As Kevin Stilley, secretary treasurer of the Junction City Teddy Bears, told the members of the audience at the 7th annual Red Ribbon Revue to take a moment of silence for those they had lost or who they know still living with HIV/AIDS, the entire Xcalibur Club building went eerily silent.
People quietly spoke the names of those they have lost or who are still living with HIV/AIDS. As silence continued to dominate the atmosphere at the club, Stilley welcomed people to become more upbeat with the beginning of the Red Ribbon Revue performances.
On Saturday, before the Red Ribbon Revue, there was a Red Ribbon Ball at ECM for students, staff and community members. The moment of silence facilitated by Stilley occured at both events.
All of the proceeds from the Red Ribbon Revue went to the Junction City Teddy Bear Emergency Fund. This fund goes to help people living in the communities surrounding Manhattan and Junction City, who are living with HIV/AIDS when they have emergency needs.
Money from this fund has gone to help pay for tanks of gas to get patients to doctor’s appointments, electric bills, food and even a window air conditioning unit. These are unexpected needs that arise for people living with HIV/AIDS that others, not living with the disease, may not have to worry about. Stilley said he has written more checks in the past year than in the previous three years combined.
None of the performers in the Revue made any money. All of the money that they were tipped went into the total to be donated to the Junction City Teddy Bears.
“I feel like our community needs to stick together and this is my part to help raise money for [the Junction City Teddy Bears],” said Joseph Brock, resident of Junction City who performed in drag as Lilkim Chi. “It’s rewarding to know that all of the money is going to help raise awareness and help people living with HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is around and affects everyone.”
HIV/AIDS are illnesses that attack the immune system, making it more likely for those affected to die from something like a staph infection or pneumonia due to their body’s inability to fight off illness.
“Even though I know how serious of a problem HIV/AIDS is, it was still a shocker and an eye opener when [Kevin] Stilley came to speak about remembering those we have lost and those still living with HIV/AIDS,” said Simone Dorsey, president of LGBT & Allies and senior in family services and human services. “There are so many people who are diagnosed and so many people who die every year due to HIV/AIDS, and it is 100 percent preventable, yet it is still happening.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 there were slightly less than 50,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. There is currently no cure for people who contract HIV/AIDS, but modern medicine is working to continue to improve the living conditions of those living with the disease
“This weekend hasn’t really changed since its creation seven years ago,” Stilley said. “This year, on Friday night, during the bake sale/auction, we set a record for the amount of money raised with $670 in just that one night. It has been absolutely phenomenal the amount of support [we] get from the community when it comes to this weekend of events.”
Stilley hosted the Red Ribbon Revue event in drag as Allie Monet. She invited regular drag queens from Xcalibur Club to perform alongside her, and the Revue was also an open casting call for people in the community to be able to go and perform.
“It is my duty to my community to be able to be there and support them in any way I can,” said Zan Bertolino, sophomore in music education, who performs as Carlotta Junichelli. “I am doing my part to help someone else in need, as well as entertain others. Those are really the two main reason I went into performing in drag.”
This was Bertolino’s second year performing in the Revue as Junichelli.
Before the Revue, people were welcomed to come and dance at the Red Ribbon Ball, as well as see live entertainment from Tyler Woods, who performs as TyWoo and is a 2005 alum of K-State in musical theatre and received his master’s degree in directing in 2009.
“The Ball was a lot of fun,” Woods said. “I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew is I wanted to sing and do my hula-hoop dancing number. It was so rewarding to meet so many people I hadn’t met before, since I’ve been out of school for a while. It’s nice to know there is still a presence of LGBT students at K-State.”
The Red Ribbon Ball was competing with high-publicity events like the K-State football game, as well as the Kappa Tau chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha’s 14th Annual Miss Black and Gold Pageant. Caleb Kueser, vice president of LGBT & Allies and senior in animal science and industry, said even though these other events were going on he felt the Red Ribbon Ball was a successful event.
Along with the Red Ribbon Ball and Red Ribbon Revue on Saturday, there was free HIV/AIDS testing in the K-State Student Union. The testing was for all students, staff, faculty and community members who wanted it. It was sponsored by LGBT & Allies, S.H.A.P.E. and the LGBT Resource Center.
“Personally, I feel like people are a lot more aware of HIV/AIDS than what is let on,” Kueser said. “The turnout, as a whole, for the different events was extraordinary, and we had a lot of support from just random people who weren’t necessarily involved with any of the respective organizations for any of the events. Seeing people comfortable enough to discuss the topic and then be proactive about it just gives me hope that we are definitely moving forward.”
At the end of all of the events for the Red Ribbon weekend, the Junction City Teddy Bears raised more than $1,300 for their emergency fund.
“If people can learn from events like these, than I know that I have done what I’ve needed to do,” Stilley said.