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Heartfelt waves of support

Though rows of hearts stuck in the sand of Main Beach may bring Valentine’s Day to mind, the hearts planted in the sand Saturday will have a much deeper meaning as the HIV/AIDS group Shanti Orange County holds its Sea of Hearts event.

Shanti volunteers will be on the beach helping contributors plant large cardstock hearts in the sand from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Those who donate to the group will be able to write personal notes to friends or family affected by HIV/AIDS, or to the community in general.

According to Shanti Project Coordinator Carolyn Spivak, the event is meant to bring the AIDS issue to the forefront of the community’s mind.

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“The sea of hearts is meant to represent the sea of people affected by HIV,” Spivak said.

Shanti Orange County is a non-profit organization that was founded originally in Laguna Beach in 1987 in order to give support to people in the community who suffered from HIV and AIDS. It began receiving federal funds to expand out of Laguna Beach and serve all of of Orange County.

The organization, whose name is derived from the Sanskrit word for “inner peace,” offers home-delivered meals, case management and assistance finding psychiatric help and therapy sessions to roughly 300 HIV/AIDS victims countywide.

Though Shanti Orange County has moved its base of operations from Laguna Beach into Laguna Hills, it made its home in Laguna Beach for 17 years and Spivak said she feels the organization is still connected to its roots.

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“We still have strong ties to the Laguna Beach community,” Spivak said.

That connection is not coincidental. According to Shanti Orange County Executive Director Sarah Kasman, Laguna Beach has had the highest number of AIDS incidents per capita nationwide.

According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, there were 3,278 people living with AIDS in Orange County as of the beginning of 2006, as well as 2,066 cases of HIV reported between July, 2002 and December, 2005.

In the years since AIDS has become a world concern, Shanti’s goal remains unchanged.

“What we provide is emotional support — as we have since 1987,” Kasman said.

For more information on the Sea of Hearts event, call (949) 452-0889.


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