AIDS Foundation's 15th Annual Dream Halloween
AIDS is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It may well be the deadliest word in our vocabulary today, affecting more than 40 million people, two million of whom are children. Many people can go on as long as 10 years not knowing they have AIDS.
Children Affected by Aids Foundation hosted "Dream Halloween LA 2008," an annual fundraising event benefiting their foundation. The event took place last Saturday at the Barker Hanger in the Santa Monica Airport. It was made to be a colorful event full of costumes from princes to witches, each greeted by Barbie and, Toys R US's gigantic mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe before they entered the dark and mysterious party inside.
CAAF's vision statement is "to ensure that all children affected by AIDS have happy and healthy lives." CAAF was founded by Mattel, Inc. executive Joe Cristina in 1993. Cristina's health started deteriorating suddenly and he learned that he was affected by the HIV virus. The support he received by disclosing his HIV positive status inspired Cristina to build and open the only organization that solely devotes and provide educational, social, recreational and other critical support to children impacted by HIV and AIDS in the United States and other countries. Since its establishment, CAAF has raised more than $30 million for children affected by HIV and AIDS.
"AIDS is one of the most incredible endemics of our time. We have to give attention to it and not give up or stop helping people," said Cristina. The event was attended by Hollywood celebrities Jamie Lee Curtis, Jada Pinkett Smith, Wilmer Valderrama, Jason Priestley, Doris Roberts, Kim Fields among others. Curtis wearing the "Uncle Sam" costume defined herself and the other celebrities as "Cristina's cheerleaders. This is a place where incredible people show up and support the work which this man has created," said Curtis. The whole event was fun and intelligently planned. People were excited to take pictures with the celebrities while kids had fun admiring each other's costumes and meeting the young celebrities actors Madison Davenport and Josh Hutcherson.
Proceeds from the purchased tickets went straight to the organization, and donations from the auctions was another way to benefit the organization; all with one purpose and urgent ambition in mind, to help the most vulnerable which are the people that was most in need. "Our organization provides money for direct care and services. It is important that research money be put into AIDS, especially for vaccines because most of the world can't afford even the most inexpensive medicine that are needed to care for HIV and AIDS," said Cristina. He believes that research money should go into new drugs because today's drugs for HIV and AIDS are only effective for a certain period of time and many people especially children find it difficult to take because they're toxic. Cristina has lost two very close partners in 1988 and 1993 from AIDS. He would like to dedicate the event to them. "I would just like to say to them that I'm still here, still working, still trying to make a difference and to help other people so they don't have the same tragedy that happened to them," said Cristina.
CAAF urges people to educate themselves and take responsibility when it comes to eliminating this deadly virus. To help, volunteer or donate $5 by texting the word DREAM to 90999. "A lot of people like to believe that AIDS is over and manageable, maybe something that doesn't need our attention anymore" said Cristina. But he looks at it quite oppositely. "It's a worldwide endemic that needs all our attention."