Pediatric AIDS Foundation Honors Bahr

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation has awarded its highest honor to CWA President Morton Bahr for his “exemplary dedication to children and longtime support of the foundation.”

Bahr is one of only four people to receive the Commitment to Children award since the foundation, CWA’s charity of choice, was started in 1988. It was presented April 10 at “A Night to Unite,” a gala fundraiser underwritten by the SBC Foundation that drew celebrities, politicians, ambassadors and other leaders to Washington, D.C.’s National Building Museum.

The foundation’s 2002 award also was given to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Previous honorees were Sen. Hillary Clinton and entertainer Rosie O’Donnell. “I am honored to share this evening with Senator Hatch,” Bahr said. “He has been a long-time supporter of the PAF, and we appreciate all he has done.”

Both men “were two of the first people to embrace the foundation and our mission,” PAF co-founder Susie Zeegen said. “They did it at a time when few people talked about AIDS and even fewer talked about AIDS in children.”

The foundation was launched after Elizabeth Glaser, wife of actor Paul Glaser, learned that she, her daughter Ariel, and son Jake, were infected with HIV. Elizabeth Glaser, who contracted the virus through a blood transfusion, died in 1994.

Worldwide, more than 25 million people have died of AIDS, 5 million of them children. More than 2,000 children under 15 are newly infected everyday. But research funded by the foundation has made progress in the development of drugs and therapies to prolong life and to block the virus from being transmitted from mothers to newborns.

“I saw the evidence of this firsthand,” Bahr said. “A couple of years ago, in a visit to PAF headquarters in Santa Monica, I read a card sent to the staff from a young man who had just graduated from high school. He wrote, ‘If you listened closely you could hear my mother’s fingers uncrossing.’ What a profound testimony to the work of the foundation.”

Bahr invited Glaser to speak at CWA’s 1990 convention and was so moved by her words that he proposed CWA make the foundation the union’s charity of choice. He is on PAF’s board of directors and is credited with raising more than $5 million for pediatric HIV/AIDS research and education.

“It was extraordinary,” Bahr said of Glaser’s address. “Her message captivated her audience. When she concluded, there was a spontaneous move to make contributions. People dug into their pockets. Some wrote checks. We are proud that with the exception of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — and that’s pretty good company to be in — CWA is the single largest contributor to PAF.”

Bahr thanked Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) for co-hosting the event, and said he was particularly grateful to Ed Whitacre, CEO of SBC.

“Ed has so graciously volunteered to have his company solely underwrite the cost of this dinner, enabling all proceeds to go toward doing the good work of the foundation,” Bahr said. “At a time when the leadership of major American corporations is being questioned, leaders like Ed Whitacre are a shining light. If the relationship between SBC and CWA could be a model for labor-management cooperation throughout our nation, our country would be more competitive and workers would enjoy an improved quality of life.”

Whitacre said SBC was proud to support the event and to honor Bahr and Hatch. “AIDS has assaulted far too many of our children, and jeopardized the health of too many of our communities,” he said. “We look forward to a day when AIDS is no longer a threat.”