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RSVP : A Fun-Filled Day of Bittersweet Memories

June 07, 1995|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The most difficult time for any charity is after the loss of a founder and driving force, but the Pediatric AIDS Foundation went on to have its most successful fund-raiser ever in the first year after the death of Elizabeth Glaser.

More than $1.9 million was raised Sunday at the sixth annual "A Time for Heroes" carnival/picnic in Mandeville Canyon.

"It's kind of sad that Elizabeth's not here," Robin Williams said. "But everyone came and it keeps on going. I guess the training took."

As Williams said this, his friend's son was being strapped into a contraption that combined aspects of a trampoline and a slingshot. Suddenly the boy was flying through the air like a character in a "Road Runner" cartoon. "Look at him go," Williams shouted. "There he is, ladies and gentleman: Chuck Yeager as young boy!"

That buoyancy pretty much summed up the feeling of the afternoon. There was sadness over the loss of Glaser, who died last year of AIDS complications, but it was also a kids' party and the 1,650 guests had a great time.

Williams joined Danny DeVito to host the Whac-a-Mole booth ("They should have Remove-a-Mole," he said), while other stars and athletes were in two dozen similar carnival-style jobs.

Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan held down the football throwing game; Teri Hatcher was at the penny toss; Mike Myers officiated at the hockey shot (he holds the uniquely Canadian belief that "the ability to play hockey is innate to everyone"); Kurt Rambis and Nicholas Cage presided at the basketball free-throw game. Rosie O'Donnell was teamed up with boxer Sugar Ray Leonard.

"This is a really important day because Elizabeth would be so happy to see it's taking place in her spirit," said Steven Spielberg, who was at the speed pitch booth with Tom Hanks. "And the fact that it's happening in her spirit means that Elizabeth started a momentum that will only be stopped when there's a cure for the AIDS virus."

To speed the search for that cure, all the funds raised from the event will go to the Elizabeth Glaser Scientist Award, a program for researchers studying pediatric HIV/AIDS.

"It will go on for nine years," foundation co-founder Susan DeLaurentis said. "At the end of that time we'll have a team of some of the smartest people in the world focusing their attention on this."

Among the guests and participants who helped raise the funds (the event was underwritten by People magazine and the Milken Family Foundation) were Rene Russo, Marlee Matlin, Bill Pullman, Rita Wilson, Kate Capshaw, Jason Priestley, Michael Roberts, Tracey Ullman, Greg Louganis, Drew Barrymore, William Baldwin, Sandy Koufax, Geena Davis, Susie Zeegen and Paul M. Glaser, plus Lesley Gore and Lou Christie, who performed at a lively post-picnic concert.

"We've got a big job to do and the job hasn't ended because Elizabeth isn't here," DeLaurentis said. "We still have lots of research that needs to be done and we need everyone's support. I think Elizabeth has inspired that in all of us."

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