By Amy Young, November 2018 issue. Meet the rest of the Class of 2018 here.
We are all familiar with the saying, “It takes a village.” Sure, plenty of miracles and great deeds are continuously perpetuated by individuals working alone, but Barbra Seville’s Wonderful 100 is a spectacular example of what can happen when passionate humans unite on behalf of an important cause.
The Wonderful 100 started 10 years ago when Seville – the beloved drag persona of Richard Stevens – decided to form a group to walk for AIDS Walk Arizona. The original mission was simple: 100 people would participate in the walk and raise $100 each. The funds would then be dispersed by Aunt Rita’s to different Valley HIV/AIDS organizations.
Not only was the team a success that year, they also laid down the foundation for a wildly successful decade of supporting this event. Since their inception, the amount of money this group has raised is near the $250,000 mark, utilizing a variety of promotional outlets, from social media to fun in-person events.
Stevens recently announced that while he will still walk and support the cause in future years, he won’t be heading up BSW100 after this 10th year.
The team has brought together a number of people who are passionate about HIV/AIDS awareness. Some of them, like former Echo Hall-of-Fame inductee Eddie Broadway, shared some highlights of their participation.
“I got involved with the BSW100 during my reign as Mister Phoenix Gay Pride 2014,” said Broadway. “My queen, Barbra brought me on to the committee to help spearhead the events for that year. I was so new to Aunt Rita’s, the AIDS Walk and everything that the Wonderful 100’s mission included. I remember seeing the pride on all of our faces, especially Barbra’s, when we went on stage to get announced as the highest fundraising team.”
That experience solidified his continued participation. “After that year, I contributed as I could with any events that the team had and got to walk a few times. One of my favorite moments, besides Barbra crying, is taking the shortcuts through the city. One time, we – Barbra and I – arrived all the way at the end and patiently waited for the team that walked the entire thing. Barbra and the Wonderful 100 team has done the unthinkable, in so many ways. The amount of money, education, and activism is astounding. I am proud to ever be part of an amazing team and dream like this.”
Buddy Early is one of Echo’s former managing editors and current contributors. He can’t say enough good things about the Wonderful 100. “When Aunt Rita’s brought the Walk back a decade ago they had an uphill battle,” Early told us. “The Wonderful 100 was, I say without hyperbole, one of the main reasons it has been incredibly successful and why the community has rallied behind this cause.”
“HIV research, treatment, and prevention programs are low priorities for the current White House and Congress. As BSW100 ceases, it will be vital that others step up to fill the void for this important fundraising event,” he added.
We chatted with more friends of this legendary organization:
Echo: How did you first find out about Barbra?
Ahumada: When I first moved to Phoenix, about five years ago, Barbra hosted the first drag show that I went to.
Echo: And what’d you think?
Ahumada: I was instantly struck by her wit and candor and started attending many of her shows.
Echo: Did you know then about her involvement in the AIDS Walk?
Ahumada: No, but once I found out, I knew I needed to find out more. I loved the simple concept of 100 friends, 100 dollars. My brother and I decided to join the team.
Echo: And after that, you were hooked?
Ahumada: Yes. We started going to the team’s fundraiser and met other team and committee members. It was such a fun and creative way for people to get involved and raise money for such a noble cause. The first year, after the actual walk, we sat as a team and talked, laughed, and even cried. It was a magical moment. The following year, Richard and George reached out to us to be a part of the steering committee.
Echo: Did you accept?
Ahumada: Yes. We were a little hesitant at first, knowing how much time and dedication was required. Knowing the good that the BSW100 team did definitely outweigh that concern. Now, we are in our third year of being on the committee and I am so happy we took that leap of faith.
Echo: Have there been challenges?
Ahumada: It has definitely had trying moments, especially when we are trying to make our goal. When we reached or surpassed the goal, it was just euphoric every time.
Echo: What changes have you seen in the walk since you got involved?
Ahumada: In the past few years I have seen it continually evolve. It gets bigger and bigger, allowing people from all walks of life to feel comfortable participating. My older brother and his family have joined our team and their kids love seeing all the people, bands, and drag princesses that walk for the event. You can feel a sense of family and community when you are there.
Echo: What else would you like to say about being a part of BSW100?
Ahumada: Knowing that through Aunt Rita’s, this money would go to help so many deserving agencies and people is a priceless feeling. Many of us have formed life-lasting friendships with one another and different members of the community. I was welcomed with open arms in the LGBT community and, as a proud ally, it is more than I felt worthy of. It has opened my eyes to how fortunate I am. Working with Richard has taught me patience and the meaning of hard work.
Echo: Tell us about your involvement with Barbra Seville’s Wonderful 100.
Eckstrom: I have been involved with the BSW100 for several years. The work they have done has been remarkable. I come from a family that always raised money for different organizations, so I was happy to help raise funds for this amazing team.
Echo: Tell us some ways you have participated?
Eckstrom: I have done their Turnabout Drag Show, and also made wreaths for the team to raffle.
Echo: What do you think is unique about this group?
Eckstrom: Not every day do you come across a group of people that want to change the world. I feel like this group has done just that – changed the world. I don’t know that we will ever see another group of people like this again – a group that is selfless and has raised as much money as they have over the years. Being involved with this group has made me want to step up my game as Mister Phoenix Pride and raise as much money as possible. I thank Barbra and the entire group for such wonderful memories and being extraordinary people. I tip my hat to them!
Echo: Can you tell us about a memorable moment or two?
Eckstrom: One would be when Miss Gay America 2017, Suzy Wong walked with the BSW100. It was her first appearance as Miss Gay America and it was so wonderful having her there. Miss Gay America 2019, Andora Tetee will be walking with us this year. Another great memory is when Miss Gay America 2012, Diva walked with the team – in six-inch heels the entire time! Walking with the reigning Miss Phoenix Pride, Trixxie Deluxxe and watching her talk to people and take pictures with them along the route was also great.
Congratulations to the Class of 2018! Meet the rest of the inductees here.