How did Michigan AIDS Coalition swing getting Max Fisher, son of Mary Fisher, to come for a free luncheon and talk on Dec. 15, and how will this vibrant second-generation AIDS activist help to renew interest in the cause of AIDS prevention and research in Michigan?
According to MAC CEO Helen Hicks, it was a heart-warming series of coincidences that connected the state-wide agency with the nationally-known speaker.
When Hicks and Ann Duke, who serves as vice-chair of Michigan AIDS Coalition’s Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS event, flew to New York as guests of DIFFA, they had no idea who the speaker would be. Whoppi Goldberg was the mistress of ceremonies for the surprise guest, and the ladies were already “thrilled to see such a big star,” Hicks said.
“It was a big deal when they announced the speaker. It was Mary Fisher, who is a big name in the AIDS community. She’s the woman, the housewife, who was a spokesperson for a community needing heightened visibility. She went to Washington (in 1992) and told the Republicans ‘shame on you’ for letting so many people die before taking the AIDS epidemic seriously. I mean people were getting sick and dying, and the government wasn’t doing anything. But Fisher put a face to the issue. She went with her young children and campaigned to bring attention to the fact this affected everyone. Every family could be touched by AIDS.”
After contracting HIV from her second husband, Fisher founded the Mary Fisher CARE (Clinical AIDS Research and Education) Fund to support long-term, outcomes-based research for the care of people living with HIV, especially women. In Africa, she established support groups where women infected or affected by HIV/AIDS can earn a living wage, producing hand-beaded bracelets that Mary designed and markets in the United States.
Hicks said she was “dazzled” by Fisher, and impressed with her son who came to speak with her. Fisher was just a child when his mother became an activist, and he’s grown up now and taken the cause to heart himself.
“He walked out with Mary Fisher and I recognized him,” Hicks said. “I was so surprised. Earlier this year we had a DIFFA event here in Michigan, and Max Fisher had been here, volunteering just like anybody else. He told me his name, but it didn’t register that he was related to the Mary Fisher. But there he was, not making a big deal or trying to be in the limelight, just in the pit doing volunteer work like everyone else.”
After the Washington, DC presentation, Hicks spoke with Max Fisher and thanked him for his service. They talked about the fight for funding in Michigan, and Hicks ended up asking him to come to the state and help.
The talk will be a donation-based lunch, with the first 60 to RSVP enjoying food from the Matt Prentice Restaurant group. The lunch will be held at the MAC headquarters at 429 Livernois in Ferndale on Dec. 15 at noon. There is no charge, but donations are suggested.
“We’re doing this here because we want to keep the costs low so that the money can go directly into MAC programming,” she said. “Some organizations can afford to rent a hall or bring in expensive entertainment, but we want to keep it simple.”
Matthew Prentice, proprietor of the Matt Prentice Restaurant Group, is donating the food for the event. “When he heard this was going to fight AIDS he immediately came forward and wanted to help,” Hicks said. “We rely on monetary donations that come from events like this, but when businesses help like Matt does, by donating food and keeping costs down when we use him for other events, it makes a difference too. Every generosity helps us with our mission.”
The luncheon will also include the showing of a clip of Mary Fisher speaking at the Republican National Convention in 1992. “We hope that events like this will remind people that AIDS has not gone away, there is still more work to be done,” said Hicks.
To RSVP, contact Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about MAC, go to http://michiganaidscoalition.org/.