Community raises money for families affected by AIDS

Ariana Beedie

Local university and community representatives have come together for the holiday season to celebrate and raise money for families affected by the AIDS epidemic. They’re showing support by having a pageant.

The Red Party, a special benefit event,  will feature the first “Mr. Heavensville,” to be chosen Nov. 22, for bragging rights of the year.

Participants celebrating at last year's Red Party.
Participants celebrating at last year’s Red Party.

The purpose of the event is to promote awareness about the AIDS epidemic and raise money for families affected in Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois.

Senior psychology major Alex Kessler helped out for the first time last year but was asked to model this year in the pageant.

“I mean, it’s for a good cause, and we’re competing for tips, and the tips go towards the AIDS Holiday Project,” Kessler said. “If that means making a fool out of myself for 15 minutes to benefit a family, I mean this is what you do.”

Along with the pageant, the event also features other mini fundraisers like donating gift certificates and taking donations for the families.

Right before Christmas, Tri-State Alliance volunteers deliver presents to 315 families in need so they can have a pleasant holiday.

“Families can sign up, with how many people are in their household and write down two or three items that they would want,” Kessler said. “Some people sponsor a whole family so they’re required to buy everything on that list, but some people buy Schnucks gift cards.”

Every person in the family gets some sort of Christmas present, he said.

Last year, Kessler helped deliver gifts before the holidays.

“There’s already this stigma associated with HIV and AIDS so people always feel like judged, but you’re just there to provide them with something everyone should get the opportunity to have,” Kessler said. “It was a lot of gifts, it filled my Jeep to the brim.”

Kids should wake up with gifts on Christmas morning, he said.

This is the 10th year The Red Party fundraiser has been in effect, and it’s one of the biggest moneymakers for the AIDS Holiday Project.

“This year the theme is pageant,” said Amie McKibban, assistant professor of psychology. “I help Tri-State Alliance wherever I can as a volunteer for the past four and a half years.”

One of the reasons the AIDS Holiday Projecet was started was to help the families because of the financial burden they may already endure.

“Individuals that have families living with AIDS tend to really struggle to make ends meet,” McKibban said. “Medications that oftentimes individuals are put on with HIV can cost anywhere from $12,000 to upwards of $40,000, depending on the type of medicine, a year.”

This project is a way for members of the community to help families but also put food on the table for Christmas dinner, she said.

“It’s an absolutely heart warming thing to see,” McKibban said. “It’s really amazing to watch the community pull together with these kind of fundraisers that do benefit the AIDS Holiday Project.”

Liberal Arts Dean Michael Aakhus was also asked to be a featured model in the pageant.

“When Nancy Drake asks you to do something, you don’t say no. You have to say yes,” Aakhus said. “I’m doing it because she’s always working for good causes.”

The event will be held at Tropicana Evansville and starts at 6 p.m. Call 812.480.0204 for tickets, which are $37.50 or $40 at the door.