Honoree: Duane Vajgrt
Honored by: AIDS Services Foundation Orange County
Cause Area: Healthcare
Duane Vajgrt, M.D. and his partner of 42 years, Jeff Benedick have been involved in AIDS Services Foundation, literally, since its inception 31 years ago. Aside from supporting ASF as major donors from the very beginning, Jeff was one of the original performers in a backyard, poolside, Esther Williams-style, 9 minute spoof called the SPLASH that raised $33,000, providing the seed money to establish ASF.
Duane and Jeff continued to be donors and volunteers during the 12 years that Jeff continued his roles in SPLASH. However, they became much more deeply involved with ASF as a result of having to turn to ASF in the mid-90s following a visit to San Francisco to visit a prior roommate and best friend who was found to be in full-blown AIDS. Rejected completely by his parents who lived locally, Duane and Jeff took their friend into their own home. At that time, Duane was a senior in his radiology residency at UCI and Jeff owned a busy interior design firm. With their packed schedules, they were only able to help their friend because of the tremendous home care visits and nursing support services they received from ASF, allowing them to care for their friend for nine months in their home before he finally succumbed.
10 years later, Duane, by then an Interventional Radiologist and professor of Radiology at UCI, joined the board of ASF at the request of the founding board president, Al Roberts. His decision to join the board was largely motivated as a means of paying back and paying it forward for all that ASF had given his friend.
Since joining the board 11 1/2 years ago, Duane has served as secretary and most recently, for the past three years, as Board President, while also serving simultaneously on 3 board-related committees as well as 5 fundraising-related committees where he has clocked many, many hours as a volunteer. It was on one of those latter committees that Duane became involved with ASF’s Orange County Ride for AIDS, OCRA, which turned him into a weekend warrior cyclist where he has earned the distinction of being both the top individual fundraiser as well as the top team fundraiser for the last six years. Even as Board President, when attending events like AIDS Walk or the OCRA, Duane is known for being among the first to arrive and the last to leave, working right alongside staff and other volunteers.
To ensure that ASF remains strong so that it can continue to serve in excess of 1300 clients living with HIV annually, Duane and Jeff are also participants in ASF’s Legacy Program, Partners for Life. ASF has been a major part of Duane and Jeff’s life together; they have also been a large part of ASF’s life history, too.