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Peekskill Marks World AIDS Day Tonight With Art, Song

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- The city will observe World AIDS Day Thursday night with a special ceremony at Pugsley Park and the help of some local artists.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the virus in the United States, and for the past few weeks children from the youth bureau have been gathering driftwood from the banks of the Hudson River with the help of some volunteer artist.

Wilfredo Morel, the Director of Hispanic Health at the Hudson River Health Care Center and an artist, said the tree is meant to represent the impact of AIDS on the community.

"This is the 30th [anniversary] year of the virus being dealt with in the United States, so I decided that instead of using traditional AIDS quilt that people know, we decided to give this a three dimensional look," Morel said. "The tree is a representation of the community and branches are a representation of the different ways and places we go and the leaves are the members of the community."

The leaves, also made from wood and colored red, will represent people affected by AIDS in the community, Morel said.

"Another reason we use leaves is because of the stigma," Morel said. "A lot of people do not want to associate their family or friends with AIDS, so they can either take a leaf and put a symbol or name if they wish or just hang them."

Morel and the youth bureau staff also got help from other local artists Lana Yu and Jim Taylor.

Taylor, who is also active with the Hudson Valley Community Boat Works program, led the kids down to the river to look for the perfect driftwood "tree."

"We went down to the river and found a stump that was about 12 feet long and cut it down and we've been setting the branches and making them look somewhat natural if we can," Taylor said.

The event will start at 5:30 p.m. at the Peekskill Youth Bureau on Main Street, where residents can chose a leaf to represent someone that will go on the tree.

There will then be a procession from the youth bureau to nearby Pugsley Park on Main Street. Members of the Peekskill Park Street AME Zion Church Men's Choir will lead the procession in song.

When the procession gets to the park there willl be a ceremony, including several speakers from the city. Refreshments will be served at the youth bureau afterwards.

For more information, call Wilfredo Morel at (914) 643-4392 or Darryl Francis at (914)734-2051. Those seeking information or help with AIDS and HIV can reach Morel at Hudson River Health Care at (914) 734-8800.

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