Friday, June 11, 2010

Guest Blogger Joyce Labriola


Founding Board Member -- and founder of our sister organization in Canada; JTMF West -- Joyce Labriola was a friend of James' and we asked her to share her thoughts on him, the JTMF and the work she is doing now for JTMF West and HIV Edmonton. This is what she had to say:

"For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Joyce LaBriola and I am one of the founders of the JTMF.

"When James passed away, Tracy Antozzeski, David Maurio, Missy Abrahams and I decided to put on a benefit in memory of our dear friend. That first year was one of the most special times of my life. I recruited my friend Doug Edelson to audition for the title role in that first production of “Jeffery”. Doug brought his friend Bruce Frangione, who was a godsend backstage and in the lobby for the reception. And I got a chance to reconnect with Brian Bara, who I’d worked with as a teenager and was so blessed to find him back in my life. This group of seven comprised the first board and thus, JTMF was born.

"In 2007, my 'real job' brought me to Edmonton to work for the Edmonton Oilers. While my job was exciting and, some would say 'cool,' I felt something of a hole in my heart, missing the JTMF. So, in January of 2009, I rallied two of my closest 'Edmonton friends” (Kristi Van Binsbergen and Sarah Van Tassel), to start JTMF West and create a sister organization to James’ legacy. Although James had never been to Edmonton (and I’m not sure if he’d ever even been to Canada!), I wanted to raise funds and awareness with the JTMF. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live: The need is global and the message universal – we are all entitled to a life of dignity and hope.

"JTMF West held our first event April 17, 2010. Artists for Life: Edmonton raised over $8,500(C). It was truly inspirational, for a community that didn’t know James; that doesn’t know me; and who hadn’t been huge supporters of HIV/AIDS in recent years to come out and support us - not only with their checkbooks, but also with incredible spirit and energy. The event celebrated local Edmonton talent, with a staged reading by Edmonton playwright Justen Bennett and a reunion concert by local fave, The Big Breakfast Boogie Band. The silent auction was rife with pieces donated by Edmonton artists as well. Our guests enjoyed the play, bid generously on auction items and danced the night away. It was a very special night.

"What made the event even more perfect was the presence of 3 of my best friends on the planet – David Maurio, John Claps and Tracy Antozzeski who had traveled from New Jersey to support me. This was a daunting endeavor. I didn’t have James’ friends or family to rely on. I didn’t have the benefit of being in my home town and had no contacts to leverage. Having them there was a stabilizing force and enabled me to breathe when I hadn’t been able to for weeks... Especially Tracy – she, along with the current and amazing JTMF team, has kept the JTMF alive and they all inspire me to continue... and Tracy has been calming me down and helping me breathe for nearly 20 years. I wouldn’t have the courage to do any of this without her.

"When doing media for the JTMF West event, I was asked several times how James’ death had inspired me. I think a more appropriate question would be: “How had James’ life inspired me?” My friendship with James, my knowing him, has made me want to become a better person.

"Doing JTMF, both here and especially in NJ, is the single most important thing I’ve ever done. The work continues to inspire me to do better, to do more...all the time.

"Until there’s a cure...."

There are still two weeks left to get your tickets to one of the funniest JTMF shows yet, Del Shores' Sordid Lives. Think globally; act locally. Tell the people you love that you love them, as often as you can.

There's plenty more good stuff coming, so keep coming back.

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