Florence Henderson Helps at NoCal's Largest AIDS Benefit

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Wednesday August 20, 2014

On August 24, Northern California will hold "Help Is On the Way 20," its largest annual star-studded AIDS benefit concert and gala, to benefit four Bay Area ASOs. And topping the list of celebrity performers is none other than Mrs. Brady herself, Florence Henderson.

"All of our performers donate their time and talent so that the maximum dollars can go to support REAF in the fight against AIDS," said Executive Director Ken Henderson, no relation to Florence.

"Help is on the Way" is a Broadway-style variety show sandwiched between two amazing cocktail receptions for sponsors and high level ticket buyers featuring special Ketel One and Don Julio bars, wine tastings and appetizer and desserts provided by many top Bay Area restaurants and caterers.

This year's milestone, all-star benefit concert brings together celebrities from Broadway, TV, film and the recording industry to present a jazz, pop and live performance spectacular. The gala features an extensive silent auction, pre-show gala and post-show dessert and wine party with the cast.

Celebrities participating in the event include Alex Newell, Richard Chamberlain, Lisa Vroman, Jake Simpson, Paula West, Maureen McGovern, David Friedman, Carole Cook, Jason Brock, Wesly Alfbin, Craig Scoemaker, Meg Mackay, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, Valarie Pettiford and the touring cast of "Motown: The Musical." David Galligan is the director, with musical directors Richard Berent and Ben Prince.

The event is presented by the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, and benefits the Abzyme Research Foundation, Aguilas, the AIDS Legal Referral Panel and the Positive Resource Center.

"Help Is On the Way 20" was founded by Barbara Richmond (who passed in January 2014) and Peggy Ermet in memory of their sons, John Richmond and Doug Ermet, who both lost their lives to AIDS. In 1995, the two women decided not to get mad, but to get even when they launched a musical AIDS benefit to honor their sons by raising funds for AIDS service organizations. To date REAF has raised more than $3M for AIDS services.

"In addition to funds provided, REAF has donated over 2,000 tickets to our events to people with HIV/AIDS who wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford to attend," said Henderson.

Underwriter level tickets range from $150 and up, with increasing levels of benefits including listing in the programs, preferred seating, gala pre-show reception and post-performance dessert reception with the cast and other perks. A portion of the Underwriter level tickets helps underwrite the cost of the event.

"In addition to 'Help is on the Way,' our annual summer gala, REAF also produces 'Help is on the Way for the Holidays,' held in early December each year and now in its 13th year of planning," said Henderson. "We also hold our One Night Only series of benefit cabaret shows with touring Broadway casts and have worked with over 50 touring casts to present these shows."

Henderson said that 100 percent of ticket sales from Help is on the Way events have always gone directly to the beneficiary agencies. He thanks the support of their corporate sponsors and gala underwriters for helping provide resources to people living with HIV/AIDS, and notes that, "People can often double their gift by submitting their ticket purchase to their company's HR department for a company match."

"While there have been great advances in treatment for HIV and AIDS, we still don't have a cure and more people than ever before rely on the services provided by local AIDS service agencies to keep them alive and healthy," said Henderson. "Our focus for 2014 in funding is on research for a cure, delivery of direct services and prevention services."

"Help Is On the Way 20" will be held at 5 p.m.-midnight on Sunday, August 24 at The Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco, CA 94123. Tickets are $65-150. For information or tickets, visit http://www.helpisontheway.org

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.