Nothing succeeds like success — which may be part of why more than 70 celebrities are on board for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation's "A Time for Heroes" carnival on Sunday in Culver City.
You see, these days EGPAF is saying with confidence that as long as its work stays on track, the world could see the end of mother-to-child transmission of HIV by the year 2020.
For Tia Mowry-Hardrict, EGPAF was not only one of the first charities she worked with, starting back in the "Sister, Sister" days, it's also the one she's stuck with the longest as an active participant.
"I was just really touched by Elizabeth's story and by how there are some that are born into having HIV," said the 38-year-old mother of one. "As an adult, we have a choice whether to have safe sex or not to do drugs, but when you're a child and you're born with HIV, it's a different story."
Glaser, who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion in 1981 and transmitted it to daughter Ariel via breastfeeding and son Jake during childbirth, was the wife of "Starsky & Hutch" actor Paul Michael Glaser. Ariel died in 1988 and Elizabeth died in 1994 — but Jake is thriving as an ambassador for the organization his mom and two friends started after his sister died.
"I'm turning 32 next week and I'm HIV positive," said Jake Glaser, an EGPAF ambassador who raises funds and boosts HIV awareness among younger people. "And I know I'm going to live a long, healthy life, unless something else other than HIV comes along." The global community needs to move past the stigma that HIV is a scary beast in the darkness, he said, because so much is known about it now.
"If you had to ask me to rewind everything … looking down on my mom when she was a second-grade teacher and my dad was signing his contract with 'Starsky & Hutch,' before they ever had met, I would've never been able to sit there and say this beautiful young woman who's a teacher from New York is going to marry Starsky and confront this incredibly insane gauntlet of challenges in life and issues in life that are going to define so much of how we approach and treat infectious diseases around the world," he said. "Like, no, it's mind-bending!"
Glaser said he remembers what happened after his family members disclosed their HIV and AIDS story, which they wanted to tell their own way before it came out anyway.
"With my dad's celebrity … there was an incredible response from the entertainment community that really defined not only what I believe to be some of the greatest celebrity engagement in nonprofit and philanthropic history but also really defines what 'A Time for Heroes' really is," he said. Now in its 27th year, the carnival was embraced at its start by A-listers along the lines of Robin Williams, Tom Cruise and "everyone you can possibly imagine," Glaser said.
"They understood the celebrity aspect of gaining support around an issue," he said. "Had they not, chances are that we would have ignored this for a very long time."
The number of babies born HIV-positive has been reduced by 98% in the U.S. and 56% globally, Glaser said. But, he added, continuing assistance to the foundation by its supporters, famous and otherwise, is needed to reach its 2030 goals of eradicating HIV and AIDS entirely.
"Today, because of social media and the ability to instantaneously deliver information to people via smartphones, more than ever this generation is more equipped to leverage celebrity involvement," he said.
On Sunday, Cooking Channel star Mowry-Hardrict will be bringing 5-year-old son Cree to "A Time for Heroes" for the second year, along with her husband, actor Cory Hardrict.
"I really have a soft spot for children," she said. She started her EGPAF involvement by going to camps for HIV-positive kids, to "just go hang out with them, talk with them. My goal was to put a smile on their face."
As she got older, she started speaking at colleges about HIV awareness and participated in mega dance-athons. "You literally go 24 hours and dance the night away to raise money to bring awareness," she said.
"I've always truly enjoyed it," she said of "A Time for Heroes." "You're having fun and you're also meeting some of the kids there."
People turning out Sunday at Smashbox Studios in Culver City will include Adrienne Bailon, Alyssa Milano, Anthony Anderson, Danica McKellar, Donald Faison, Garcelle Beauvais, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Lamorne Morris, Mario Lopez, Sasha Alexander and Zach Braff, "Real Housewives" couples Heather and Terry Dubrow and Lisa Rinna and Harry Hamlin, and Olympian Laurie Hernandez.
The event, which runs from noon to 3 p.m., will also feature face-painting, arts and crafts, carnival games and a musical performance by "Austin & Ally" actress Laura Marano. Tickets (it's a fundraiser, so they aren't cheap — sorry Marano fans!) are available through the EGPAF website.
Follow Christie D'Zurilla on Twitter @theCDZ.