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Howard Brown's Big Orange Ball owns Halloween
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

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There were no limits to the imagination on Oct. 24 as almost 350 guests of the Howard Brown Health Center ( HBHC )'s Big Orange Ball were welcomed by plumbers Luigi and Mario into The Geraghty—a massive all-purpose event space in Pilsen and brainchild of celebrated designer Tom Kehoe who underwrote a portion of the event.

There, they entered a foreboding atmosphere that combined Sleepy Hollow and the House of Usher into the ballroom of the damned.

Attendees included people dressed as Doctor Who, Blade, Leatherface, Bjork, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Roman centurions and gladiators, zombie prom queens, aliens, hippies and maniacal surgeons, to name a few.

They had all shown up in support of HBHC's continuing programs of primary medical care, behavioral health, research, HIV/STD prevention, youth services, elder services, and community initiatives which will soon be extending into neighborhoods such as Rogers Park and Edgewater.

HBHC President/CEO David Ernesto Munar ( dressed as a caveman ) said the Halloween party emerged from a horrific brainstorm of fundraising ideas which fortunately involved only minor amounts of bloodletting and graphic violence.

"We used to do a Halloween party years ago, before my time," he said. "So we've come full circle. Primarily we will be raising dollars towards medical and wellness initiatives for four populations—LGBTQ youth, elders and seniors, lesbian, straight and trans women and our transgender program."

"Howard Brown is claiming Halloween." HBHC Board Chair Duke Alden added. "We have an incredible patient base who really put their trust in us. One of our big themes as a health center is that you can come to Howard Brown, regardless of who you are, without being judged. So tonight's theme is 'come as you aren't.' It's absolutely reflective of who our organization is. We love at accept diversity in all of its forms."

Alden added that trans health is the next great health equality frontier. "One of the challenges facing our broader LGBTQ community is finding a place for the T," he said. "A holistic part of that is health care. Howard Brown prides itself on being a national leader not just in trans health but in being a pioneer in what it means to be transitioning into yourself."

While HBHC is weathering the storm of the budget impasse in Springfield, Alden said some programs have been affected. Alden had a message for lawmakers: "Don't forget about all those people who are served by the funds you are arguing about."

For more information about the HBHC, visit .

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