When Kit Kloeckl was diagnosed with HIV in 2005, he figured he had two options moving forward.
“You can do nothing, or try to go out and make a difference,” Kloeckl said.
As the executive director of the Aunt Rita’s Foundation — a nonprofit organization devoted to raising funds for 19 agencies that provide support to patients with HIV and AIDS — it’s obvious which path Kloeckl chose.
Over the next month, Kloeckl’s foundation is giving Valley residents that same opportunity to make a difference — by participating in the Aunt Rita’s Foundation’s SAVORlife event.
The SAVORlife event aims to put a spin on the concept of the typical fundraiser by letting Valley residents
host their own event, before coming together in April to celebrate collectively.
Participants will be able to help HIV/AIDS agencies and to have fun while hosting a lunch, dinner, cocktail party or other type of get-together with their friends and family.
Now in its eight year, SAVORlife is one of the primary events the Aunt Rita’s Foundation sponsors for the sake of raising money to help patients with HIV and AIDS through such services such as primary medical care, case management, counseling and testing.
The foundation has brought in more than $1 million since 2005, and apart from raising funds, it also promotes education and awareness among the public about HIV and AIDS.
SAVORlife is one of three events that the foundation puts up annually and last year, the event raised $70,000 in total.
How the event works: “hosts” register their own mini-event online or by phone, before inviting guests to attend. Hosts ask for a donation of at least $35 that can be contributed via credit or debit card, check or cash.
Kloeckl said that the concept of the SAVORlife event was made to be simple and for potential hosts to do it on their own time and at their own leisure.
Taylor Conroy, a 24-year-old Tempe resident, recently hosted her own SAVORlife event at her home. Conroy said the process of getting everything ready was easy and painless to do, even though she said that she doesn’t have a lot of money or space.
“The point is that you can make it as easy as you want,” Conroy said.
Her theme for the event was a cocktail party, and she invited a lot of friends.
After hosts compile and turn in their guest lists and donations to the Aunt Rita’s Foundation, all hosts and guests will receive free passes to the SAVORlife Soiree, an April 12 event at the Phoenix Art Museum.
The cocktail party-themed evening — it also includes a silent auction and art show — is intended thank all those who helped in the SAVORlife concept. Those who raised $300 or more at their mini-event, will also be entered into a drawing to win an iPad mini at the Soirée.
In addition to the foundation’s large-scale fundraising efforts, Aunt Rita’s is also promoting awareness of HIVAZ.org — an Arizona-centric database chock full of HIV- and AIDS-related resources — this year.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there are 14,705 people in Arizona who are aware that they are living with HIV or AIDS. It is estimated that of that number, 6,036 know they have AIDS or HIV, but are not getting any medical treatment for various reasons such as not having financial means, fear of stigma or lack of awareness. Additionally, about 4,000 people have HIV or AIDS but don’t know it.
The website’s purpose is to start an education and awareness campaign and to fill the void of a place where people can look for resources.
“Even though there’s places that offer services, we were surprised that there wasn’t a place that gather all those resources for people to see,” Kloeckl said.
When complete, the website will provide up-to-date information about HIV testing, care services and prevention. The website had a soft-launch and was announced last year in October, during the foundation-sponsored AIDS Walk. A plan is being put into place of contacting doctors across the state to promote the website to their patients and also become contributors to the website.
This “user interface” will prevent the website from becoming stale and being able to have current information. The goal is to link all Arizona-based HIV/AIDS agencies in one place, making the website the first of its kind. It will be completely free both for uses and contributors. One of the things also in consideration is to translate the website into Spanish, and as part of the campaign, come up with different strategies to raise awareness in different communities.
The website also has a video explaining how an HIV test actually works so people know what to expect.
What: SAVOrlife Event
When: All March-Early April
Where: Your own place and Phoenix Art Museum
Information: www.savorlifephoenix.org or 602-904-6001
Abel, a senior studying journalism at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact him at (480) 898-6514 or email@example.com.