“He loved to have fun.”
Claudia Ronayne’s words were true. The qualities of her brother, John, listed in his obituary also applied to the performers and audience members.
Ronayne, mother of Elon Cares 2013 director and Elon senior Sean Ronayne, was a guest speaker at the eighth annual Elon Cares benefit concert in support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Jan. 12.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is a nonprofit organization that raises money for AIDS awareness and supports individuals affected by HIV/AIDS and their families.
Ronayne’s brother was a dancer, pianist, artist and performer. He was just 33 when he died from HIV. Ronayne’s goal is to raise awareness about AIDS and the stigma of HIV/AIDS.
“People fear what they don’t know,” she said. “HIV cannot be contracted from drinking out of the same glass or swimming in the same pool.”
The facts are staggering. Today, 1,000 people between the ages of 13 and 26 are diagnosed with HIV every month.
Ronayne reminded the audience no gender or age is spared. Men, women and children can all contract HIV. She urged the audience to educate themselves and everybody they love.
To raise money, the performers held a bake sale and also raffled off various Broadway memorabilia, restaurant gift cards and various signed Broadway show posters including “Jersey Boys” and “Mary Poppins.”
President Leo Lambert was in attendance at the performance and said the talent within the Department of Performing Arts always amazes him.
“Whether it’s Grand Night, Collage, Elon Cares, they always deliver,” Lambert said.
Sophomore Patrick Dinnsen performed an original song last year during Elon Cares, and this year he had the opportunity to be more involved as assistant music director alongside junior Ethan Andersen.
The show closed with a moving rendition of the song “Beautiful City” from “Godspell.” With lyrics such as, “Out of the ray of struggle, can we see a ray of hope?” the message of the night was clear.
Dinnsen started off the finale number after listening to Ronayne’s emotional speech about her brother’s battle with HIV.
“It was hard not to get choked up,” Dinnsen said. “This year, the meaning and importance of Elon Cares has become more clear to me.”
Although AIDS awareness and research are making strides, Ronayne said society still has a long way to go.
“Whether one has HIV/AIDS or not, it is important to be educated and understanding so that we end the spread of the disease and the wrongful stigma that still follows the virus today,” Dinnsen said.
Ronayne told the audience to become educated about HIV/AIDS. She pointed to her brother’s obituary photo and urged viewers to think of her talented brother, who died too young.