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The Red Ribbon


Touch it. Experience it. Own it.

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THERE was a time when it was downright de rigueur. Elizabeth Taylor, to cite just one memorable example, wouldn’t have been caught dead without it, the iconic symbol that, sadly, helped define the waning years of a bygone century.

"The red ribbon is the original ribbon,” explained Susan Koenig, a founding member of the Koenig | Dunne Divorce Law firm and longtime advocate for the Nebraska AIDS Project (NAP). “One of the things we face in HIV/AIDS awareness, education, services and prevention,” she continued, “is that it no longer has the… well, the ‘glamour’ of being the headlinegrabbing issue of the day. The great news is that medical advances mean that people are now living longer with HIV/AIDS, but this is still a crisis that deserves our collective passion,” she said of the disease that in America brings a new diagnosis every nine and a half minutes.

The once ubiquitous red ribbon has since been joined by a gaggle of multi-hued cousins competing for the public’s attention, heart and dollars, but that original swirl of silk will reign supreme on December 3rd with Night of a Thousand Stars, the premier fundraising event for the organization formed in 1984. Philanthropist Dick Holland is this year’s honorary chair.

Counting every minute until a party ends normally spells “d-u-d,” but the opposite is true when more than 20 pre-parties hosted by NAP supporters throughout the area close early and leave piles of dirty dishes behind so that 800 revelers may converge on the Magnolia Hotel later that same night for the gala finale.

Koenig was a guest at the first Night of a Thousand Stars event and has since hosted her own gathering in each of the 18 successive years. Book-ended by the bittersweet, her inaugural 1994 pre-party and its 2011 ancestor promise to be the most poignant.

“We had the first party planned in honor of my brother, Tim, who had moved back to Omaha to be with family after his diagnosis,” she said, “but he died two weeks before Night of a Thousand Stars. This is a deeply personal event for me. It’s my way to honor the memory of Tim and all the other Tims out there. It’s a chance to join together with all the families, friends and neighbors who have been touched by HIV/AIDS.”

And now, for the first time in many years, Koenig is addressing invitations alone. Her late husband, John Mixan, succumbed to cancer in September.

“Yes… yes, this year’s event will be… different,” she acknowledged before a familiar twinkle returned to her eyes. “But Night of a Thousand Stars is a celebration. It celebrates life. The people I admire most are those who are able to transcend their circumstances, so I have some transcending to do, maybe even in a new dress!”

Look for Susan Koenig at Night of a Thousand Stars and give her a big hug. She’ll be the one wearing a red ribbon.

Visit www.nap.org for more on the Nebraska AIDS Project and The Night of a Thousand Stars.

-end- metroMAGAZINE




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