Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the spirit of the season has only just begun! The holidays are inspiring us to give thanks, show support, and celebrate our community. And we find that one of the best ways to share this feeling is through storytelling:
Below you’ll find a letter from Joseph Varisco, the program director for QUEER, ILL + OKAY, and recipient of a DGF Emergency Grant.
Our emergency grants provide funds for writers facing tragic circumstances. Writers like Joseph have used DGF Emergency Grants to: pay for cancer treatments, recover from natural disasters, escape domestic violence, prevent eviction, & overcome other unforeseen emergency situations.
We hope Joseph’s story inspires you this giving season and beyond. Thank you for being a member of our community. Turkey and pies or not, we’re giving thanks for you every day of the year:
When I was diagnosed HIV+ in 2012, I had no money, no health insurance, no job, and no idea what my future held.
I had followed the rules, gotten a degree, volunteered, applied my time learning and giving back, and used protection. I started reaching out for help through healthcare resources and care programs. I had learned to navigate systems for others interning as a social work student, but I had no direct experience with those systems of my own. I took a stab in the dark and applied to anything I could find.
The Dramatists Guild Foundation was the first to respond with an Emergency Grant to help cover medical expenses. Knowing that an entire community came to support me brought light into a very dark chapter of my life.
I’m writing to say thank you. Not only did your care and generosity rescue me financially, the sense of security it provided served as a wellspring for an artistic, educational, and compassion-based project, QUEER, ILL + OKAY.
This is a performance series that mixes theater, art, spoken word, and video to tell the stories of people living with HIV, disabilities, and chronic illnesses. Since its beginning in 2013, QUEER, ILL + OKAY has become an international arts and education program series exploring, supporting, and building relationships, while destigmatizing stereotypes of people living with those conditions.
When I was diagnosed, I defied the fears I faced and publicly shared my status to resist and confront the stereotypes and misinformation that still impact the lives of those living with HIV, disabilities, and chronic illnesses. I then developed QUEER, ILL + OKAY. To build community.
As a DGF Emergency Grant recipient, I know, firsthand, the difference it makes to be part of a larger community of support. As part of the DGF community, you’ve made an impact in my life—and you’ve inspired my work to impact others’ lives.
Thank you for giving me the confidence and faith in what this work has the capacity to accomplish.
Joseph Varisco, Program Director QUEER, ILL + OKAY