Just after I moved into Kansas City about five years ago, I was approached to join the Millennial League, a group of young people who had big ideas for how to make an impact on the course of HIV/AIDS locally. The answer seemed obvious to me at the time. No! These people worked non-stop! Every other weekend they were volunteering at one event while promoting the next. The passion these kids showed as young leaders of our community was tantamount to insanity in my eyes. I couldn’t begin to see myself in that role.

Now, as the president of the board for Millennial League, I know that apathy like mine is a very real problem facing young people. Our group is an affiliate of AIDS Service Foundation of Greater Kansas City. We share their mission to raise funds and awareness for the people living with HIV/AIDS in Kansas City – and there are over 5,700 of them.

We are a group of 18- 30-year-olds specifically charged with targeting youth, a demographic that statistics show is in desperate need of our message. I am proud to work with some of the most prolific leaders of my generation. We have a common understanding: We have to take care of our loved ones and ourselves. We are spreading that message far and loud.

We consider ourselves children of the AIDS Service Foundation. The board of ASF has made no secret of its intention to use Millennial League as a grooming academy for the future of one of Kansas City’s most iconic nonprofits. We work closely with the individuals whose bravery and tenacity began this war in an effort to prepare ourselves to end it when the time comes. I have come to learn that the ASF comprises something more than volunteers. These men and women are survivors of a terrible plague. They have a great deal to teach us, and Millennial League has made it our business to gather them an audience.

In the five years since Millennial League’s inception, it has grown from one World AIDS Day after-party to a year-round effort to better include young people in the struggle against HIV. Our work includes a variety show at Missie B’s the last Sunday of every month, a traveling theme party known simply as Tea Dance to its loyal patrons, Fashion’s Night Out and Wrap It Up collaborations with Gap on the Plaza, our annual Code Red call to action party and our flagship event Val-O-Ween. Our goal is to be everywhere you find young people with our latest educational campaign, Wrap It Up!

Val-O-Ween is the brainchild of college students who came to a simple truth: Halloween is more fun than Valentine’s Day. There are only myths and rumors to tell us of its true creator, but it was such a smash with everyone involved that it seemed the obvious choice for our largest fundraising and educational effort.

Millennial League wanted to create an event that brought new faces to the struggle against HIV/AIDS. We wanted to help build dialogue between generations so that young people can better understand what we are dealing with. We wanted a fundraiser with ticket prices that allowed anyone to get involved, even — and especially — young people.

Val-O-Ween 2013: Neon Nights is a black-light party at 8 p.m. Feb. 8. This year, we are thrilled to be hosted at The Foundation, 1221 Union Ave., in the West Bottoms. The space is an incredible meld of historic architecture and modern-day speakeasy. There will be live music entertainment from nationally renowned DJ M Scott and even a few surprises from our emcee, Daisy Buckët.

We are encouraging people to wear neon and/or white clothes to be jazzed up at our Glowing Decoration Station. A bottomless signature cocktail is included with your $20 ticket if you are 21, and anyone younger than that can get in for just $15.

Val-O-Ween is an incredible event where you can literally walk off the dance floor and into a confidential HIV screening by Kansas City CARE Clinic in one space. We want to shake things up, let people know that it’s OK to talk about safe sex with young people and that it’s cool to know your status. Above all, we want to celebrate what our community can accomplish when we come together, regardless of age.

Ticket prices go up to $25 at the door, so find us at a Millennial League event or visit www.MillennialLeague.org to get your ticket and more information.

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