Since the early 1980's, this country has been trying to cope with the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Millions of Americans have been impacted and hundreds of thousands of individuals have died. In 1985, Joe Cristina, an executive at Mattel, Inc., learned he was HIV positive. After disclosing his illness, Joe received an overwhelming amount of support within Mattel and the toy industry as a whole. Joe thought, “why not try to harness this support and use it for the benefit of many?”
Along with the assistance of two pediatric nurses, Joe assessed the needs of the pediatric AIDS community. While money was available for clinical research and medical assistance to children living with AIDS, there were many gaps in the service provided. Children who weren't infected with HIV but who had parents or siblings who were, faced a multitude of issues that were not being addressed. Joe decided to connect the needs of the pediatric AIDS community with the resources of the children's toy industry, thus the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation was conceived.
Since its inception in 1993, the Foundation, under Joe Cristina's volunteer leadership as Board Chair, has distributed nearly $2 million dollars to qualified nonprofit organizations throughout the United States. Assistance is provided for programs such as permanent placement for AIDS-orphaned children, basic needs such as food and shelter and opportunities for children to enjoy their childhood, such as summer camp.
These funds are primarily raised through an annual event called Dream Halloween. Joe's vision and innovation led to the creation of this family Halloween event in Los Angeles. Sponsorship of this event has expanded beyond the toy industry and is supported by major corporations in almost every field of industry including advertising, banking, entertainment and retail. This night is complete with celebrities, trick-or-treating, stage performances, a fun house, interactive games, face painting, arts and crafts and plenty of food. Each corporate sponsorship package sold enables children affected by AIDS to attend the event. In addition, for the many who cannot attend, "trick-or-treat" bags, containing toys, gifts, candy and a t-shirt, are sent to affected children throughout the country.
Joe has turned what could have been a personal tragedy into hope for thousands of children.