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Howard Brown Health raises money, conjures Halloween spirit
by Melissa Wasserman

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Characters of all kinds gathered at Park West on Oct. 19 for Howard Brown Health's annual fundraiser Big Orange Ball.

The Halloween party that served to raise money for Howard Brown's patient base and programming had bites and cocktails, a silent auction, a raffle, entertainment and tunes for dancing spun by DJ Megan Taylor.

"The mission of this event is just to raise awareness for all that Howard Brown Health does, serving all of our 35,000 patients through affirming healthcare centered around LGBTQ identified folks, ranging from primary care to social services to an array of stabilizing services, in a nutshell," said Channyn Parker, manager of external relationships at Howard Brown Health.

Parker added the event goes to serve all of the clinic locations that range from the northern most location in Rogers Park to the southernmost location in Englewood, which she said, also now does dentistry.

"All of the funding, all of what we raise, goes right back into our patient base; it goes right back into our programming," explained Parker, who dressed up for the ball as Carrie ( the titular character from the classic horror movie ), complete with mascara running down her face and fake blood all over herself.

Amailia Black was the "howling hostess" for the evening, while the "Boystown Be-witches" entertained on stage performing their own Halloween-themed drag acts. The "Be-witches" come from popular bars around Boystown and the line-up included Sofia Saffire and Marilyn Black, from The North End; Coco Sho-Nell, from Lucky Horseshoe; Dixie Lynn Cartwright, from Sidetrack; Alexis Bevels, from Progress Bar; Debbie Fox, from Replay Lake View; and Veronica Pop, from Charlie's Chicago.

"It's fun," said Parker of the event. "Who doesn't love a Halloween party? And it's the right time of year; and I mean who doesn't love dressing up? Who doesn't like having a good time? And then it also goes to a good cause. It goes to a cause that helps the community at large. We all know that one in 10 LGBTQ folks in Chicago seek care at Howard Brown Health, so it's just kind of a no-brainer… we all enjoy it."

Attendees were also welcome to play with pups in Chicago Puppy Patrol's "Bark West," pose in the GlitterGuts photobooth and shop in Leather64Ten's pop-up shop. The event also had the support of many corporate, individual and in-kind sponsors, as well as a large host committee and a number of co-chairs.

"We love them; we need them," Parker said of Big Orange Ball's partnerships. "Again, this is a celebration for them as well. This is a celebration for community. Whenever we think about community, we always think about LGBTQ folks, but we also got to remember that there is a '+' in the LGBTQ population as far as who we serve. Community comprises of all of us. It comprises of those partners, our allies, the LGBTQ community, so it's everybody."

"Big Orange Ball is just a great time," Parker said. "We love giving back to the community, and it's also a great way to just engage our partners with what we do, who we are and just highlight how important the mission is, but to also remember while we are advocating and supporting the population that we care about, we also want to have fun too."

For more information on Howard Brown Health and Big Orange Ball, visit .

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