Condoms and Cocoa raises for AIDS

Thanks to a fundraiser, Yalies can send each other condoms this week for a good cause.

The undergraduate community service group behind AIDS Walk New Haven has launched a fundraiser this week, “Condoms and Cocoa Grams,” to raise money for its April 15 event. Students can purchase a “gram” gift bag with a condom and a packet of hot cocoa mix for $3 during dinner hours on Monday to Wednesday in residential college dining halls and during lunch on Thursday in the Commons rotunda. The effort represents one of the group’s many sources of funding for its annual walk in April which donates its funds to nine non-profit organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the AIDS Interfaith Network.

“Even though the issue is one of global significance, the work we’re doing directly affects the greater New Haven area,” said Leah Campbell ’15, the publicity coordinator of AIDS Walk New Haven. “We’re raising awareness for an international problem, but with a focus on the people affected by it much closer to home which helps make the problem much more immediate and personal.”

The organization set up in three dining halls Monday and Tuesday night, and plans to solicit in five dining halls on Wednesday night, coordinators said. Other than a few samples created to show to customers, the group has not created any of its cocoa grams yet. It will do so in its Thursday night meeting, said Adam Ford ’13, one of the group’s co-coordinators, and then distribute the cocoa grams on Friday and Saturday. Ford said that he expects the fundraiser will raise approximately $350 which will go toward preparing for the walk.

Ford said the idea originated last year when the group planned a “condoms and candy canes” fundraiser for the holidays that was never ultimately carried out.

“We were expecting snow and cold around the end of January, so hot cocoa seemed appropriate,” Ford said.

Isaac Wasserman ’14 said he bought one because he felt it was a creative way to support something that mattered to him.

“I ended up asking that a condom and cocoa gram be sent to my twin brother,” he said. “More as a joke, but also because I don’t feel like becoming an uncle yet.”

The primary focus of the organization is to host an annual 5K walk through New Haven in which both undergraduates and other city residents participate. Each year, the organization raises about $20,000 to put on the walk, Ford said. The funding comes from on-campus events such as the cocoa grams and partly through deals with local restaurants and businesses, said Sheila Enamandram ’13, one of the co-coordinators of AIDS Walk New Haven in 2011.

The group also works extensively with the network of organizations in the Mayor’s Task Force on AIDS. Enamandram said that last year’s event raised more money than any other in its history, with a total of $24,000 raised by the end of the summer. The unprecedented success may have been partially due to appearances by Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 (D-Conn.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.), who headlined the event. Campbell said that the organization intends to advertise its event more heavily to undergraduates this year.

“In the past, we’ve been able to connect well with the New Haven community and there has always been a great turnout of locals,” Campbell said. “But we have never gotten as many Yale students as some other events like Relay for Life.”

The organization will hold its other major pre-walk fundraiser, the Red Hot Fashion Show, in conjunction with undergraduate art and fashion group Y-Couture in February.

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