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Mama's Kitchen's 20th annual Tree of Life Ceremony to be held Saturday in Hillcrest

SAN DIEGO – Mama’s Kitchen will host its 20th annual World AIDS Day Tree of Life ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 1, to recognize and remember those affected by AIDS.

The moving event will feature the lighting of the large holiday Christmas tree that stands in the center of the ground level plaza at the Village Hillcrest shopping center. Participants have the opportunity to purchase an ornament to be placed on the tree, which can be personalized with a message to a loved one. One ornament is $15 and two ornaments are $25, with proceeds benefitting the services of Mama’s Kitchen.

The ceremony will also include holiday music by the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, guest speakers and a candlelight vigil. Over the years, the event has become a highly anticipated World AIDS Day activity for community members, many of whom remember their loved ones in such a setting.

Terry Cunningham, chief of the County of San Diego HIV, STD and Hepatitis Branch of Public Health Services, will lead the candlelight vigil and Perette Godwin from Fox 5 will emcee the event.

Robin Sherman, a San Diego coffee roaster, told San Diego Gay & Lesbian News last year that she has attended the event for the past couple of years. “I have lost five friends to AIDS and I miss them every day,” Sherman said. “The lighting ceremony gives me a chance to remember my friends.”

The theme of World AIDS Day 2011, held each year on Dec. 1 around the globe, is “Getting to Zero,” which is backed by the United Nations and focuses on zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. World AIDS Day reminds people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done.

“The Tree of Life Ceremony allows the San Diego community to gather together and remember those who are no longer with us because of AIDS,” said Alberto Cortés, executive director of Mama’s Kitchen. “Through this event we can also embrace and show support for members of our community who still battle this serious disease daily.”

Participants are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food donation for Mama’s Pantry to the event, which is free and open to the public. The event begins at 5 pm.

To purchase an ornament for the Tree of Life, email kim@mamaskitchen.org or call 619-233-6262.

The Village Hillcrest is located at 3965 Fifth Ave.

For more information about the event, click HERE.