
In 1994, the fledgling event was all about helping a local and friend, Robert Presley, battle the disease and pay his mounting medical bills. But what Presley wanted was to help others who faced with the challenges he faced.
Robert Presley died in 1997 from causes related to HIV/AIDs, but his selfless wish came true: the nonprofit he inspired, TAB, helps individuals and families dealing with HIV/AIDS on the Front Range all the way to sub-Saharan Africa through a growing list of beneficiaries, now nine in all.
Ron Gilmer, Presley’s former partner and TAB board member, continues speaks for Presley. Gilmer keeps the fight alive by reminding us why we need to continue to support TAB. And why TAB needs to continue to remain focussed on patient care, prevention and education.
Spotlight on prevention education 2018: Beyond the Student Fashion Show
According to Avert, a global information and education site, AIDS is the leading cause of death among young people (ages 10-24) in Africa and the second leading cause globally. Unprotected sex is the most common route of the HIV infection among that population.
According to TAB sources, in Colorado alone over 12,000 people living with HIV/AIDS; 32 percent of new HIV diagnoses are youth ages 20 – 29.
Every year Ron Gilmer gets up on his soapbox and argues that prevention is the name of the game if the goal is to stop the spread of the pandemic. And it is: TAB is working with its partner organizations towards the goal of ZERO new HIV infections in the state of Colorado by 2030 and believes that is an attainable goal. Restrictive government guidelines that politicize the issue and focus on abstinence only are therefore, according to Gilmer, “tragically misguided.”
From the get-go, TAB has helped fill some of the voids in public education and awareness. Because of its success in this arena, Gilmer has suggested TAB clones belong in every community in the world. He is probably right.
For years, educator Sandy McLaughlin headed TAB’s HIV/AIDS awareness and risk-reduction initiatives at the school even before TAB’s inception dating back to the time she was school principal, 1991 – 1994. Post-TAB, McLaughlin used educators from its primary beneficiaries – among them, the Western Colorado AIDS Project, Denver’s Children’s Hospital Immunodeficiency Program and Brother Jeff’s Health Initiative – as well as local health authorities to teach our kids the facts of HIV/AIDS life.
If she said it once, McLaughlin, also a TAB board member, has said it a dozen times: though the Student Fashion Show marks the kickoff of TAB time in Telluride, and while the director of the show and her team are tasked with raising about $10,000, the catwalk is not the primary reason the Benefit produces a Student Fashion Show.
In other words, read between the (clothing) lines.
For the Telluride AIDS Benefit, the big idea behind the clothes, the choreography, and the music is the fact the pandemic persists, largely unabated and increasingly among young people. The tenacity of the virus drives the need for prevention education to keep everyone safe and, yes, it also about raising money to support the Telluride AIDS Benefit’s growing list of worthy beneficiaries through its spectacular fashion events.
And prevention education does not stop after the day of talks at the school during TAB week. It continues with the peer educators, a small army of crusading teens trained in AIDS advocacy to make a difference. A number of those peer educators, if not all, are also models in the Student Fashion Show, this year directed by two talented young women: Joey Hunt in the lead, with choreographer Fern Garber.
“I became involved in the show and peer education regarding HIV/AIDS in my freshman year of high school. I volunteered to become involved in every aspect of the show I could. I was an intern to Brie, Emma, Hadley, and Mary last year and am now director. The good news is the school is allowing a full education day this year, so we will have keynote speakers, representatives from a few of the different beneficiaries, talk to the entire high school followed by breakout sessions sorted by age and gender to dive a little deeper into the subject. Being involved in the student TAB program has effected me through my enhanced ability to spread awareness and pass along ideas of prevention and awareness to my peers everywhere,” said Hunt.
“I became involved during my freshman year of high school by getting into the student show. And, when I was a little kid, both my mom and my dad were involved in the adult fashion show as production manager and director for multiple years. As a child, I always got to see the production aspect of the show, but it wasn’t until I was older that I learned and fully understood what the cause was all about. Before the fashion show my freshman year I knew next to nothing about HIV/AIDS; now I am very educated about the epidemic and know what HIV/AIDS is and its dangers. I’ve learned what I can do to help fight for a cure and raise awareness and educate others. I have also studied prevention methods I can apply to my life and inform the choices I make,” said Garber.
This year, 2018, Jessica Heady, a history teacher, takes over TAB’s education initiatives from McLaughlin as the principal faculty sponsor. However, Heady’s history with the nonprofit dates back to its inception. And since 2011, when her older daughter became a model and peer educator for the student initiatives, she learned the ropes at the feet of her mentor, McLaughlin.
“I lived in Telluride when TAB was just getting started and was good friends with TAB’s founder, Kandee DeGraw, and a number of the models from the first fashion shows. I was also friends with Robert Presley through some work with Telluride Film Festival and many mutual friends in the community. I supported the TAB fundraising efforts while working for the Sheridan Arts Foundation in the mid-nineties and always loved the joy and drama of the Fashion Show. I also had great respect for TAB, for the leadership and the volunteers’ dedication to helping support people living with HIV/AIDS and their compassionate drive to end the kind of discriminatory, judgmental thinking that kept people in a place of ignorance and fear about HIV/AIDS, rather than focusing on medical treatment, education, and prevention. In my mind, TAB was really on the leading edge of change at that time and still is today.”
According to Heady, TAB’s 2018 education program will feature an all-school assembly with a version of Telluride Arts’ Twenty(by) Telluride, including four different people involved with TAB leadership or beneficiary organizations. Those influencers will share photographs and stories about their lives in a multi-media presentation. Other key people representing TAB beneficiaries will lead educational break-out sessions to teach students about the local and global reach of TAB, and about ways to empower students to make healthy choices. Students will learn about the latest medical research and advancements in the fight for survival and prevention of HIV/AIDS and how to have greater acceptance and compassion for diversity within society, especially for those afflicted with the scourge.
“A few new presenters this year will share stories that should certainly broaden students’ perspective as to what it means to overcome adversity and celebrate life,” added Heady.
Click the play button to listen to what Joey Hunt, Fern Garber and Jessica Heady have to add.
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