BY CAURIE PUTNAM | PHOTOS BY TAMMY SWALES
Lisa DiPasquale Cove, chairwoman of Rochester’s inaugural White Party, is no stranger to the color white. In fact, the path that led Lisa to create this historic event leads back to the late 1980’s. Then, Lisa was wearing white as an emergency room nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital and, so was the man who would become her husband, Dr. Christopher Cove.
“As a nurse you couldn’t beat Lisa’s energy, passion, and commitment,” said Dr. William Valenti, who worked with Lisa and Christopher in the emergency room during that time. “And Chris was one of the nicest, smartest, and best residents I ever had.”
Lisa and Christopher, who met in the emergency room at Strong and quickly became close friends, married in 1989.
Valenti and the Coves would take different paths in their careers – Valenti is now the medical director of AIDS Care; Christopher is now Associate Professor of Medicine and Assistant Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories at the University of Rochester Medical Center; and Lisa, while no longer working as a nurse practitioner, is active in health care as a yoga instructor and philanthropist.
“Lisa is just as energetic and passionate in her community and fundraising work as she was as a nurse,” said Valenti, who has remained friends with the Coves.
A few years ago when Valenti asked Lisa if she could devise an epic fundraiser to benefit local non-for-profit AIDS Care she went back to her roots: white.
Lisa’s brainchild – the Rochester White Party – will take place on September 8, 2012 at the Century Club mansion on East Avenue in Rochester. Proceeds from this glamorous, exclusive event will benefit AIDS Care.
While Rochester has never had a White Party, the concept originated in Miami, Florida in 1985 when Health Crisis Network, a fledgling not-for-profit HIV/AIDS service organization asked a local, prominent gay businessman, Frank Wager for help staging a fundraiser.
In the 1980s HIV/AIDS was decimating the gay community in Miami and Health Crisis Network desperately needed funds for testing, education, and treatment. Frank Wager and his committee of ten volunteers came up with “The White Party” concept.
At a White Party attendees wear only white and proceeds go to a charitable cause.
Since the first White Party in Miami other large cities such as Palm Springs, New York, Montreal, Paris, and Pattaya, Thailand have followed suit – raising millions of dollars for various causes.
When Valenti asked Lisa for help raising money for AIDS Care she remembered seeing beautiful photos of White Parties online over the years, such as one at the Louvre, and hearing about them in her travels to big cities with Christopher.
“The White Party concept is fun, elegant, creative, and visually beautiful,” Lisa said. “To see people all dressed only in white and for a great cause is so beautiful.”
Just as the original White Party in Miami was culled out of a need for critical funds during a momentous time in the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Valenti sees the Rochester White Party as coming at a critical moment in the history of the disease.
“We are at a pivotal time in HIV/AIDS care and research,” Valenti said. “There are major efforts underway in HIV eradication and our goal now is to look to a time where there is an end to AIDS.”
Funds from the party will be used towards research and education.
There are approximately 2,500 individuals in the Rochester region currently receiving medical care for HIV/AIDS, Valenti said, but many other that don’t know they have the disease or are at risk. Lisa sees the White Party as a way to bring attention to these important issues.
“HIV is not gone, it’s just hiding,” Lisa said. “People don’t look at it with the same fear and attention they did in the 1980s, but there are still many people living sick and at risk.”
Lisa and her committee hope to sell out 500 tickets to the event that will feature food and libations from 2Vine; Tony D’s; Nikko; Century Wines; LiDestri Food and Beverages; and more.
During the White Party, entertainment will be scattered throughout the mansion and grounds and includes: innovative chamber musical group Gibbs & Main; Americana/Rockabilly/Swing group Krypton 88; The Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus; drag queen Ambrosia Salad; violinists; tarot card readers and more.
One prominent Rochesterian who is planning to attend the White Party is Meghan Mundy, co-founder of Fashion Week of Rochester with Chantiza Stern.
“Lisa has put a lot of time and effort into this event and I’m sure it will be amazing,” said Mundy, who knows Lisa through modeling for Fashion Week. “She is a consummate professional.”
Nicole Calcagni, of Pittsford, is on the White Party committee and has seen Lisa work first hand on the party with great intensity and drive for the past year. Lisa puts in about twenty-hours of work towards the event each week.
“Lisa is so passionate about AIDS Care and brings such a high level of energy to the committee,” Calcagni said. “Her energy level trickles down and because of her this will be the event of the year in Rochester.”
Lisa’s expertise and precision in planning the White Party comes from years of charitable event work.
Other organizations she has worked with are WXXI, the American Heart Association, Lifespan, the Junior League of Rochester, and the Village of Pittsford.
“For years when I have heard of a great opportunity to give to the community I have never been able to say no,” said Lisa, who was Mrs. New York America in 2002 and is a commercial model with Rochester Talent Inc. “You don’t have to be paid to be passionate, the payment for me is in the reward I get from giving.”
Lisa also gets great satisfaction sharing her charitable spirit and approach to life with her and Christopher’s three sons: Matthew, 15, and twins Alexander and Zach, 16.
“I’m very fortunate to be at home with my kids,” Lisa said. “That enables me to be an active community volunteer and I try to include the boys with my volunteerism.”
Lisa, who graduated from Williamsville South High School, Alfred University and the University of Rochester, also tries to include the boys and her husband in her healthy lifestyle.
She is a yoga instructor at Breathe in Pittsford and practices yoga daily.
“I found yoga around age 37 and it has completely transformed the way I look at health,” Lisa said. “Without my yoga practice I wouldn’t be able to find my balance with everything I have going on in my life. It keeps me grounded.”
In addition to yoga, Lisa’s other physical passion is walking.
“Very seldom do I drive the boys anywhere,” Lisa said. “I try to encourage the boys to bike or walk everywhere. I tell them ‘only get in a car if you have to.”
The Coves moved to from East Avenue in Rochester to a Victorian home in the Village of Pittsford in 2008 in part so they could walk more.
The boys walk to school and sports practices at Pittsford Sutherland High School; Christopher bikes to Strong Memorial Hospital from home daily along the Erie Canal; and Lisa walks the family’s beloved Doberman Pincher “Lady” several times a day.
“We are passionate about walking,” said Lisa, who walks in the rain, snow, and sunshine. “It’s good for stress, for health, for the environment.”
Living in Pittsford reminds Lisa of growing up in Williamsville – a suburb of Buffalo. Her mother was a homemaker and her father was a police officer.
“We walked everywhere,” Lisa said. “It’s just what we did.”
Growing up, Lisa was a cheerleader and a Candystriper at a Buffalo hospital – two roles that she has seamlessly continued to practice even today as a cheerleader for health issues like HIV/AIDS.
“Lisa is a good person, a solid citizen, and has a genuine desire to help others,” Valenti said. “I can’t say enough about her.”
For more information on the White Party visit: www.RochestersWhiteParty.com https://www.facebook.com/RochestersWhiteParty