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AIDS Watch: Camp it up with Masquerade Theatre for Camp Hope

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I was recently in San Antonio, and if you regularly read this column, you know it is one of my favorite places in the world. I love the food, the music, the shopping, and the arid climate, but the best thing about SA is the city’s reverence for history.

It’s apparent when you look at the beautiful old buildings (not just the Alamo) in the downtown area which have been preserved or restored.  The importance of history to this city is evident when you take a drive on the Mission Trail to visit the centuries-old Spanish frontier missions that surround the area. And San Antonio’s respect for the past is obvious when you visit the King William neighborhood, a 25-block area just south of downtown that was zoned as our state’s first historic district.

During my latest visit to San Antonio, I drove through the King William Historic District.

While admiring the lovely 19th-century homes, I noticed that several of the residents had displayed in their yards a black sign with plain white lettering that read, “No Selfishness.”

While I’m still unsure about the origin or purpose of the signs, I definitely approved of the message. I can certainly endorse the idea that all of us should be more considerate of others and act more altruistically. If we did, there would likely be less pain and poverty in the world. More specifically, those signs got me thinking about times in my life when I have witnessed acts of selflessness, and I’m happy to say that I was able to think of many instances.

One such example that springs to mind involves Camp Hope, a weeklong summer camp program for HIV-infected children 7 to 15 years of age, convened by AIDS Foundation Houston each July for the past 14 years. Camp Hope provides 150 campers with opportunities to have fun, learn new skills, build friendships, and “just be kids” in a medically and psychosocially supportive environment.

But AFH does not do it alone. We have generous corporations and foundations that support Camp Hope, and, thankfully, we have many compassionate and giving members of the community who also make significant financial contributions.

In addition, we at AFH are fortunate to have an army of volunteers (about 70 per year) who take a week off from their paying jobs to serve as mentors and caregivers to our campers. We have partnerships with several medical providers who send their doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to camp. We have artists and cooks who create and execute fun and educational workshops for the children, and we even have a few drag queens who volunteer their makeup- and style-consultation services to help the campers get ready for their glamour shots!

Given how vital collaboration is to the success of Camp Hope, we at AFH are excited to announce a new partnership with Masquerade Theatre!

If you are not familiar with Masquerade Theatre, allow me to fill you in. Masquerade Theatre has been presenting award-winning musicals in Houston for the past 14 years and is the Hobby Center’s resident musical-theater company. We can all feel some local pride because Masquerade is Houston’s hometown theater group. According to their director of development, Becky Page, Masquerade’s “professional resident company of actors are all Houston residents and are dedicated to keeping Houston talent in Houston!”

I am happy to report Masquerade Theatre is also dedicated to supporting the campers served by AFH. As a benefit for Camp Hope, Masquerade Theatre has pledged to donate a portion of the proceeds from its first “Fabulous Friday Performance” on July 30 when they present the famous musical, Rent.

Since Rent is pretty gay, and AFH is pretty gay, Masquerade Theatre thought it was the perfect pairing for their first “Fabulous Friday” performance. All LBGT theater patrons are encouraged to flaunt their fabulousness by wearing a boa to the performance! We’ll even have some boas for sale at the AFH booth inside the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts before the show in Zilkha Hall. Remember, a portion of the proceeds support AFH, so camp it up for Camp Hope!

It really is pretty easy to help others. In this case, you could actually support the children of Camp Hope by simply attending the production of Rent on July 30. For more information about Rent, “Fabulous Fridays,” and Masquerade’s exciting 2010–2011 season, please go to masqueradetheare.com.

From our humble beginnings in 1996 when we hosted 22 HIV-positive children from Houston, Camp Hope has grown into a nationally known special-needs camp that provides top-notch therapeutic recreation to 150 HIV-infected children from Texas, Florida, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

Thanks to the selflessness, compassion, and generosity demonstrated by corporations, community members, social groups, and individuals, we will celebrate our 15th Camp Hope this month. And that should serve as evidence of what can happen when people think about others and give of themselves.

Kelly A. McCann is chief executive officer of AIDS Foundation Houston. To learn more about Camp Hope, or to donate to the program, please visit the AFH website at AIDSHelp.org.

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