Tom Troupe and Carole Cook

Barbara Richmond was devastated when she lost her only son John to AIDS. When her life-long friend Peggy Ermet lost her only son, Doug, to the same nasty battle, the two women decided to turn their grief into action by establishing the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation (REAF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which raises money for local AIDS organizations through annual entertainment events.

This year’s annual event, Help is on the Way Gala XVII: Gotta Sing Gotta Dance, was Northern California’s largest AIDS benefit concert. It took place August 21 at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco and included a Live and Silent Auctions, Pre-Show Receptions, and an After-Party with the cast, in addition to the performance.
VIP guests mingled before the show on the terrace overlooking San Francisco City Hall and enjoyed scrumptious treats, which were donated by Aidell’s Sausages, Harris’ Steakhouse, Grand Café, Blue Mermaid Chowderhouse/Café Pescatore, Jasper’s, and Urban Tavern. Guests were not left thirsty—a healthy supply of libations was donated by Ketel One Vodka, Don Julio Tequila, and Wente, Charnu, and Layer Cake Wineries.

Donations were still being totaled at the time of publication, but REAF estimated that the event, which donated 100% of ticket sales to beneficiaries, raised about $70,000. That money will be distributed to Bay Area AIDS service agencies, Aguilas, Shanti, STOP AIDS Project, and the YouthAware program at New Conservatory Theatre Center to support HIV education and prevention services.

The performance featured cast members from Broadway, TV, film, dance, and recording industries, including Academy Award-winning singer and actress Shirley Jones, Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga, Broadway stars Patrick Cassidy, Sean McDermott, Lisa Vroman, David Burnham, Carole Cook, television’s Gloria Loring and Thea Gill. In attendance were Jan Wahl, Brian Boitano, Joanne Jordan, Ron Hummel, Andrew Freeman, Beth Schnitzer, and Raghu Shivaram. Help is on the Way has been supported by long-time sponsors Charles Schwab, Wells Fargo, as well as more recently, AAA and American Airlines.

REAF director Ken Henderson explained that this event has a message which goes beyond raising money. REAF hopes that through these events they will be able to convey the message that the fight against AIDS is an on-going battle. Agencies are still struggling to provide services to the thousands of people depending on them.

REAF’s next performance will be titled, Help is on the Way for the Holidays X, and will be December 5 at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. For more information about REAF, or to donate CLICK HERE.