It may be one of the most important organizations in the city with a mission that’s no joke, but when it comes time to party, the Mazzoni Center (MC) knows how to throw down. On Saturday night, I went to its annual Elixr fundraiser, held way up on the 33rd level of the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. The floor was packed with a colorful crowd representing every letter under the LGBT and ally rainbow — folks dressed to the hilt but not afraid to unfasten their top buttons or pull back their hair to have a good time. The evening was more about chatting with friends and meeting new ones than being tied to a chair listening to a bunch of stuffy speeches. There was ample food and drink to keep attendees giddy, and good music kept the vibe up and bop-y. And the best part about it was that we were having a good time for a good cause.
When MC Executive Director Nurit Shein kicked off the short ceremonial section of the night, she mentioned that funds raised from the party would help provide “continuous, affordable healthcare to 1,000 women from the LBT communities.” From there, the Master of Ceremonies, CBS Philly’s Jim Donovan, took over to announce the 2013 Elixr honorees.
Philly AIDS Thrift Co-Founder Christina Kallas-Saritsoglou received the Ally Award. During Kallas-Saritsoglou’s award presentation, we learned that Philly AIDS Thrift has raised over $600K for local HIV orgs, including a recent $20K donation to the MC. In her tearful acceptance speech, Kallas-Saritsoglou shined a light on the impact these organizations have made on the AIDS community, comparing the devastation she saw when the AIDS epidemic was at its worst with the many life-prolonging services and treatments we have available today.
When LGBT community activist and Police Liaison Committee Member Jaci Adams accepted the Activist Leader Award, you could tell she was talking to a room of friends. Everyone cheered the charismatic speaker on as she talked about the work she’s done to spread HIV/AIDS awareness and education in Philadelphia. The most skin-tingling moment, though, came at the end when Adams — who’s been living with HIV for 30 years — told the crowd: “It doesn’t matter the cards life deals you, it’s how you play the hand. … And I’m going to keep on doing my thing.” Now that’s inspiration.
Dean of the Drexel University School of Public Health, Dr. Marla J Gold, received the Mazzoni Center’s equivalent of a Lifetime Achievement Award, the Peter Mazzoni Award for her trailblazing contributions to HIV care and public health in Philadelphia, and her advocacy for LGBT health and wellness. “There was a time when we held the hands of the dying, but now we hold the hands of the living,” she said, referring to the advancements that have been in HIV care over the years. Then she rallied the crowd to fight for marriage equality in Harrisburg, and promised that we’d all be invited to her wedding to longtime partner Debra. I’m holding you to that, Dr. Gold!
After that, it was mingling time again. Below, I’ve attached a few more photos of the evening. Check out Facebook page a little later for firstname.lastname@example.org.