Red Ribbon Foundation tickets on sale to benefit fight against AIDS

Is Greenwich ready for some “sex, drugs and rock and roll”? Well, it had better be because it’s coming this way in November and for a good cause.

The Greenwich-based Red Ribbon Foundation, a leading charity supporting AIDS programs around the world, is bringing its annual event to the area with the theme of “SAFE sex drugs & rock n’roll” that will revisit the dawn of the AIDS epidemic where hard partying scenes like ones in New York and Los Angeles were among the first to really feel the impact of the devastating disease. Tickets are now on sale for the event, which is set for Nov. 3 at the recently renovated and reopened Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y., and will feature two of Greenwich’s best known celebrities in major roles.

Town resident Gary Dell’Abate, best known for his work as producer of The Howard Stern Show, where he is more infamously referred to as “Baba Booey,” will receive the Jonathan Scharer Lifetime Achievement Award and is serving as honorary chairperson for the evening along with his wife Mary. Mr. Dell’Abate will have his award presented to him by Greenwich resident and legendary morning show host Regis Philbin, a longtime friend.

The Red Ribbon Foundation was formed in 1994 and since then it has given more than $2.3 million in grants working both in the United States and globally to stop the spread of AIDS. It has helped fund HIV/AIDS research into a cure as well as compassionate care and prevention efforts that can only come through education.

Mr. Dell’Abate is board president of the New York City-based Lifebeat, which tries to bring that education to people who might now be taking for granted the risks they face when it comes to AIDS. Lifebeat has recruited major music stars to do public service announcements helping to create more awareness and education about the disease and how it can be avoided, and the charity regularly goes out on tour with major acts to set up and pass out information and condoms to people at concerts. Mr. Dell’Abate said that right now Lifebeat is working on the tours for Madonna and Rod Stewart.

The Red Ribbon Foundation was formed by a Greenwich couple, Karl and Florence Suerig, who lost their son, Michael, to AIDS. Nicole Hazard, executive director of the foundation, told the Post that the family wanted to give back to the charities that had helped their son and that since then the foundation has grown to support both national and international efforts. And Ms. Hazard said that most of the supporters of the foundation are within a 20-mile radius of Greenwich, which is why it say it’s a “global fight, a local effort.”

“One family started all of this to fight against a global disease,” Ms. Hazard said. “That tag really sums up our unique effort. All along it’s been the Suerig family and it’s grown to include their friends and their family and the circle of people who have had AIDS touch their lives either by having a friend or family member with the disease or traveling around the world and seeing its impact, especially in Africa. Supporters here on a local level are able to help people millions of miles away through their efforts.”

The event is one that happens every two years or so and it is a major fund-raiser for the foundation. People are being urged to show support through buying tickets or through volunteering or making a donation, and there’s been a lot of local support for the foundation and this event. Selectman Drew Marzullo has been doing public relations by reaching out to everyone he knows and he said it’s something he’s happy to do. He and his partner Reynold, who works with Dr. Suerig at Greenwich Hospital, are friends of the family.

“One of the things I love best about being a selectman is being able to use my voice to do great things and help worthy causes,” Mr. Marzullo said. “Red Ribbon is an easy sell. Just about everyone I have asked to contribute in some way has done so. Greenwich is full of amazingly generous people and Red Ribbon is an amazingly run organization.”

Involvement in charities like this has been a deeply personal fight for Mr. Dell’Abate and his family. He lost a brother to AIDS and since then he’s committed himself to working as best he can to educate people about the disease and eliminate it. He said he’s honored to be able to receive the Jonathan Scharer Lifetime Achievement Award in front of so many local friends, but that he didn’t get involved for awards.

“After my brother died I felt like I need to do something,” Mr. Dell’Abate said. “I’m doing this for his memory. It’s not about awards and having my name up there. It’s more for me to remember him.”

AIDS education is a critical international problem, Mr. Dell’Abate said it’s one that can too often be overlooked at home and that’s why Lifebeat has worked so hard to create awareness.

“We think of this as a global disease but we’re focused on this country with this effort,” Mr. Dell’Abate said. “There’s no cure for HIV/AIDS but the disease can be managed and I think a lot of young people think, ‘Oh, no one’s dying from that anymore.’ So they might not educate themselves about how they need to take care of themselves. There’s no magic pill you can take and everything’s going to be fine. It’s nothing you want to have to live with. People need to learn about how to avoid getting this. You have to use your brain. You have to use common sense and sometimes the two of those will go hand in hand.”

Mr. Dell’Abate’s work with Lifebeat got him involved with Red Ribbon and for the last year he has been working with the foundation.

In a statement to the Post, Mr. Philbin praised Mr. Dell’Abate’s commitment to groups like the Red Ribbon Foundation and said he was honored to present him the award.

“Gary, time and time again has used his celebrity to do some good in the world and, as comes up often on his show, his family is a big part of who he is,” Mr. Philbin said. “Both Lifebeat and Red Ribbon are two wonderful charity organizations doing great things and helping so many people. I look forward to presenting Gary’s much deserved award.”

The evening will also feature a performance by Sugar Ray, best known for smash hits like Fly, Every Morning, Someday and When It’s Over from the 1990s and early 2000s. Tickets for the event are $400 for VIPs, $1,500 for patrons and $10,000 for tables. Late night admission tickets are $125 and will offer access to the Sugar Ray concert, the open bar and dancing.

Mr. Dell’Abate said that he’s happy that this event is taking place “in my backyard” and that so many of his friends from Greenwich will be able to attend.

“This is obviously a very serious cause, but this night is going to be a lot of fun,” Mr. Dell’Abate said.

More information and tickets may be found online at redribbon.ejoinme.org/safetix.

 

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