by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 2 February 2016
On Saturday, February 6th, at Fremont Studios, Lifelong will be hosting its annual fundraising spectacular Gay Bingo. The red carpet will roll out on a fun and fabulous evening of fashion, specialty cocktails and games galore – plus as much glitz, glamour and gaiety as any such special shindig should hold.
Tickets remain available for this wildly popular, and oft-sold out, event. Along with too much of a good thing, Gay Bingo gives everyone a chance to give help to Lifelong, and its vital work empowering those with life-changing, chronic illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, and home-bound seniors, with assistance and access to the basics of food, housing and health.
Providing Aid, Year After Year
Using knowledge and resources its created over three decades of serving people with HIV/AIDS, Lifelong recently expanded its services, according to Jeremy Orbe, Lifelong’s Development Coordinator, and now assists those in our community with liver and kidney disease, cancer and other chronic health crises, when they might not have the financial resources, and knowledge, to be able to help themselves. Yet, “our expertise is in HIV,” he explained.
Lifelong has six specific ways they’ve provided aid, year after year. They are:
- Chicken Soup Brigade – This leading food program raises and/or maintains the nutritional status of Lifelong clients, serving 1,640 people in the Puget Sound region in 2014. Food is medicine, and is crucial in any struggle for wellness. Most Chicken Soup clients live below the Federal poverty level, in isolation, and/or need basic assistance to manage their nutritional health.
- Housing – Lifelong’s Housing Program works with landlords, and many non-profit housing agencies, to provide emergency, transitional and permanent housing for its clients. Studies have repeatedly shown that individuals with HIV/AIDS with access to stable housing live longer and are less likely to infect others.
- Case Management – Lifelong case managers work one-on-one with clients to navigate the health care systems, and make sure no one in need gets left behind. They work to educate and empower the people they serve to help them become more self-sufficient. Finding the right resources for medical and dental care, for housing and health insurance, for social/emotional health and legal assistance can make all the difference when living with a life-changing illness.
- Recovery Support Services – Drug abuse and alcohol addiction weaken the immune system, and can completely undermine any efforts to cope and fight an illness. Whether clients want to reduce risks to their health and safety while using drugs or alcohol, or are ready to quit using all together, Lifelong has Recovery Support Specialists to help develop a plan toward achieving recovery goals.
- Insurance Program – For those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, having insurance can literally mean the difference between life and death. A person’s ability to manage his or her health will impact everything else – quality of life, ability to work, mental health and emotional well-being. In 2014, Lifelong helped cover $8 million worth of medical insurance premiums for 2,119 Washington residents.
- Prevention & Education – Until there is a cure, preventing HIV/AIDS is our best defense to ending this disease – and Lifelong has led the way in educational outreach to at-risk populations. Lifelong staff and volunteers never let people forget the risks of contracting HIV/AIDS, and through services, Lifelong has helped cultivate self-esteem and wisdom within clients that has dramatically decreased the transmission of these diseases, and helped those with HIV/AIDS to live longer, stronger lives. Through the Healthy Connections counseling program, clients get help identifying any barriers they may encounter in their efforts to live full and healthy lives. Through youth-led programs, Lifelong helps educate young people about safe sex and modes of transmission of HIV/AIDS.
Bringing The Raciest Red Carpet To Fremont
Yet, all the assistance Lifelong offers depends upon the generous support of donors. Donations can be given to Lifelong directly through the Lifelong website, or by attending one of the fun Lifelong fundraising events including Dining Out for Life (April 28th,) the End AIDS Walk (September,) and, right here in Fremont, the now annual extravaganza, Gay Bingo!
This year, the theme is The Academy Awards. According to Orbe, “our team brainstorms on the themes,” seeking those offering the most fun entertainment value – and great costume options. Costumes are optional, but expect to see many attendees strutting along the red carpet as favorite film characters, and/or showing off boas, tiaras and evening gowns once inside.
Led by local Drag Queen Aleksa Manila, and assisted by the very able Bingo Boys (from Seattle Quake Rugby,) entertainment during intermission will celebrate the Oscars – and, of course, the supportive community gathered to show its encouragement and enthusiasm for continuation of the important mission of Lifelong.
This evening will also feature special guests, such as Sarah Toce, Founder of Seattle Lesbian magazine, and Sara Michelle Fetters, Film Critic for Seattle Gay News. In addition, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will be on-hand, helping with entertainment, education and raising money for Lifelong.
Gay Bingo is a visually stunning sight, full of hilariously engaging games, and warm camaraderie among people gathered for a great cause. The Fremont Studios can fit over 700 people, and it has provided a great – and almost large enough – space for the event for the last five years.
Now once a year, Gay Bingo started as a nearly monthly occasion for gathering and celebrating (and raising money) a community. When asked, Orbe explained that, in order to make the evening be its best, Lifelong had to scale back to once a year. “You want to make it enjoyable,” he said, “We don’t have the capacity to do it well,” every month. Instead, they’ve focused on making an amazing, one-night of the very best Gay Bingo, with food, drinks, and prizes (including some from local businesses Canvas and Eyes On Fremont.)
“We try to make it a community event,” Orbe observed, “We talk about progress and give updates,” and raise awareness, about Lifelong and about the on-going work being done to provide those with HIV/AIDS, and other life-threatening, chronic illnesses, with the basics of food, housing and health care.
So this is it – in 2016 ‘the Oscar goes to…’ Gay Bingo, and the raciest red carpet in town! Come join this cheeky, and wildly popular, 21+ celebration, of unbridled fun and outrageous antics. Purchase tickets at Give.Lifelong today, to save your seat!
If you can’t attend, or are so clueless as to not want to go, consider donating directly to Lifelong, and those in our community that it serves!
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©2016 Kirby Laney. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.