SPRINGFIELD, Mass–Viva!, the largest fundraiser for the AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts (AFWM), is set to take place on January 27 at the Log Cabin/Delaney House in Holyoke, Mass. Boasting more than 60 silent and four live auction items, the gala is anticipated to be the best one since its inception 15 years ago, its organizers said. Perhaps the most coveted item up for bid is the original 1997 “coming out” script from the TV hit-series “Ellen.”
“I’ve been putting this auction together for four years, and this is by far the most exciting I’ve seen!” said Jessica Crevier, executive director, AFWM. “While Viva!’s auction always includes some very unique and coveted items, this [script] is really amazing and inspirational! The person who takes it home will own a piece of American culture that changed the way millions of people view love, family, and community. Its effect can be felt each time a person confidently expresses their sexual orientation; each time a person ‘comes out’ to their family without fear. By presenting this script on television, the cast of ‘Ellen’ bravely spoke out in support of positive societal changes that are still making news every day.”
This one-of-a-kind script was donated to the AFMW by Rob Quinn, a board of trustees member and Springfield resident who has been living with HIV since 1993. Originally seeking life-changing services from AFWM, such as dental and vision care, he has also been an active and integral part of the organization since.
“Rob has paid it forward by making the grant’s application process more accessible to people living with HIV/AIDS and their case managers, founding Living Positive–the psycho-educational support group for men who are HIV/AIDS positive, spearheading the launch of the first annual Campaign for Compassion, and becoming a respected activist and public speaker in Hampden and Hampshire counties,” said Crevier.
His generosity for the donation was simple–he wanted to give back to the same foundation that assisted him.
“This is an item that I had been saving for quite some time, and I felt that now–when AFWM is growing so quickly–was the perfect time to bring it out to help with fundraising efforts,” said Quinn.
As a significant part of LGBT history, there may never be an assessed price tag associated with its true value. However, Quinn hopes that this monumental piece will bring in approximately five thousand to help fund the foundation that has given so much to him.
“I just think it’s [the script] priceless!” he said. “It’s hard to specify a dollar amount, because it’s one-of-a-kind. Whomever wins it will own a piece of history that is invaluable, because this story allowed so many people to follow Ellen in coming out, expressing their true selves and being happy. You can’t put a price on happiness. But I could never repay what the AFWM has given to me, and they need funding to continue to help people. So, I think I might be disappointed if it didn’t raise around five thousand dollars.”
Originally gifted to Quinn in an effort to raise funds for people living with HIV/AIDS, the script has served its original purpose.
“I wanted to raise funds specifically to support people living with HIV/AIDS,” he said. “I was trying to get at foundation off the ground in New York City at the time, and it was given to me for the expressed purpose of supporting people with HIV/AIDS. That never came to fruition, but as soon as I experienced Viva!, I knew that the script was a perfect match for this event.”
According to Crevier, the AFWM support programs are largely funded by fundraising efforts such as VIVA!
“The live and silent auctions support programs that provide education and financial assistance that are vital to our community,” she said. “Each $500 that is bid could help a family move from a shelter to a home, allow an HIV-positive child to attend camp, or provide life saving prevention education to over a hundred members of our community.”
Other items also up for the live auction include a front row table for Viva! 2013, AFWM’s 20th Anniversary Celebration featuring Hedda Lettuce, a choice of dinner for 6-8 people prepared in your home by The Log Cabin/Delaney House’s Chef/Owner Mick Corduff, and a guest judging slot for the Big E’s Annual Wine or Cheese Competition.
According to Crevier, auction items are available exclusively to VIVA! guests. The gala also includes performances by legendary Randy Roberts and will be hosted by local comedian and actress Kelsey Flynn.
“I realize how important our fundraising efforts are, and this auction helps make it possible to continue all of the amazing programs that AFWM offers,” Quinn said.
To find out more about VIVA!, purchase tickets, or learn more about the auction items, “Like” The Aids Foundation of Western Massachusetts on FaceBook. For more information about the AFWM, please visitwww.aidsfoundationwm.org.