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25th Anniversary AIDS Candlelight Vigil in Toronto: Media Opportunity

Thursday evening, June 25 2009 at 9:00 p.m. - Cawthra Park, Toronto

TORONTO, June 23 /CNW/- The 25th annual AIDS Candlelight Vigil ( will be held in Toronto on Thursday evening, June 25, 2009 at the AIDS Memorial in Cawthra Park, in downtown Toronto. This year marks a special milestone in the history of the AIDS Vigil in Toronto, one of the oldest and largest community AIDS Vigils in the world. In recognition of the unique history and continuing battle of the fight against HIV/AIDS, this anniversary Vigil also pays tribute to long-term survivors and others in the AIDS community who have been engaged in the battle since the beginning over 25 years ago.

Media opportunities for the news media include as follows. Advance arrangements are encouraged.

- Photos and video footage of the Vigil ceremony in front of the AIDS Memorial in Cawthra Park, next to The 519 Church Street Community Centre;

- Interviews with Vigil Co-Hosts and long-term survivors Shari Margolese and Billy Newton-Davis (see profiles of three Co-Hosts attached). Note: this is the first time in the history of the Vigil that there are three Co-Hosts, including a Mother-Son pair as part of the Co-Host team;

- Interview and photo op with Joan Anderson, well-known AIDS activist and leader who chaired the first AIDS Vigil 25 years ago and received the inaugural Casey Award from Casey House for her community AIDS work;

- Interviews and photo op with Vigil Co-Chairs Kay Roesslein and Ryan Tremblay, who chair the 25th AIDS Candlelight Vigil Organizing Committee that planned the 25th anniversary of the Vigil;

- Interview and photo ops with local award winning singer-songwriter Glenn Marais of Newmarket who composed Can You See Me, a new recording especially created for the 25th Anniversary Vigil;

- Interview and photo op with Patrick Fahn, designer of the AIDS Memorial monument in Cawthra Park;

- Interview with Ryan Tremblay, designer of the new logo created especially for the 25th Anniversary Vigil honouring the highlighting Toronto's AIDS Memorial;

- Interviews with various AIDS community leaders and long-term AIDS survivors;

The Vigil is held every year during the annual Pride Week, and this year's Pride Theme, Can't Stop, Won't Stop encompasses the Vigil mission to honour, remember, and celebrate. The candle lighting ceremony will illuminate the shared values and stories of PHAs, activists and communities who have come together in the face of the pandemic for over 25 years. This year, 25 names have been added in memoriam to the AIDS Memorial.

The many people to be honoured include well known AIDS activists Rick Bebout and James Kreppner. James was instrumental in the fight involving contaminated blood supply and the Krever Inquiry that followed. He championed the cause on behalf of hemophiliacs and their families and many others affected by HIV/AIDS. Both men died only recently this year.

The AIDS Vigil and the AIDS Memorial hold a special sacred place in the local and Canadian AIDS community. The AIDS Candlelight Vigil is an open community event held annually at the AIDS Memorial to remember, honour and celebrate the people who have died of AIDS or AIDS related illnesses, or who have given their lives in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Every year, thousands of candles are lighted to honour and remember those who have died, and to encourage and support the tens of thousands of others who live with this disease every day.

The Vigil is a multi-cultural spiritual event accepting and respecting people of all cultures, faiths, traditions and communities. The Vigil welcomes all people who have been infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and embraces anyone who has experienced a loss or losses due to HIV/AIDS.

25th Anniversary AIDS Candlelight Vigil in Toronto: Media Profiles

Quinn Johnston, Co-Host, 25th Anniversary AIDS Candlelight Vigil

Quinn Johnston is a 16 year old high school student from the GTA who's mother Shari is a long term survivor of HIV. Quinn has been a strong supporter of his mother's advocacy efforts. He believes that kids his age don't take HIV seriously enough and has become an activist in his own right speaking to youth about HIV and AIDS. Quinn is a National Champion Co-ed Cheerleader and accomplished football player.

Shari Margolese, Co-Host, 25th Anniversary AIDS Candlelight Vigil

Shari Margolese has been an active AIDS volunteer, advocate, writer, speaker, mentor, community educator and researcher, in Canada and internationally, since her HIV+ diagnosis in 1993. Her advocacy has focused on the needs of the HIV+ and their affected family and the rights of people living with HIV to have children. Shari's volunteer commitments include working with Voices of Positive Women (VOPW), the Blueprint Coalition for action on women and girls and HIV in Canada, the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, the Canadian HIV Trials Network, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and ATHENA an international network dedicated to increasing gender equity in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Billy Newton-Davis, Co-Host, 25th Anniversary, AIDS Candlelight Vigil

Billy Newton-Davis, recording artist and four time JUNO Award Winner, has extensively donated his talent towards humanitarian causes, raising money for various communities, AIDS awareness, housing for people with mental illness and countless other charities and causes. Billy puts his heart first: "I want the world to know that I am sincere. I love what I do and I want to bring that sincerity to my audience when I perform."

Glenn Marais, Songwriter/Singer, Can You See Me, 25th Vigil Anniversary Song

Glenn Marais is a gifted singer/songwriter from Newmarket, who plays guitar, harmonica and piano. Glenn has a personal passion for orphaned children in Africa and is involved in fundraising for HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa through the Kids for Cotlands initiative. In November 2005, Glenn flew to South Africa to film a video for his song "Like a Child"; it debuted on Much More Music and rocketed to the number one position on the show Clip Trip. The video for "Like a Child" was shown at the Rogers Centre (Skydome) for the Toronto International AIDS Conference in August 2006 and Glenn closed the AIDS conference with a live performance of "Like a Child" in front of 7,000 people, broadcast live on CBC Newsworld. Glenn received a Socan Award and was nominated for a Juno Award, in the best songwriting category, for the song "Everybody Wants to Be Like You" by Snow, which he co-wrote.

Joan Anderson, Host, Inaugural AIDS Candlelight Vigil, 25th Vigil Candlelighter

Joan Anderson began her journey in the community-based AIDS movement in Canada as a volunteer at the one year old AIDS Committee of Toronto in 1984. As the AIDSupport representative on the Board, she served on the planning committee and host of the first AIDS Vigil. Joan participated in the development of the Ontario AIDS Network (OAN), the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS) and the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations. She served as Chair of CAS in the early 90's contributing her advocacy leadership to the struggle for the first National AIDS Strategy. In 1994, Joan became Director of Education and Advocacy at ACT. Since 1999, Joan has worked as a consultant, including as special advisor to the AIDS 2006 Toronto Local Host for the International AIDS Conference and, more recently, coordinating the Toronto HIV/AIDS Network. She remains an active volunteer, currently in her 8th and last year on the Board of the 519 Church St Community Centre and working on LGBT refugee issues. In 2009, Joan received the inaugural Casey Award recognizing her service, contributions and leadership in the AIDS movement. She is also a previous recipient of the Ontario AIDS Honour Roll, Ontario's highest award in the AIDS movement.

Kay Roesslein, Co-Chair, 25th AIDS Candlelight Vigil, Organizing Committee

Kay Roesslein identifies as a Long Term Affected person who has survived enormous losses to HIV/AIDS. She experienced the devastation of an entire social network in the 1980's due to HIV/AIDS. She has worked for 18 years at McEwan Housing and Support Services, a downtown Toronto agency that provides case management and various forms of housing to those who are HIV + with mental health and/or substance use challenges. She is currently the Director of both McEwan House and St. George House, and is actively involved in the Toronto HIV/AIDS Network, (THN)) and is the Co-Chair in the Information and Access Working Group (a subgroup of the THN). She has served on the Organizing Committee of four previous AIDS Vigils and has been Co-Chaired two Vigils.

Ryan Tremblay, Co-Chair, 25th AIDS Candlelight Vigil, Organizing Committee

Ryan Tremblay has two passions in life - filmmaking and helping people. At 14, while running a small production company, he was asked to make a promotional film for an orphanage in Kenya. The images from the home changed his live and he decided to dedicate his time to helping others. Since then, he has visited Kenya twice to shoot documentary films, presented at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, and initiated a World AIDS Day project that reached out to over 100,000 people. He has been involved with the AIDS Candlelight Vigil since 2008, and serves at this year's Co-Chair.

For further information:

Kay Roesslein, Co-Chair, Organizing Committee:,
(416) 929-6228;
Ryan Tremblay, Co-Chair, Organizing Committee:,
(416) 880-9428
Darryl Perry, Executive, Organizing Committee:,
(647) 248-1768 (cell)

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