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Joe's story captures kids

Heart & Soul event supports programs
Stacey Forrester

Hearing Joe speak about his 20-year struggle with HIV had a huge impact on local high school students.

You could hear a pin drop there was no noise, and you could see the students were really listening, said Stacey Forrester, an outreach worker at The Heart of Richmond AIDS Society. They asked him so many good questions.

Last year, more than 1,500 Richmond high school students heard Joes moving story by taking part in the societys course dubbed 101 HIV.

The education program is provided free to Grade 10 students thanks to The Heart of Richmond AIDS Society.

From the first day I taught the course in April until the end of June, I was booked at one of the high schools, said Forrester.

The interactive course runs an hour to an hour and a half, with a Q & A session, as well as a game.

The 32-year-old Forrester goes through the science behind HIV, HIV and AIDS statistics and what they look like here in B.C. versus elsewhere around the world, and how HIV is transmitted.

We dont present our program in a scary way, its more about teaching them how to minimize their risks, said Forrester, adding she or one of her colleagues is on call 24/7.

This program would not exist without the fundraising efforts of the society.

Carl Bailey, president of the society, said its upcoming fundraiser, Heart & Soul 2012, is its only one and raises much-needed money for its programs and services. The Heart of Richmond AIDS Society has 70 members of all ages children as well as seniors.

Last years sold-out affair raised $19,000 and this year, being our 10th anniversary, we hope to raise $25,000, he said, adding with a larger venue this year, they can sell 220 tickets.

The money raised at the gala funds its Safeway grocery voucher program each member on social assistance receives a $65 gift certificate each month as well as its weekly support group, one-on-one support, two free family summer barbecues, and its high school education program.

With the cost of inflation and the increasing needs of our members, our fundraiser is our only source of income other than the grants we receive, said Bailey, adding they receive yearly grants from the Shooting Star Foundation, MAC AIDS Fund, the City of Richmond, and others.

This years gala is set to be its biggest ever.

The glitzy affair will feature lots of bling, live entertainment with The Fabulous band, as well as its popular drag queen show with Connie Smudge, Vivian Von Brokenhymen, and Symone.

We also have great live and silent auction items, including two great getaways one in Pender Harbour and another in Victoria, said Bailey.

Man about town, Fred Lee, is back again to MC with City TVs Dawn Chubai.

Theres also a raffle for two tickets to anywhere WestJet flies. New this year is the Heart Tree. For a $10 donation, people have a chance to win a diamond bracelet.

The Heart of Richmond AIDS Society presents its 10th anniversary dinner dance fundraiser, Heart & Soul 2012 on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 5:45 p.m. at the Radisson Vancouver Airport Hotel. Early bird tickets are available until today at $85 each or eight for $600 and after Wednesday, tickets are $95. To purchase tickets, call 604-277-5137 or email

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