Shanti Orange County will kick off its inaugural “Sea of Hearts” event at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, in Laguna Beach. A “sea” of 500 commemorative hearts will be “planted” on Laguna Beach to symbolize the many people living with, and who are affected by, HIV and AIDS in Orange County.
The hearts will be placed near the cobblestone area at Main Beach from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 10. The public is invited to make a donation of any amount and plant a heart as a statement of support for the HIV/AIDS community.
The Sea of Hearts project is coordinated by Shanti Orange County, formerly known as Laguna Shanti, a nonprofit agency providing services and emotional support for people living with HIV and AIDS. The project is sponsored by Great America Networks.
“The Sea of Hearts project drives home the fact that HIV and AIDS have not gone away, and that we cannot afford to be complacent about this issue,” said Sarah Kasman, Executive Director of Shanti Orange County.
“This project is more than just a public AIDS awareness raising initiative. It is also a unique opportunity for people to come together to make a public statement of compassion and support for the men, women and children in our community who are affected by this disease.”
Carolyn Spivak, Project Coordinator, said, “We acknowledge that HIV and AIDS is a global issue, but we cannot ignore the fact that this disease is affecting thousands of people right here in our own backyard. This project aims to put the spotlight back on this disease and how it is impacting our Orange County community.
“We hope that hundreds of people will show their support for Shanti and the HIV and AIDS community by coming to Laguna Beach on the 10th to plant a heart and be a part of this unique project,” said Spivak.
In addition to the Shanti volunteers that will help the public participate on Feb.10, Laguna Beach High School students will be there to assist and educate the public on HIV and AIDS issues as a part of the Disneyland “Show your Character” project coordinated by Shanti Orange County and Laguna Beach High School.
According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, an estimated 3,278 Orange County residents are living with AIDS and an additional 4,142 residents are living with HIV.
“With community support we can increase HIV and AIDS awareness, promote safe practices and continue to lobby for community education and resources to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and to care for our community with courage and compassion,” Kasman said.
Hearts may also be dedicated to loved ones affected by the disease on the day of the event, or in advance by contacting Shanti at (949) 452-0888.
More information is available at www.shantioc.org .