Sunburst Projects began nearly 40 years ago by creating a summer camp for children who were born with HIV and had AIDS.
It has grown into a full-time, local nonprofit organization in Northern California, providing services for individuals who are living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, including men, women, families, youth, and the Sacramento HIV community as a whole.
“We’ve been in Northern California for nearly 40 years,” said Diana Pretzlaff, a registered nurse and the Director of Development & Health Services for Sunburst Projects, which is based in Sacramento. “We were on the frontlines of the AIDS epidemic.
“We really are an amazing, nonprofit organization. When I came on board a couple of years ago and saw the work that we do, I feel so good working for this organization.”
Fundraising is part of Pretzlaff’s job.
An event that benefits Sunburst Projects is the “Drag Your Balls” Celebrity Golf Tournament on Saturday, October 16 at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento. The nine-hole tournament also includes lunch, a silent auction, and prizes. Check-in starts at 11 a.m., the tournament follows at 12 p.m., and an after-party and awards program begins at 3 p.m.
The tournament will benefit Sunburst Projects, which has served low-income clients and their families for nearly 40 years. The organization serves men, women, children, and teenagers with HIV in Sacramento, Placer, and El Dorado counties, who live below the federal poverty line, said Pretzlaff.
“Every penny that we raise from this golf tournament goes back into helping these people in our community, helping our clients,” said Pretzlaff.
“We do these fundraising events to add extra money to our budget so that we can go above and beyond in serving our clients.”
The organization’s emergency assistance fund provided help for a single mother, who was recently diagnosed with HIV, with three children. Sunburst Projects assisted with car repairs so that she can continue getting to work said Pretzlaff.
“Because of our fundraising events, we were able to fix her car for her so that she can continue working and being a productive member of society and continue feeding her kids,” said Pretzlaff.
The cost to enter the “Drag Your Balls” Celebrity Golf Tournament is $100 per player. The registration fee includes a golf cart, green fees, and boxed lunch. It also includes the after-party with appetizers, a no-host bar, a drag show, prizes, and a silent auction. Tickets are also available for the after-party at $25 per person.
“We’ve got a hilarious event planned for golfers and non-golfers alike,” Jake Bradley-Rowe, Executive Director of Sunburst Projects, said in a press release.
“Drag queens impersonating celebrities will buzz around the course entertaining our golfers while they play nine holes to support our agency. They will also perform a hysterical drag show at our after-party.”
Pretzlaff added: “We are going to have six or seven drag queens dressed up like famous celebrities.
They’re going to stop and chat with golfers, cracking jokes, doing little mini-performances at each hole, and just making it really, really fun.”
There will prizes for the longest drive and closest-to-the-pin. Tickets are available on the Sunburst Projects website at www.sunburstprojects.org.
For more information, call (916) 899-9173.
“This is an outdoors, COVID-safe event that everyone can enjoy, whether they are golfers or supporters who want to help us end the HIV epidemic in Sacramento,” Bradley-Rowe said.
A few years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified Sacramento as a “hot spot” in the U.S. for new HIV infections, said Pretzlaff.
“We’re seeing quite an uptick,” said Pretzlaff. “These younger kids don’t really know much about HIV. They don’t see anything in the media about it, and so they engage in risky behaviors, and they’re contracting HIV. Some of these young people show up at emergency rooms with full-blown AIDS, because they’ve had it for a few years and they don’t know it.
“So that’s where we come in. We take them in like a family member and guide them through the process of getting medical care, getting on their medications, supporting them with mental health services, social service programs. We help them with housing, we deliver bags of food to clients who need it. We have a client resource room in our offices, where they can literally go shopping and leave with clothing and essential items.”
Sunburst Projects is leading HIV prevention efforts in Sacramento County, according to the organization’s press release.
“When people living with HIV take their viral suppression medication they cannot give HIV to others and they do not develop AIDS. Our organization links HIV-positive people in our community to life-saving medical care to help them thrive and to protect public health,” Bradley-Rowe said. “We also provide psychiatric and mental health services, connection to social service programs, and emergency financial assistance so that our clients can live their healthiest lives.”
A look at Sunburst Projects
According to its website, sunburstprojects.org, Sunburst provides a variety of social and mental health services to individuals and families impacted by HIV/AIDS.
Its mission statement reads, “Sunburst Projects serves the needs of the HIV/AIDS community through compassionate care and services.”
Sunburst Projects’ goal, according to its vision statement, “is to promote health, wellness and social justice through services that strengthen and empower individuals and families to ensure those living with and/or affected by HIV/AIDS reach their highest potential.”
Sunburst Projects, according to sunburstprojects.org, “initially specialized in serving children and families impacted by HIV/AIDS. In 2020 we expanded to serve all individuals who are living with or affected by HIV/AIDS including men, women, families, youth, and the Sacramento HIV community as a whole. We also opened our first full-service mental health clinic. Today, we serve 350 individuals in Northern California. Our programs include medical case management, mental health services, social support services, child care assistance, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, enrollment in ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program), support groups, and more.”
Sunburst Projects also has staff that drives its clients to doctor’s appointments or to the pharmacy.
In addition, Sunburst Projects provides mental health services and medical case management.
“We try to educate the community on these revolutionary medications that are out there,” said Pretzlaff. “One of the big things we do is help our clients stay on their HIV medications. One way we work to protect the public health in these three counties is by working with our clients to make sure they take their medications. We monitor their blood tests every three months. And any client who’s not taking their medications, I personally intervene and find out what’s preventing them from taking their medications and work out strategies to help them.”
A psychiatric nurse practitioner is in the office on Fridays to meet with clients.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor, and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.