Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More than $100k Raised at Festival for Life - By Mark R. Kerr

TUCSON (Observer Update) - On Sunday, November 23, Tucsonans, young and old, straight and LGBTQ gathered in the Grand Ballroom of the University of Arizona Student Union, raising more than $100,000 during the 20th Annual Jerome Beillard Festival for Life.

Festival for Life is the annual live and silent auction and featured fine artwork, unique experiences, travel packages, jewelry and one-of-a-kind gifts. Hors d’oeuvres, a chocolate fountain, no-host bar, and entertainment from the Sons of Orpheus and Namoli Brennet made this annual event, one of the biggest annual fundraisers for the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.

In 1989, the first “Festival” took place. Entitled the “Festival of the Trees,” it was a fundraiser for the People with AIDS Coalition of Tucson (P.A.C.T). The event auctioned off nearly 200 decorated trees and wreathes for the holiday season. Over the years, the event grew and in 1992, Festival of the Trees became Festival for Life adding artwork, menorahs, and celebrity items. That year also had a special appearance by Miss Mary Wilson, formerly of the Supremes.

In 1995, P.A.C.T.’s co-founder and Executive Director, Jerôme Beillard, passed away from AIDS complications and Festival for Life was renamed to the Jerôme Beillard Festival for Life - honoring the work and spirit of a great man. Each year added amazing artwork, designer Christmas trees, gift baskets, celebrity items and sculptures. Each year also added local sponsors and community members all supporting the same cause.

In 1997, when the three AIDS Service Organizations merged to create SAAF - the Paper Prayer Benefit from the Shanti Foundation was added to Festival for Life. Local artists, students, and others create strips of art that represent an ancient Japanese tradition of giving a person who is ill a Paper Prayer as a gift to bring good health. Each year, Festival for Life continues to sells hundreds of Papers to Prayers to be used as cards and tokens of good health.

Over the years, the event has grown and changed, but the main attraction continues to be the collection of fine artwork on display in the live and silent auction for which this year’s even may be over but people can still donate to SAAF. Either mailing a check, made payable to “SAAF,” to: Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, 375 S. Euclid Ave., Tucson, AZ 85719-6644 or go online to For more information, call SAAF at (520) 628-7223.

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