Letter From The Executive Director


This was first published in the 25th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition Playbill

April 2011

Dear Friends:

Welcome to the 25th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition! The first was presented on the Saturday of Easter week in 1987 by the original cast of La Cage aux Folles between shows at the Palace Theatre. Ten shows created bonnets that were displayed in the lobby. A few hundred folks paid a dollar to attend and voted for their favorites by stuffing dollar bills into jars representing each show. They raised $17,138. It was an amazing accomplishment.

Outside the theatre and for many on stage and in the house that day, AIDS was raging. In six years, the epidemic had taken a staggering number of people from our community. People infected and affected by the virus lived in fear and desperate sadness, too often isolated and alone. For those of you too young to know anything of the disease other than today’s medications and services count yourselves lucky. It was indeed worse than anything you can imagine. The first Easter Bonnet Competition – indeed Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS itself – sprung from an intense personal response and angry public outcry from our entire community.

So here we are 25 years later. For many, AIDS seems to be a manageable disease – IF you’re fortunate enough to have insurance to cover the cost of medications, IF you have access to services and support and IF you can count on friends, family and loved ones who understand that you have contracted a virus, not taken on a shameful secret.  If not, then it may as well be 1987.

For many assisted by The Actors Fund and literally hundreds of thousands receiving life saving services from the hundreds of AIDS and family service providers across the country supported by BC/EFA, the AIDS epidemic does not rage in the same way it did in 1987. But it still goes on.

BC/EFA is intensely proud of how our mission has expanded to include women’s heath issues, food services and meal programs offered to families facing a variety of challenges and much more.

But it all began with and for those living with AIDS; men, women and children we will never forget or abandon, even as other crises warrant our additional attention, good will and assistance.

I am so happy that the cast of the current revival of La Cage, joined by many members of the original cast and 2005 revival, is part of this afternoon’s performance. They represent our past and present; the continuum of 25 years of extraordinary generosity of spirit. Since 1987, the 25 editions of the Easter Bonnet Competition have raised more than $42 million for people in great need.  All from that first $17,000.

We come together today to remember so many who have gone before us, to celebrate how far we’ve come and to recommit to reaching beyond ourselves and ensure that in 2011 and beyond all are embraced in times of isolation and need.

Undoubtedly there will be challenges ahead. But with your help, BC/EFA remains a haven for those struggling or in crisis and a home for anyone who wants to do something about it.

Thank you for being a part of an extraordinary legacy of outreach and generosity.  You have made a difference – one donation, one signed poster, one appeal, one backstage tour and one individual act of kindness at a time.

But most of all, thank you for joining with us today and into tomorrow.


Tom Viola
Executive Director