A tree made of Hudson River driftwood is covered in leaves will help raise hundreds to support AIDS research, Peekskill Youth Bureau director Valerie Swan hopes. To mark the 23rd anniversary of World AIDS day, and the thirtieth year since the virus was discovered, the Youth Bureau created a unique and artistic project.
About 35 young members of the Youth Bureau, along with local youth supporter Jim Taylor and artists Wifredo Morel and Lana Yu, created the tree to be “planted” in Peekskill’s Puglsey Park. The group has been working on the project for about a month.
While the tree raises the public and the teens’ awareness of the virus, participants are also selling 500 “leaves” for $1 each in order to raise funds for research. Dozens of local officials and community members gathered last night to purchase leaves and write messages on them and to attend the dedication ceremony.
“We brought awareness to the kids through the project by letting them learn about it and alleviating fears,” Swan said. “But we also let them know about risky behavior so it can all tie into one.”
After leaves were sold, their buyers joined a procession from the Youth Bureau to Puglsey Park, lead by the Doug Smith of the Peekskill Park Street AME Zion Church Men's Choir.
Watch the video and click through the photosabove for more on the ceremony.
AIDS currently affects more than 34 million people around the world. In the United States, 1.7 million people are estimated to have been infected with HIV, including over 615,000 who have already died and more than 1.1 million estimated to be living with the disease today. Every 9½ minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV.
For more facts on AIDS visit Aids.gov.