Saturday, September 04, 1999

AIDS children treated to zoo weekend

Disease touches youngsters directly or through families

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Thirty children whose lives have been changed by HIV or AIDS have been the guests of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden since Friday night.

        The overnight stay, which will end with a catered lunch today, is the one the zoo donates to a community organization each year and is valued at about $600. Children slept in sleeping bags in the Manatee Room and toured the zoo.

        FACE is already planning to provide Christmas for its client families.
        Kelly Chambers seeks families or groups interested in sponsoring a family coping with HIV or AIDS. The gift includes buying clothing and toys.
        For information or to donate, write FACE at P.O. Box 19783, Cincinnati 45219, or call 584-3571.

        The children are ages 3-15 and are members of families who receive services from the pediatric AIDS group For AIDS Children Everywhere (FACE).

        The event is the first time many of the children — who either have HIV or AIDS themselves or a have sibling or parent with the disease — have been to the zoo, said FACE co-founder and president Kelly Chambers. Some of the children have lost their mothers to AIDS.

        “The kids really suffer, too,” said Mrs. Chambers, the Cleves woman who has turned her daughter's death and her own battle with AIDS into a crusade to help other HIV-positive women and children. “We give them money, so they can walk out with a souvenir. We take their individual pictures. That way they have a memory.”

        Mrs. Chambers and her organization were first featured March 21 in The Cincinnati Enquirer, which will update readers periodically on Mrs. Chambers' health and work.

        Enquirer readers have re sponded by donating more than $15,000 in cash and items to FACE since the first story appeared. Other readers have volunteered time.

        That generosity allowed FACE to take a record number of children — 30 — on an overnight trip to SeaWorld in Aurora, Ohio, in July.

        “All kids who hadn't been there before,” she said.

        Most of FACE's clients are low-income families headed by women who can't afford trips to amusement parks or the zoo.

        FACE makes these outings possible, all the while providing HIV-positive families with goods and services — peer counseling, groceries, household and hygiene products, clothing, recreational outings, holiday and birthday gifts and transportation to clinic appointments and group meetings.

        It receives no funding from the government or United Way & Community Chest. FACE is the only local AIDS agency directed by a person who has the disease. Many of its clients are drawn by Mrs. Chambers' empathy.

        FACE works from a donated basement office in Holmes Hospital. Mrs. Chambers co-founded the group in January 1992, two months after her daughter, Crystal, died from AIDS. Mrs. Chambers contracted the disease from unprotected sex in 1986.


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