(July 15) — Do-gooders nationwide are getting Bad Romance, live in concert, for their time.
Tonight, when Lady Gaga takes the stage at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse as part of her “Monster Ball” tour, the monster mélange will include fans such as Alicia Barnes, who received her tickets for free by volunteering to end youth homelessness.

As part of a partnership between Lady Gaga and The Re*Generation, Virgin Mobile’s philanthropic initiative, Barnes put together hygiene kits of toiletry essentials like shampoo, deodorant and soap for homeless youth in Indianapolis.

“I have two kids and I can’t imagine not being able to provide for them, and them not having a secure or stable home,” said Barnes, who will celebrate her 36th birthday tonight at the concert.

The single mother from Shelbyville, Ind., isn’t only being rewarded by Lady Gaga for her volunteer work — those efforts were inspired by the Lady herself, too.

Barnes first learned of the special challenges facing homeless youth through a public service announcement she saw at her first Lady Gaga concert in Chicago last year.

“Most people, when they think of homelessness, they just don’t think of youth, they think of older people,” said Felicia Martin-Hill, of Virgin Mobile USA. An estimated 2 million young people between the ages of 12 and 24 are affected by homelessness in America.
Nonprofit partners such as the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth organized volunteer opportunities such as the hygiene kit drive in Indianapolis.

“This is really unprecedented for us. It’s a really unique opportunity to reach people who might not otherwise know about the issue,” said Barbara Duffield, policy director for NAEHCY, which aims to keep kids on the streets in school. Duffield said reaching Lady Gaga fans, many of whom are close in age to at-risk youth, was especially meaningful.
“This is a whole new demographic for us,” she said of Lady Gaga fans, who have signed up to volunteer in all cities of the “Monster Ball” tour, from Boston to Cleveland to Raleigh, N.C.

“It was a really great experience,” said Boston ticket winner Tauheed Zaman, who spent a day in June painting a drop-in center for homeless youth operated by Bridge Over Troubled Waters, a Boston community group.

The 27-year-old medical resident said his “jaw dropped” when Lady Gaga gave volunteers a shoutout at the July 2 concert he attended.

“She actually acknowledged the volunteers in the audience,” said Zaman, of Somerville, Mass., who plans to continue volunteering with Bridge Over Troubled Waters. “It was a really validating moment during the concert.”

“I’m very proud to be partnering with Virgin Mobile’s Re*Generation around homeless youth awareness,” Lady Gaga told AOL News via email. “It means the world to me that my fans are inspired enough to help those in the LGBT community who are less fortunate than themselves.”

At a New York City concert last Friday, Lady Gaga used her fame and voice to mobilize her fans in other ways — calling them directly from the stage.

“Do you have Coke cans in your hair?” she asked the breathless fan, before thanking the audience for their efforts to end youth homelessness, which experts attribute to numerous root causes such as poverty.

Family conflict, however, is the primary cause, according to a report co-authored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“So listen, when you go home tonight,” Lady Gaga told the New York audience, “you just remember that you saved a young person’s life whose parents kicked them out because they didn’t think that they should be themselves.”

For Lady Gaga fans like Barnes, who said she respects “the impact she’s having on people’s lives,” the program captures part of the singer’s biggest impact — her message of self-acceptance for youth everywhere.

“They feel unwanted and unloved and looking forward to her next album and talking about it makes them feel better,” said Barnes.




July 15, 2010

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