Although the dress code for AFAN’s annual Black & White Party is pretty self-explanatory, the search for an outfit became slightly more difficult for a few partygoers.
That’s because a dozen attendees will stand out in scarlet amongst the fundraiser’s usual mass of people, as AFAN has given twelve local philanthropists the “Right to Wear Red.”
“We asked the staff here at AFAN to remember who was always constantly supporting the organization,” says AFAN Executive Director Antioco Carrillo. The organization considers a number of factors for the special Right to Wear Red honor, including volunteerism, attendance at AFAN events and nurturing connections with other funding sources. “Mostly it’s when we feel that we are in their minds as the charity of choice.”
That description just might fit Salon Dushons hair stylist Lauren Toya, who managed the stage direction for AFAN’s annual AIDS Walk for the fourth time this past April. Toya also will run the Black & White Party’s stage direction for a fourth time this year, in addition to being a RTWR honoree.
“It means a lot to me because I lost a close family member when I was young to AIDS,” says Toya of her inclusion. “Being able to be honored for the volunteer work that I do, it just feels good. It’s nice to be recognized.”
Channel 8 News Now anchor/reporter and RTWR honoree Chris Saldaña will also be lending a hand at the Black & White Party for a fourth time this year, serving as the evening’s host. He also served as emcee for the AIDS Walk this year.
“I do what I do because I have a passion for being involved in this community, and to be recognized on such a high note like this, it’s awesome,” says Saldaña. “There are so many people who are battling this disease every day and living with it. Those are the true people who need to be wearing red.”
When asked of the importance of devoting one’s self to the fight against HIV/AIDS, Saldaña points to the broad spectrum of people impacted by the disease, adding that many people are unaware of how many are affected by it.
Fellow RTWR honoree Tom Dietz echoed Saldaña’s comments.
“There is so much that still needs to be done with AIDS research and AIDS prevention and education,” says the senior account executive at R&R Partners. “So many people are still unfamiliar with what it is (and) how it’s contracted.” Dietz contends these are the reasons AFAN is an important local charity. “That’s why it’s one of the more important charities and nonprofits here in town. … Not to say that they’re more or less important, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Dietz worked extensively with AFAN while he was employed as a marketing manager at Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub. This work is likely what secured his spot amongst the twelve, a recognition that he did not expect.
“I am very humbled and grateful beyond words, I never thought an honor like this would ever come my way,” says Dietz. “To be honored with this group of people, it’s incredible. It’s really hard to put into words.”
While at Marquee, Dietz oversaw the company’s Marquee Cares program that partnered with AFAN to put on parties promoting the nonprofit’s events. The nightclub even sponsored the official AIDS Walk Afterparty, where participants or those wearing red received free admission and an open bar in return for their support.
“People are clamoring to get into Marquee, and so this kind of used that high profile, that high visibility, to get the name out of a charity that was very near and dear to our hearts,” says Dietz. “We wanted to do good.”
And good he did, as he wouldn’t be included in the elite group of philanthropists otherwise. Rounding out the list are: John Saska of Findlay Cadillac; Dr. Dino Gonzalez of the Internal Medicine Association; Scott Washburn of Event Consultants LLC; Pamela Jenkins of The Cupcakery; Fabian Mera of The Apothecary Shops; Lea Carrasco-Zanini of Golden Rainbow; Team Walgreens (Kanika Totson, Cathy Roberts and Rob Sauncers will all represent); Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Herb Schultz; and the Peoples’ Choice honoree, U.S. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley.
Berkley’s inclusion marks the first time the community had the opportunity to weigh in on the RTWR decisions. AFAN asked locals to nominate friends, family members and colleagues with a one-page letter describing the person’s commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS. “Overwhelmingly there were several responses submitted for Shelley Berkley,” said Carrillo.
Aside from the license to stand out in color, each honoree receives tickets to the event, inclusion in the evening’s program and onstage recognition during the party.
Want to congratulate one of the philanthropists? They’ll clearly be easy to find at the August 25 event at the Hard Rock Hotel’s Nirvana Pool. Tickets range from $35 to $100 and are available on AFAN’s website, afanlv.org.