SAGA members raised more money for the AIDS Walk & 5K Run than any other high school group in the state
By Kaitlyn Von Behren, Current Staff
The WBHS Sexuality and Gender Alliance fundraised over triple their goal for this year’s AIDS Walk & 5K Run.
SAGA’s goal was $500, and the total raised was $1690. Donations were collected in late September and early October.
The AIDS Walk & 5K Run was held Oct. 1 at Milwaukee’s Summerfest Grounds. The event is put on by the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin to raise funds to increase access to life-saving health care among those with HIV and AIDS.
Lydia Albrecht, an East graduate, raised $1000 on her own through matching donations from a family member, according to Shana Schloemer, the group’s adviser since 2010.
Schloemer, who works as a psychotherapist along with volunteering with SAGA, raised $400 for the fight against AIDS and HIV.
“We encouraged group donations during meetings, which really did help,” said Emily Treusch, West senior and SAGA secretary.
While West Bend’s SAGA did not place in the overall top ten, they were within $400 of the tenth spot and were the top-fundraising high school, Treusch said.
“I would recommend [going to the AIDS Walk] because I had a lot of fun,” said Savannah Becker, East sophomore.
“It was also very nice to see all the people who are so willing and so ready to help out those who have AIDS and HIV,” Treusch said. “It was just a really positive experience.”
“I wanted to raise money for the AIDS Resource Center because they do such amazing work for people with HIV and AIDS,” Schloemer said. “They have a clinic and pharmacy and counseling and a food bank, among other resources. A few years ago I ran a therapy group for people who are HIV positive, but who also identify as transgender, so I have seen first-hand how many wonderful forms of assistance they can give people.”
Schloemer emphasized that SAGA is not only open to LGBT students. In fact, SAGA encourages allies (straight people who support LGBT rights) to attend meetings.
“It’s a great place to get to know other people, and it’s a great place to get to know the different types of students that are in the school,” Treusch said. “It’s good for students that are on the LGBT spectrum, but it’s also good for the students who are not, because it gives them a chance to understand different types of people and it gives everyone a chance to realize that we’re not really different. We’re all the same people.”
“SAGA meetings are meant to be a safe place for students who identify as LGBT or who want to be an ally to those who do,” Schloemer said. “It is meant to be a place for discussing social justice and advocating for all students to be treated equally and support those who are bullied for any reason.”
While the WBHS chapter of SAGA has existed for about 15 years, it was first officially considered a club in 2011.
“[SAGA meetings] are really fun,” Becker said. “Everybody’s nice to each other there. It’s like a safe haven. It always makes me happy. If I’m having a bad day, I look forward to it.”
SAGA is also involved with the March Masquerade, Words Hurt Week, and, for the first time this year, the beginnings of a scholarship fund. The group intends to keep finding ways to have a positive impact on the campus and community.
“It doesn’t really feel like a meeting,” Treusch said. “It feels more like a lot of friends getting together to make positive change. It’s just a beautiful place to get to know others, and even get to know yourself.”
(Images are promotional material from the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin website.)