Dan Wood, a grass-roots campaigner for care and support of persons affected by HIV/AIDS and a co-founder of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, was honored by its Board of Directors at a luncheon in late January.
Dan received a plaque in recognition of his early activism in the fight against HIV/AIDS and 25 years of paid and volunteer service to the organization.
Newly re-elected BMH2H Board President Parke Thomas called Dan's service to the community and the agency "Inspiring and motivating," adding that, "Dan learned long ago that not being able to fix everything is no reason not to fix what you can. He simply and quietly began doing what he could and soon redefined what was possible. We honor Dan, and on behalf of our clients past and present, and on behalf of those who because of his work may never become clients, we thank him."
In the early days of BMH2H, Dan recalled being interviewed on a Tri-Cities television news broadcast about the work he and others were doing through their local church to assist those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
By chance, Dr. Richard "Dick" Simon of Walla Walla saw the TV appearance and, treating an AIDS patient of his own, he telephoned Dan to see if he could possibly help care for the patient.
At that time, the early to mid-1980s, there were almost no services outside of large metropolitan areas for people with HIV/AIDS. Many hospitals and doctors had difficulty accepting HIV-positive patients because of misinformation or no information about how the virus is spread, and also to the very real stigma associated with the disease and those in whom it was then most likely to develop.
Unreservedly, Dan told Dick he'd be more than glad to help. That serendipitous moment paved the way toward the foundation of BMH2H. Within several years, and with Dan, Dick, Judy Potts and Kim Krebs and others doing yeoman's duty to make it happen, BMH2H was chartered as an official not-for-profit healthcare agency. It served the Walla Walla Valley, including Milton-Freewater. They also reached as far as the Tri-Cities and Lewiston/Clarkston areas.
Dan has volunteered and served two early terms on the BMH2H Board. Later he was the paid case manager for several years before reverting to volunteer status. He's worked with and helped guide many early staffers, including Leslie Waliser, the first executive director, and all those who followed right up to the present.
Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or afternoons at 526-8313.