‘ELF’ to benefit ARCW

Michael Muckian, Contributing writer

The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin and ELF The Musical are joining forces to celebrate the holiday season while contributing to a worthy cause.

On Nov. 22, ARCW presents its 21st annual Holly Jolly Folly! fundraiser. Tickets include food, drink, and admission to the opening night performance of ELF at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

That 7:30 p.m. performance will be preceded by tastings of selections from some of Milwaukee’s finest restaurants, complimentary beer and wine, a cash bar and a raffle at the Marcus Center’s Bradley Pavilion. Participating restaurants include Blackshoe Hospitality, The Brown Bottle, Cempazuchi, Pastiche at the Metro, The Safehouse and others.

Wisconsin Gazette is a sponsor of the fundraiser.

Spirit of giving

ELF The Musical, based on the 2003 comedy Elf starring Will Ferrell, tells the story of Buddy, accidently transported as a baby to the North Pole, where he grows to adulthood among Santa’s elves. His large size and poor toy-making skills reveal he is not an elf, causing Santa to take him back to New York City so he can find his biological family.

The film’s seasonal setting and spirit of giving dovetails with the ARCW event and the organization’s goal of helping treat Wisconsin’s HIV+ population, according to Dan Mueller, ARCW’s VP and chief development officer.

Unfortunately, the need is great. The number of people living with HIV and AIDS continues to increase, he explains. In Wisconsin, 230 people are newly infected each year with HIV.

“This fourth decade of AIDS is really a decade of managed care, which tends not to generate many headlines,” says Mueller. “AIDS is still definitely a big deal, but it has only grown more invisible over time.”

“The average age at which HIV is diagnosed is 31. The treatment can be expensive, tremendously complicated and a lot to wrap your mind around.”

Fortunately, rapid diagnosis and treatment and the work of ARCW have made Wisconsin a bellwether state when it comes meeting needs — and extending lives.

“If you have HIV in Wisconsin, statistically you will live longer than in any other state in the country,” Mueller says.

ARCW’s latest treatment facility opened in June in downtown Madison and the patient load is 28 percent ahead of goal, indicating the growing need for the organization’s services.

“This is a disease that’s going to have to be reckoned with for a very long time,” Mueller says. “We have to stay focused and constantly evaluate and measure our strategies against our assumptions to make sure we’re positioned for success.”

Fun and funds

Part of that focus is fundraising — and the Jolly Holly Folly! has been effective in raising money.

The organization hopes to raise $53,000 through ticket sales this year. Individual tickets are $120, or $100 each for groups of four or more, and include the two-hour opening reception and a ticket to ELF The Musical.

About 96 cents for every $1 raised goes into patient services, Mueller says.

“The Holly Jolly Folly! is the only way to have a wild time and see the show while it’s in Milwaukee, while giving back to a community organization that’s doing very important work,” Mueller says. “Is there any better way to capture the holiday spirit?”

Join the fun

The Aids Resource Center of Wisconsin provides clients with medical care, dental services, mental health counseling and other services at its clinics in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, and Kenosha — regardless of ability to pay.

For more information and to purchases tickets to the Holly Jolly Folly! visit arcw.org/support-arcw/special-events/jolly_holly_folly_/ or call ARCW at 414-225-1570.