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Now that it’s April and people have started emerging after the long winter, it’s also time for AIDS Walk Kansas City. Our Camp10 subjects this time are two women who have been involved in AIDS Walk for more than a decade. Sisters and allies Casey and Sloane Simmons, owners of the store STUFF (316 W. 63rd St., Kansas City, Mo.), devote their time and energy every year to this important cause.
1. You are both extremely dedicated to AIDS Walk Kansas City. How and when did you become involved?
Casey Simmons: I became involved because my sister Sloane had made such a passionate commitment to the cause. Her words motivated me to stand with her in the fight. And I, too, believed that working in our community to offer dignity and hope to people suffering with HIV/AIDS was something we simply could not ignore.
Sloane Simmons: I became involved with the Walk in 1997, the year my son was born. I was a volunteer along the route, and I also got my first taste of the Mosaic Project that year, an annual event for AIDS Walk I have been involved with ever since. Greg Hugeback founded the event, along with a Shawnee Mission East High School student. Since then, the business I own with my sister, Casey Simmons, has become a corporate sponsor for this art-based outreach program. I have never not been a member of the Walk Steering Committee since then.
2. How have you involved family and friends in this cause over the years?
CS: Of course, I think it is impossible to not encompass your close friends and family in a cause you find yourself so deeply passionate about. My daughter “walked” her first Walk at age 3 months and hasn’t missed the annual event since. She also gives community service hours to the organization. It is a family-fun-fest each year. I am surrounded by my daughter, my mother, my sister, my nephew and the list goes on.
SS: My son and husband have worked alongside me on every volunteer gig I have put my name in for on the Walk. They also supported me as I joined the AIDS Service Foundation and then served in a leadership role as time went by. Time away from my young son was hard for several of those years, but having them both at events made me very happy. My sister -- along with STUFF – has sponsored Walk teams, and she has headed up teams for the AIDS Walk Open, award-winning teams I might add. My father has sponsored both of his grandchildren for walking in AIDS Walk, and our mother has walked alongside us for many years.
3. How has AIDS Walk Kansas City changed since you became involved?
CS: Their core mission hasn’t. They have grown larger in participants, dollars raised, and the number of events they host. But they have never lost sight of their mission and goals. I am very impressed that this organization has stayed dedicated to their core values and they have found ways to keep the expenses and management contained. It is truly remarkable what they accomplish with such a small operating budget.
SS: AIDS Walk has grown since I first became involved — in numbers of walkers, in money raised and in size. However, it has not lost its heart or its way. The money stays in Kansas City and helps those living with HIV/AIDS. Every year is like a family reunion in the park for my son and me. We see people we don’t see very often, and we see people we see all the time. But on Walk Day, we are there for a single and focused purpose, and that lends an energy and emotion to the day. Our day starts early in the Mosaic tent and ends when all the walkers have left the park. These days live with me all year long, and I cherish most the ones I have been able to share with my son.
4. What is your favorite part of AIDS Walk Kansas City (you know, besides that physical activity that pushes out those endorphins!)?
CS: The emotional connection that day is inspiring. I love, love, love the tribute flags. They are majestic and powerful. They set the stage for the whole walk.
SS: Watching the walkers leave the park and watching them return. Since the initiation of the flags leading the walkers to 47th Street, I have been unable to remain dry-eyed. Such power in the silences and the noise.
5. How do you prepare for the walk?
CS: I raise money and invite people to join a team. I Facebook constantly to spread awareness and to shamelessly beg for every dime I can raise.
SS: I spend months working on the Mosaic Project and lifting hundreds of pounds of tiles and supplies. We schlep them all over town to high schools, so I am pretty much prepared physically for my part of Walk Day.
6. Why should people get involved with the AIDS Walk (I mean, other than it being a great cause!)?
CS: The Walk is one of Kansas City’s most inspiring events. It fills your heart with hope and it shines a bright light on our city’s beautiful diversity. And this event supports multiple AIDS Service Organizations and other grant programs all in one. You get to shoot a bag of arrows with one shot. It makes you feel great, because it is great!
SS: AIDS Walk Kansas City and the AIDS Service Foundation do a dynamic job of making any and everyone involved with the Walk feel like family. Heck, we’ve raised our son in its warm embrace. The money raised helps people in our city and the low expenses for all the fundraising that is accomplished all year by the volunteers that make up the ASF is a shining example of what a not-for-profit is all about. Low expenses mean more money for programs and people.
7. What event would you like to see added to the AIDS Walk Kansas City week events?
CS: A kids’ fun run before the walk. I would like the organization to find more ways to include families with children.
SS: I would love to see an avenue for artists to be more involved with the Walk, beyond those who participate in the Mosaic Project. I know by having this idea I should be a catalyst for making it happen, but it will occur sometime. Until now, it just hasn’t happened because so many things already happen in the weeks leading up to the Walk.
8. As sisters, you are in business together and you are also involved in AIDS Walk Kansas City together. Are there other hobbies or interests that you share?
SS: I can say that the love of our small business is a project we share. STUFF makes us proud and supports many, many local artists. In addition, I take great pleasure in doing small-business consulting with my sister and helping others fulfill their dreams of self-employment and entrepreneurship. Hobbies? We both read for pleasure and, in the past when there has been time, we needlepoint. We travel with our children, but seldom together because the strain of both of us gone is too hard on our business. However, the times we have carved away for our children to travel together and with us have been magical.
CS: We both love art, travel, fabulous food, laughter and our life project called STUFF. I know it sounds weird, but we really, really love our business. I agree with her notes about this too. But this is my way of getting to the point faster :)
9. I love the statement on your website to “pursue good stuff, art, food, fun, health, people, and places.” How did you decide to make this your mantra?
SS: Pursuing good stuff is a way to live your life, and I live mine that way every day. I can’t say there was a “dead on” decision to make it a mantra, but we were doing so organically in most decisions we were making for our store. The rest is a little bit of history for us.
CS: “Pursue good stuff” is our trademark. It is our lifestyle. It is our litmus test for every business decision we make. And it helps guide us in our charitable work. It is a great way to quickly put things in balance. Sloane is right — it came about organically and honestly. It grew from within us both.
10. What one item in your store would you gift to your sister and why?
CS: A Lori Buntin pool painting — a big one. Because she loves art, paintings, Lori’s work, and she often reminds me that “stress can’t float.”
SS: I would give my sister a one-of-a-kind piece of handmade jewelry. Wisely, I would let her pick it herself.
Worldwide opera star Renée Fleming will perform in Kansas City on Thursday night, November 18, but the day before, she'll be part of a panel discussion for "Music and the Mind" — a conversation about how music affects the brain, cognitive development, healing and quality of life.
WHAT: Music and the Mind with Renée Fleming
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021
TIME: 4:00-5:30 PM
WHERE: The 1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods, KS, 66205
Music has a profound impact and the ability to shape 86 billion neurons in the brain for cognitive development, healing, and therapy. Science research has clearly shown that music therapy interventions can improve quality of life across nearly all neurological disorders. And there is tremendous public-interest in applying music to creative aging, childhood development, and community wellness.
But scientists want to know more.
Join soprano Renée Fleming and a distinguished panel of local Kansas City experts in neurology, music therapy, music and healing, and more for this cutting-edge discussion. Audience members will be able to participate in a Q&A following the panel discussion.
*Please note this Music and the Mind Event is not a musical performance*
As Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Renée Fleming has spearheaded a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH, and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. This initiative has also led the NIH to recently award $20 million dollars in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years.
As part of her advocacy, Fleming is also advisor to the recently launched NEA/UCSF Sound Health Network and co-chair of the Aspen Institute/Johns Hopkins NeuroArts Blueprint, both working to advance the field of arts and health.
This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please call the Harriman-Jewell Series at 816-415-5025 to reserve your seat.
WHAT: Renée Fleming, soprano in recital
WHEN: Thursday, Nov 18, 2021
TIME: 7:00 PM
WHERE: Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
COST: Tickets from $25.00 *discounts available for students, educators, first responders, active duty military and veterans with valid I.D.
Pair a glorious voice with a winning personality and you have a diva for the ages. Renée Fleming is a longstanding Harriman-Jewell Series favorite. With her many television and Broadway appearances, Fleming has been embraced by music lovers of all genres.
Whether singing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Olympics, or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, Renée Fleming represents opera to the world. In addition to her numerous operatic performances, Fleming often works classic show tunes and the Great American Songbook into her recitals. Fleming’s trademark rapport with audiences will give her Kansas City performance a warmth that is personal and sincere.
Rob Ainsley is pianist for the recital. His diverse career as a musician, conductor, educator, and administrator has taken him to top organizations and colleges from coast to coast. He now serves as Director of the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative. Ainsley performed with Renée Fleming in The Metropolitan Opera’s August 2020 “Met Stars Live in Concert” that was streamed worldwide.
ABOUT THE HARRIMAN-JEWELL SERIES
Renée Fleming's recital will mark the 977th performance since the Series was founded in 1965. From free education events that allow interaction with musicians and dancers, to our free Discovery Concerts that are open to the community, the Harriman-Jewell Series continues to offer life-enriching opportunities for its community's youth and lifelong learners.
Whether you're spreading truth, information, or love, traveling abroad for humanitarian reasons can have risks. Detained American journalist in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, is to be released from jail, and to fly home soon. But it doesn't always end well for every foreign national attempting to do good in a foreign country.
The missionaries consisting of sixteen Americans and one Canadian kidnapped by the Haitian “400 Mawozo” gang on October 16, is extremely scary. The gang has threatened to kill the humanitarian Christians if a million dollar per person ransom is not fulfilled. The group consists of men, women, children and an eight-month-old baby.
These missionaries have sacrificed their time and paid their own way to go to the poorest place in the Western hemisphere to try to spread God’s love and save some souls. In turn, the missionaries are experiencing a nightmare like they’ve never imagined. They’re imprisoned and being threatened with a bullet in the head.
Most of us will never get over seeing journalists being beheaded and tortured in Syria and Iraq by the barbaric Islamic extremist group called ISIL. Burning people alive and beheading others were too graphic and gruesome to ever be forgotten.
Years ago, I traveled to a third world country on a “missionary trip” with others thinking it would be a nice break. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
Sadly, the 17 missionaries in Haiti are undergoing a cruel experience that may end with the cost of their very lives. What are they thinking now? What is going through the minds of the little children who traveled to a world to help others and spread God’s love?
Haiti has been the site of years of humanitarian efforts. The United States and other countries have given billions of dollars to help Haiti. Sadly, hurricanes, political unrest, underdevelopment and extreme poverty have all made for a sad scenario.
How much money would the world have to give to Haiti to make life better for this nation? This is a question no one can answer because usually aid is a short-term solution. We spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and they aren’t any better off today.
Good missionary people went to Haiti with good hearts for helping others in the name of God’s love. They went to share a message they hoped would bring about change and better lives. They may now lose their lives.
Christians point to Jesus as the model for such missionary efforts. He came preaching and teaching in an effort to demonstrate and spread God’s love and it cost him plenty – his life, executed in public on a cross.
There are some Christians today who, like Jesus, are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others. Did these men and women literally go to Haiti taking their children with them truly believe they could be killed? Would they purposefully do this to their children? Who convinced these people that such a trip with small children was a good idea?
My goal here is to simply say, think about such trips to places like Haiti. Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and numerous others countries are not vacation spots. Foreign travel may sound exotic and adventurous but consider the possible cost.
Many missionaries and Christian workers have paid the ultimate price in order to spread the gospel of Christ. Only eternity will reveal what their selfless sacrifice has meant to those whose lives they impacted.
By chance, if you decide such an international trip is not for you, don’t feel bad. Consider helping in an American inner city, Appalachia or maybe your own neighborhood. Service at home is needed across America.
Let’s pray for the safety of these missionaries and for those negotiating their release. May God help them and all who may consider such endeavors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Glenn Mollette is a graduate of numerous schools including Georgetown College, Southern and Lexington Seminaries in Kentucky. He is the author of 13 books including Uncommon Sense, Grandpa's Store, Minister's Guidebook: insights from a fellow minister. His column is published weekly in over 600 publications in all 50 states. Glenn Mollette has been on numerous International humanitarian and missionary group trips. Hear Glenn Mollette every weekday morning EST at 8:56 on XM radio 131. Editor-If you need to tweak or do a small edit for you paper or website that is okay. Please respond to this email if you need a picture for this column. Scroll down for additional biographical info. Buy his latest recording titled "Black Coffee" on iTunes. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com
The Black Trans Fund, incubated at Groundswell Fund, and Grantmakers for Girls of Color launched the Holding a Sister Initiative, the first-ever national fund explicitly dedicated to transgender girls and gender-expansive youth of color.
Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and Bré Rivera, program director of the Black Trans Fund are together spearheading the Holding a Sister Initiative to bring attention and resources to organizations supporting trans girls of color, normalize concern and investment in their success, and create learning opportunities for cis and trans girls of color to move in deeper community with one another.
The initiative will award $1 million in grants in the first year, and will ultimately engage trans girls and gender-expansive youth of color in the decision-making process for selecting grantees on an ongoing basis.
While there has been an increase in donor attention to work led by people of color, it has yet to translate into significant gains in funding for trans and gender-expansive youth of color.
According to recent regional studies in Detroit, South Florida and New Orleans, trans women of color face higher levels of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and discrimination. At the same time, the majority of this year's record-breaking anti-trans legislation are targeted to affect youth, including bills that prevent transgender athletes from playing in school sports and the "Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act." Research has show sharp rises in suicide attempts among trans youth during 2020 and 2021.
"The reality is transgender and gender-expansive youth of color require more attention, and resources to interrupt the staggering intersections of trauma and crises they experience," said Bré Rivera.
The initiative joins existing funding intermediaries who have been leading the work to resource trans communities and engage trans people in the direction and distribution of resources, including the Third Wave Fund, the Black Trans Travel Fund, and Fund for Trans Generations. As funding partners, the Black Trans Fund and Grantmakers for Girls of Color aim to expand and transform philanthropy's investments in trans and gender-nonconforming youth. The initiative will move resources to organizations serving and led by trans girls and young women of color. It will also amplify narratives that elevate the humanity, dignity and leadership of trans and gender-expansive youth of color, as well as the ways their experiences and contributions have been overlooked, minimized and targeted by oppositional and systemic forces, and larger social justice movements.
The Holding a Sister Initiative will be led by a manager, who will steward culture change through grantmaking, capacity building, narrative shifting and philanthropic organizing. The position is currently open for applicants.
About Grantmakers for Girls of Color
Fiscally-sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) works to mobilize resources and amplify transformative organizing work to dismantle systems of oppression led by girls and gender-expansive youth of color. Grantmakers for Girls of Color openly invites partners and stakeholders to co-create an inclusive space in support of girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth of color across programmatic issues and geographic areas. Learn more by visiting Grantmakers for Girls of Color.
About the Black Trans Fund
The Black Trans Fund is a groundbreaking endeavor: the first national fund in the country dedicated to uplifting and resourcing Black trans social justice leaders. BTF seeks to address the lack of funding for Black trans communities in the U.S. through direct grantmaking, capacity building support, and funder organizing to transform philanthropy. Learn more by visiting Black Trans Fund.