Nov. 9 2011 12:00 AM

Lansing Area AIDS Network hosts seventh annual Red Ribbon Gala

Nonprofits have weathered some difficult challenges in
the past decade, and the Lansing Area AIDS Network is no exception.
Jacob Distel, executive director of LAAN, says the annual Red Ribbon
Gala is an important cornerstone in maintaining funding and support for
his organization’s mission.

“Nonprofits over the past five to 10 years have realized significant funding cuts across the board,” Distel explained.

Distel sees this as a symptom of the ailing economy, but
also as a problem related to reduced awareness about the seriousness of

“That’s the reason we have the Red Ribbon Gala,” he said.

“It’s dual purpose. It’s fundraising, but it’s also to increase community awareness about what’s going on with HIV and AIDS.”

The seventh annual Red Ribbon Gala and
Auction raises funds for LAAN programs that provides care services to
individuals living with HIV, as well as educational outreach programs.

Awards will be presented at the gala,
including the Hero Award, which will be given to Child and Family
Charities, a LAAN partner for over 15 years, providing mental health
services to LAAN’s clients.

Distel said there have been significant changes since the late 1980s and early 1990s, when greater attention was paid to AIDS.

“When agencies like LAAN were just coming about, the
majority of those agencies were grassroots agencies primarily driven by
local volunteers and local community members,” he said. “There weren’t
a lot of resources available during those very early days.” 

Not until later in the 1990s did LAAN and similar
agencies begin to receive support from government institutions and
NGOs. But government spending on AIDS programs like LAAN has dwindled
over the years. 

“I don’t see the picture getting any better,” Distel said.  That’s why events like the Red Ribbon Gala and Auction are so important to the organization.

World AIDS Day is Dec. 1.

“It’s the one time of year, quite honestly, that you can
expect to see some reference to HIV on both local and national news,”
Distel said.

“HIV is not going away; there’s still not any cure for
it. Too often when you ask a young person about various risk factors,
they’re not that concerned with HIV and AIDS. They don’t see it as the
death sentence experienced in the late 1980s and early 1990s.”  That mentality is what Distel and LAAN want to change.

Red Ribbon Gala

Saturday, Nov. 12

Radisson Hotel,

111 N. Grand Ave., Lansing

Registration begins at 6 p.m; program begins at 7 p.m., with a live auction and dinner following. 

$100 per ticket