Kids, par­ents cel­e­brate need to Speak Up!

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SOCIETY - Story and pho­tos by Joan Bang For Main Line Me­dia News

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.

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