Around this time every year, for the past 17, a group of children have come to Martha’s Vineyard for the same reason as many do: for refuge. The children’s need is usually greater than most, for they are children living with HIV/AIDS. Next week, Camp Safe Haven returns to the Island, where this now global nonprofit was born. As part of the week’s activities, all Islanders are invited to a fund-raising reception called Home Sweet Home, on Tuesday, April 19, from 5 to 8:30 p.m.
The Simon Gallery on Main street, Vineyard Haven, will host the reception, with desserts, hors d’oeuvre, wine tasting, the premiere of a short documentary, Take a Walk in My Shoes, about camp, and special performances by campers. Everyone is welcome. There is no admission; “Give as you feel led,” is the only guidance. All proceeds will benefit Safe Haven Project’s domestic and international efforts.
Camp Safe Haven aims to be a stigma-free retreat that encourages fun, camaraderie, empowerment and self-awareness. The first Camp Safe Haven for children living with HIV/AIDS was inspired by the life of the late Ryan White. Ryan was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s and was banned from attending school in Kokomo, Ind., and in the end, had to move from his hometown for his safety and wellbeing. Despite an ordeal of discrimination, which included bullets being shot through his house window, 13-year-old Ryan chose to fight the school district for his right to attend junior high as any other student in the town. He lost his initial legal battle but won on appeal at the Indiana State Supreme Court. Due to his struggle and grace, Dave Butler was inspired to create Camp Safe Haven.
Ryan White died on April 8, 1990 at the age of 18. Safe Haven Project says that since his death, yet inspired by his life, Safe Haven Project has grown to service children and youth with HIV from around the United States, Ghana, West Africa, and as of this year, the United Kingdom.
For details on the reception, call the Simon Gallery at 508-325-2242.