Telluride Museum Hosts Fireside Chat At Capella

[click “Play”, Amy Kimberly speaks about the history and impact of the Telluride AIDS Benefit]

The Telluride Historical Museum is hosting another of its popular Fireside Chats, this one at Capella Telluride in the Mountain Village: The True Telluride Story – Telluride AIDS Benefit. Kandee Degraw and Daiva Chesonis reveal the backstory of the Telluride AIDS Benefit. The event takes place at 5 p.m., February 24.

The Telluride AIDS Benefit began life as a Free Box-style grassroots initiative.

Robert Presley was a fabric artist and enfant terrible, beloved throughout the Telluride community. His costly battle with HIV/AIDS – made worse by the fact he was living in rural Colorado and had to commute to get medical help –  mobilized a group of his buddies.

Kandee DeGraw, Marie Law and other friends, including Deb Wooddell, Anne Marie Cox, and Lawrence Van Hooey, organized a Dance-A-Thon in July 1994 and managed to raise a whopping $10,000. Robert decided to donate the money to the Western Colorado AIDS Project, his medical provider, establishing the tradition of beneficiaries.

One month later, Daiva Chesonis happened to be working with Robert on a Telluride Film Festival set. While spray-painting aspen branches with metallic paint, the two got to talking about clothes. Daiva came up with the idea of a fashion show as a fundraiser. Sue Hobby suggested thinking really BIG. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon. The rest is history: a gala that sells out every year.

In the beginning, there was also a fundraising dinner at Susie Coit’s house, two nights of comedy/performance and an educational initiative in Elks Park, establishing the prevention education dimension to TAB.

From those humble beginnings, over 17 years the Telluride AIDS Benefit evolved into a lean machine that supports no fewer than six beneficiaries on the Western Slope, in the Front Range and in Africa. TAB provides these organizations with discretionary (read “unrestricted”) funds that support creative solutions to eclipsing the spread of the pandemic and enhancing the lives of individuals and families living with the virus.

For more of the Benefit’s backstory, click the “play” button and listen to Amy Kimberly’s podcast. Amy was one of the very first directors of the Telluride AIDS Benefit and the woman responsible for putting the event on the world stage by reaching out to Africa.

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