Elton John celebrates 25 years of AIDS foundation

NEW YORK — A teary and emotional Elton John celebrated the 25th anniversary of his AIDS foundation with a gala in New York City, raising about $4.4 million and telling the audience that they would end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

John’s efforts to raise awareness and fight against AIDS were lauded by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and singer Aretha Franklin, who closed the event with a collection of songs.

John grew teary-eyed onstage after Jeanne White — the mother of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who became the poster child for HIV awareness during the 1980s AIDS crisis — spoke passionately about how John visited her son while he was sick and helped her family financially. She called John her “guardian angel.”

John said at the time he visited Ryan White, he “hated himself” and that the White family helped him change for the better.

“What the White family did was light a little candle in my soul,” John said. “Six months after Ryan passed away, I got help and I became sober.”

The 70-year-old singer also was in tears at the end of his speech, recalling a birthday party he held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where Tuesday’s event took place, and spending time with his late friend, writer Ingrid Sischy.

“She was my sister. I don’t have her anymore. I have her inside of me. And I miss her so much,” he said of Sischy, who died of breast cancer in 2015. “I just wish she was here to see this.”

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