Kids, parents celebrate need to Speak Up!
When Martie Gillin of Bryn Mawr lost her oldest son, Bob, to HIV/AIDS, she knew she’d found a mission that couldn’t be ignored.
Initially focused on getting the word out about the disease itself, Gillin soon began to realize there were many facets for consideration in looking for a cure as well as finding means of preventing the illness, but it wasn’t just going to be about that aspect. It was also going to be necessary for parents, their offspring and educators to learn how to get on the same page emotionally, handle health issues that were still not being readily acknowledged and find a way to halt the spread of a life-ending disease. None of this was going to be an easy task. Never one to take no for an answer, Gillin forged ahead and thankfully did so. What’s transpired has been life changing for all the families and friends of those claimed by the illness.
After several years of concentrating on the AIDS Alive part of the program, organizers realized that healthy communication skills were the key to making the outcomes in any triangle work and SpeakUp!, which is for parents and kids, has been moving the needle in that direction since then.
This latter version of getting everyone to open up brings together teachers, community and business leaders, parents, caretakers and students from different schools who spend an hour or so together discussing relevant issues that kids face daily, both in school as well as at home. From all reports, it’s an eye, ear, heart and mind opening experience for all those who do choose to participate.
This model for academic and familial success has come highly recommended by the likes of local and national media outlets as well as a sold-out crowd of supporters who recently came to the Sheraton Valley Forge to give honor and praise to the organization’s founder, Martie Gillin.
In addition to sons, daughters, grands and great grands who’d arrived from near and far to praise the mother of nine, business leaders, clergy members, students and out-of-state family had all rallied to see this gutsy gal get credit where it was obviously due for an outstanding outreach that benefits everyone involved.
Next up for the SpeakUp! is a series of meetings aimed at parents on dealing with the issues of mental health, gender identity as well as drugs and alcohol. For further information on when and where the seminars will take place (running 11/18/165/12/2017) visit the website at www.speakup.org.
Members of the Speak Up! team getting together before the patrons arrive include Shauna Flanagan, Peg Flynn, Sara Leyden, Marnie Bowen, Jane Goggin, Kim Bullock and Andrea Bagnell.
Collegeville residents Jeremy and Lisa Hahn check out the posters made by Speak Up! students.
Bill Bernicker of Merion Station, Mitch Greene of Haverford and Tom Bagnell of Naberth get a chance to catch up while their spouses help with the gala.
Steve Gillin, center, gets a moment with Wes Lang of Palm Beach and Chris Smith of Colorado, grandson of the organization’s founder.
Speak Up! founder Martie Gillin, center, thanks her BFF Ann Rafferty of Wayne and her daughter, Mary Margaret Gillin Lang, for all their help with the fundraiser.
Delinda Martell of Haverford and Paul Mita of West Chester get a chance to chat with Jeannie McKittrick of Villanova.
Elizabeth and Steve Treat of Dresher are on hand to support the efforts of Speak Up!.
Fr. Bill Byron has a talk with another member of the Gillin family, Nate.