Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ red bucket has become a symbol of hope and help across the theatre community. Now, high school and college students are increasingly holding the red buckets at their own schools and festivals, helping the most vulnerable among us.
Inspired 20 years ago by the generosity of professional theatre artists, trailblazing students at North Penn High School in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, translated their love of theatre into philanthropy by being the first student group to fundraise for Broadway Cares.
That desire to help launched a still-thriving movement, inspiring tens of thousands of students in schools, colleges, and thespian festivals across the country to make a difference through their art. And, their collective efforts have made an impressive impact: Students have raised $3.2 million—and counting—for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Students fundraise just like their Broadway counterparts: by inviting audience members to drop donations into Broadway Cares’ iconic red buckets after shows, following a tradition that happens twice a year as theatre lobbies at Broadway, Off-Broadway, and national touring productions are filled with casts, crew members, and volunteers asking for donations with the red buckets in tow.
In the video above, school students and Broadway actors—including Kara Lindsay, Ryann Redmond, and L. Steven Taylor—discuss the importance of making a difference through fundraising for Broadway Cares.
“Working with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS on a high school level is so important because of the connection that we make with the Broadway community,” said Abigail Lange, a 2019 graduate of Fullerton Union High School and a California thespian. “We are bridging the divide between high school theatre programs and Broadway productions to support people affected by HIV/AIDS and so many other life-threatening illnesses.”
The students’ fundraising helps provide lifesaving medication, nutritious meals, and emergency financial assistance to people in need at more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C.
Students also have explored a variety of imaginative ways to heighten their fundraising success. From students at Georgia’s Buford High School sewing and selling holiday keepsakes upcycled from the curtain at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre to Florida’s Lake Howell High School offering customized buttons at the Florida Thespians Festival, students are channeling their creativity to create change.
For Kelly Dunn, a senior at Bowling Green University in Ohio and business liaison for Broadway Cares Bowling Green, the impact of the fundraising lands close to home.
“We’re so thankful we’re given an opportunity to collaborate and come together to help people in the greater community,” Dunn said. “Equitas Health is 15 miles from campus in Toledo, and they receive an annual grant from Broadway Cares. Something that helps people literally in our own backyard is very fulfilling and empowering for us.”
Since the student efforts first began 20 years ago, their creativity, passion for philanthropy, and connection to the Broadway community has continued to grow. And at its heart, students are driven by a desire to help others.
“As artists, it is imperative for us to support an organization with such an important mission,” said David Hulten, who just graduated from Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston and is a Texas thespian. “To be able to reach people and raise funds through our art is an incredibly gratifying experience.”
To find out how to bring Broadway Cares’ red buckets campaign to your school, visit broadwaycares.org/education-outreach.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources, and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has raised more than $300 million for essential services for people with HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.