Thursday, May 21, 2009

API Wellness Center’s Successful Bloom Party

Jan and Al Nakatani with API Wellness Center executive director Lance Toma

The Asian & Pacific Islander (API) Wellness Center presented their best Bloom Party yet at The Galleria on May 19, 2009. The Galleria is known for being the site of the notorious film “Can’t Stop the Music” and a series of large, famous parties from the disco era up to the present.

The evening’s entertainment was continuous and high quality, and it and the ceremonial program was well coordinated by consultant Kim Teevan. The Ali Akbar College of Music’s musicians set a wonderful mood at the beginning of the party.

API Wellness’ Executive Director Lance Toma welcomed the guests, and he was followed by Associate Director of Community Development Dr. Bhupendra Sheoran and a video message by CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

MC Tita Aida made a fashion statement in a slinky black Kimora Lee Simmons dress, and it was commented on as she glided from the stage to the VIP staging area. The Human Rights Commission’s Cecelia Chung made a fuss over a silent auction tea set, and GAPA’s Donald Masuda again made generous contributions of artistic items from his treasure trove to the auction.

San Francisco Assessor Phil Ting, California State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, and former Assessor Mabel Teng made the rounds, and API Wellness’ Estée Longah had a new extravagant look for the evening. The Imperial Court was represented by Remy Martin, Cher A Little, and Fernando Robles.

The Ally Award was given to Pangea Global AIDS Foundation board chair Joe Garrett, who is also a board member of the AIDS Relief Fund for China, and he was the board chair of Project Inform. He is a long-time supporter of the API Wellness Center. Garret playfully told the story of when he told Compass Point’s highly regarded Steve Lew (the first Miss GAPA — who affected a Jackie Kennedy look) that he was receiving API Wellness’ award, Steve Lew said that he would not be receiving the Steve Lew Award.

Good-natured encouragement by activists working with other activists to do more and work harder for others was the point of the story. Joe Garrett’s friend from school Tom Kelley, who is a board member of Project Inform, was the award presenter and he had choice comments about Garrett.

Jan and Al Nakatani, who lost two gay sons to AIDS, and a straight son to gun violence, gave a special message to the audience. They had been awarded a Hero Award at API Wellness Center for their long-time child protection activism the night before, and said that the employees at the API Wellness Center are the real heroes. Al Nakatani said that they are in the trenches battling HIV every day.

The Good Asian Dancers singing duo were funny and quirky and talented, and they touched on the gritty nightlife of Chinatown. Board members Mike Rabanal and Tien Bui made acknowledgments and then there was a mad dash to check out the silent auction listings.

There was a glow of accomplishment among API Wellness Center employees and volunteers as the evening came to an end, and Executive Director Lance Toma was complimented for a successful fund-raising party.

[Photo caption: 5/18/2009 — Jan and Al Nakatani receiving a surprise Hero Award from API Wellness Center executive director Lance Toma.]

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