Celebration in Red: Celebrate Ethan


We will celebrate Ethan.

Ethan is 18, and he has been living with HIV since he was born. For the first years of his life, he was sickly and small. Every day, in the silence of her heart, his mother wept for him. She was sure that this son who was sick again and again would not live.

Ethan’s mother wanted the world for him. Silently, she begged God to save him, to spare him, to let him grow up and know love and happiness and find his way.

After years of watching her son get sick over and over again, there came a day when she was given a new test result. The doctors had tested Ethan for HIV and they found that he was HIV-positive. This meant that Ethan’s mother was positive too. She carried in her blood this virus that threatened to kill them both.

This was the worst day — and the best day. Because finally getting that diagnosis meant that the doctors knew what to do for Ethan at last. He was started on the HIV medicines that could restore his body’s protective immune cells and prevent him from getting sick again and again. Ethan began to grow. He became his mother’s strong and laughing boy. Slowly, she began to have hope again.

Ethan has done extremely well on his HIV medicines. He graduated from high school this year, and he was the star of his school’s soccer team. He loves soccer, but even more, he loves the youth of his community. His passion is to help other kids who are growing up with HIV to know that HIV is only part of the story of who they are — that they can still growth and thrive and dream.


“I will always do all I can to support those in need of care,” he says.

In honor of Ethan and all of the world’s kids growing up with HIV, in Kenya, our Celebration in Red for World AIDS Day will include a youth soccer tournament in Eldoret, Kenya.  We have 12 teams organized for the tournament, we have brand-new soccer balls and t-shirts and a full tournament line-up planned for December 1 — World AIDS Day. In between the matches, we have counselors and mentors who will be giving motivational talks and leading support sessions.

On this World AIDS Day, our children in Kenya will be laughing and shouting and playing their absolute best on the soccer field. Our children with HIV will be bright and shining examples of what it can look like to live with HIV when you have access to the medicines you need. They are the lucky ones; 2/3 of the world’s HIV-infected children do NOT have access to HIV medicines.


The 2014 World AIDS Day youth soccer tournament, sponsored by The Pocket Square Project

We will celebrate Ethan and all of our healthy, happy soccer players at Celebration in Red for World AIDS Day. Even better, they are going to send us pictures from the tournament in Kenya in time for Celebration in Red. Come celebrate Ethan with us.

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Celebration in Red: Celebrate Brenda


We will celebrate Brenda.

You have to follow a series of bumpy, dusty trails to find Brenda’s home. Brenda, her two young daughters, and her teenaged, orphaned niece live together in a one-room home with mud walls and a corrugated tin roof. The furnishings in Brenda’s home are very simple — a twin-sized mattress on the mud floor, a wooden stool, and a small, square table. Brenda’s husband died several months ago, not long after the birth of their now-7-month-old baby, leaving this small home full of females.

Although this mother and her young family have very, very little by any standard of measurement, Brenda will dazzle you with her strength.

A mother and child in Mwea Village, Kenya.

For Celebration in Red, Brenda would be happy to tell you the story of what she calls her “secret strength”. For the first 3 years after she knew that she, her 5-year-old daughter and her husband were all infected with HIV, she kept this diagnosis a secret. She was afraid that, if she told anyone at all, she would be isolated and people would see her “as one who deserved to die.”

But Brenda somehow found the strength to share this big secret. First, she told her close friend, Grace. And Grace responded with grace. Then, Brenda told a few other close neighbors, and finally her husband’s family when he was so sick and dying.

She was shocked by their response; they were supportive and positive. They encouraged her to continue with the medicines for HIV, helping her to take care of herself and her children, They told her to be strong.  What a difference that makes! Brenda’s story is one of strength because the people around her came and stood with her in love.

Despite her widowhood, despite having to walk for 2 hours to get to the HIV clinic every month – a walk she makes with a 5-year-old and a baby, despite having very little to her name, Brenda takes her medicines faithfully, every day. She ensures her 5-year-old girl gets her medicines, and she made absolutely sure that her HIV was not passed to her baby. Brenda and I have happy tears in our eyes together each time our tests show that baby Susan does not have HIV.

Now, Brenda encourages other mothers to “be free.”

“Tell just one other friend about the HIV and come together to support one another,” she says.

Come to Celebration in Red for World AIDS Day and celebrate Brenda. This is your chance to stand with your brothers and sisters worldwide who are fighting this virus.

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All Who Wander

Oh Venice. In the blur of too many projects and deadlines and barely making it on the plane, I suddenly opened my eyes in this labyrinth of stone and pink and glimmering light, all floating/sinking in the Adriatic Sea. I had not expected to be so captivated by this floating, slowly sinking city. I am a bit delayed in my posting, but I cannot resist sharing more of Venice…



Venice was sitting down at a café and looking up from your coffee to realize that, across from you, sits the most enchanting girl in a pink dress. Then, she smiles directly into your eyes and you fall into a conversation that you do not want to end. As you talk, you realize that this girl is, in fact, nearly 100 years old, but the beauty of her spirit radiates so strongly that you didn’t notice her wrinkles and age and saw only this shimmering pink core of her. Venice is an ever-changing magic of light and beauty and decay and art.



Wandering through the maze of Venice’s narrow corridors, with a constant crossing of canals, I could not keep my usually strong sense of direction. Instead, I happily turned myself over to this labyrinth. They say that the reason to wind through a labyrinth is to walk yourself into alignment. You take each twisting step in order to be present right where you are. All who wander are not lost. This was Venice for me.




“The quality of Venice that accomplishes what religion so often cannot is that Venice has made peace with the waters. It is not merely pleasant that the sea flows through, grasping the city like tendrils of vine, and, depending upon the light, making alleys and avenues of emerald and sapphire, it is a brave acceptance of dissolution and an unflinching settlement with death. Though in Venice you may sit in courtyards of stone, and your heels may click up marble stairs, you cannot move without riding upon or crossing the waters that someday will carry you in dissolution to the sea.”
Mark Helprin, The Pacific and Other Stories

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