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Elton John Says Activist Changed His Life

Elton John Says Activist Changed His Life

The life and legacy of Ryan White were the focus of a benefit held April 28 in Indianapolis. The 18-year-old hemophiliac died on April 8, 1990, five years after contracting HIV through a tainted blood transfusion. White's public battle for acceptance after he was banned from school following his diagnosis brought national attention to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

Proceeds from the event, headlined by Elton John and hosted by Phil Donahue, will go to the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Indianapolis Children's Museum's "Power of Children" exhibit, which features White.

John befriended White, was at Riley Children's Hospital when he died, and was a pallbearer and performer at the funeral. Two years later the singer established the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The organization funds innovative HIV prevention and education programs, works to eliminate HIV stigma and discrimination, and provides direct care and support services to those living with the disease.

"It was one of the greatest things in my life to meet Ryan's family, to be there the last week to try and help, and then for that wonderful message that he gave me to change my life around," John said. "It was weird to take stock and think of it: I'm 20 years sober this year, and it's 20 years since Ryan died, because I got sober shortly afterward."

Jeanne White-Ginder, White's mother, was touched that John returned to mark the anniversary of the youth's death. "I've always felt like he was my guardian angel," she said.

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