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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, April 26, 2002

Dance supports AIDS patients

By Christie Wilson
Neighbor Island Editor

Gosney: Collects pledges of support

KIHEI, Maui — Recovering at home from a three-week hospital stay, Vernon Gosney says he doesn't plan on doing the moonwalk or any other fancy moves at tomorrow's 15th annual James Manness Memorial Dance. But there's no way he's going to miss the Maui AIDS Foundation fund-raiser.

The 49-year-old Maui police officer has been the top money-maker for the popular event, raising more than $75,000 over the past 11 years. One year he collected a whopping $16,000 in pledges.

"It's really amazing that one person can do that," said Joe Ramirez, the Maui AIDS Foundation's administrative director. "I cannot imagine getting that much money. Some of our grants are even less than that."

Gosney was diagnosed with the human immuno deficiency virus in 1985 and has been living with AIDS for a number of years. He lost his partner, Johnny Moore, to the disease in 1994.

At a glance

What: 15th annual James Manness Memorial Dance

When: 7 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Grand Waikapu Country Club.

Cost: $25 at the door

Contributions: In Gosney's name may be sent to the Maui AIDS Foundation, P.O. Box 858, Wailuku, HI 96793

It was Moore who inspired Gosney to support the annual fund-raiser in a big way. He collects

pledges from co-workers, friends, relatives and businesses he patronizes, and does a mass mailing seeking pledges. Most of the money he receives comes in small amounts.

Gosney said he was surprised at how eager people were to support the effort.

"I have people asking me every year how come they haven't gotten my letter yet. People are out there ready to give and I feel like I want to be able to contribute something," he said.

Gosney is Client No. 23 at the Maui AIDS Foundation — the agency's longest-surviving client, he said.

At the end of 2001, there were 1,086 people in Hawai'i living with AIDS, according to Department of Health statistics. There is no cure for the disease.

The Maui AIDS Foundation serves 139 clients with a variety of programs, including in-home support, hospital visits, food assistance and case management, along with public education and prevention.

Gosney said he tries to stay healthy with medication, lots of friends and activities, and a positive attitude. He enjoys traveling and doesn't miss a major theater or music production on Maui.

A recent setback — a staph infection — put him in Maui Memorial Medical Center until this week. Gosney said he hasn't had the energy to do as much fund-raising as he'd like, and so far has raised about $5,000 for tomorrow's dance, named for one of the first Maui residents to die of AIDS who was involved in the foundation's first fund-raising efforts. Last year Gosney raised more than $10,000.

"It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to contribute to the community and to really feel loved and cared about by so many contributors," Gosney said.

Despite his weakened condition, he does plan to take the dance floor, at least for a little while.

Gosney said the biggest struggle he faces is continuing to work. He has been a police officer for 16 years and takes walk-in complaints at the Wailuku station. "I like my job and I like the people. They've been really supportive," he said.