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Partying for AIDS park

An Asian-themed party Sunday at International Plaza will raise money for a future $500,000 AIDS Memorial Park.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 31, 2002


Four years after the city set aside land along Bayshore Boulevard for an AIDS Memorial Park, organizers are having their first major fundraiser.

The Florida AIDS Memorial Park Foundation and Florida AIDS Action will host an Asian-themed party Sunday at International Plaza to raise money for the future park at Bayshore and Hyde Park Place.

The one-acre park will remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS. It will include a pavilion, decorative fountain, memorial garden, ornate landscaping and plenty of places to sit.

"It's not a place for funerals. It's just a public park to honor those who have been affected by the disease," said Earl Garland, president of the park foundation, who has lost dozens of friends and acquaintances to AIDS.

Promoters have built the park around the theme, "remember, reflect and rejoice." It will mark the first of its kind in the area.

The park will cost up to $500,000, although the foundation is seeking sponsors to contribute supplies and in-kind services. Crescent Resources, a development firm building a residential and retail complex on adjacent land, has agreed to do the construction.

The park has been in the works for several years. The former Tampa AIDS Network, known as TAN, came up with the idea and Florida AIDS Action took it over.

Early on, the project created controversy when several people raised concerns that money raised for AIDS and HIV-positive clients would go toward building the park. Others, including a few council members, said they didn't want a park named after a disease.

Supporters, including Mayor Dick Greco, countered that the park would raise public awareness about a disease that threatens everyone.

AIDS activists say the park will complement other programs, not take away from them.

"People donate for a wide variety of reasons. I would like to believe that giving to one cause doesn't mean not giving to another cause," said MaryAnn Green, director of community relations for Florida AIDS Action. "People give based on what is close to their heart."

Planners had hoped to open the park on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, 2003. Now, they expect it will take longer.

Sunday's fundraiser at Profusion restaurant will include dinner, cocktails and entertainment. Each guest will receive an original keepsake tile painted by a local artist. Proceeds will be split between Florida AIDS Action and the memorial park.

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

If you go

Asian-themed party to benefit the Florida AIDS Memorial Park and Florida AIDS Action, from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Profusion in International Plaza. Tickets $200 per person, $350 per couple. For reservations, call 232-5886.

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