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Hearts Foundation Prepares for Fire

By Aaron Bailey in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 10, 2005 10:35PM

Next week, Chicago will play host to Fireball, a massive gay/lesbian circuit dance party held every February by the Hearts Foundation. Last year, nearly 4,000 Chicagoans and visitors attended Fireball parties. In turn, Hearts gives proceeds to various Chicago-based HIV/AIDS charities.

hearts_logo.gifIn recent months, controversy has surrounded Hearts, its board members, and the amount of money actually going to charities.

Founded in 1998 by Michael L. Jackson (yes, the alleged cabbie killer), the Hearts Foundation's first years proved successful for raising money -- upwards of $200,000 annually until 2001.

According to Chicago Free Press' Louis Weisberg, who was given access to their financials, things began spiraling out of control like a raver on ecstasy when Allen Lungo took over as president and treasurer in 2001. In 2003, Hearts and charities profited only $28,000 on revenues of $443,000. In 2004, six board members resigned and Lungo later "moved" to Costa Rica, where he hasn't been heard from since. Allegations of embezzlement have been denied by the organization.

Newly appointed president Dennis Sneyers aims to resuscitate Hearts by cutting expenses and generating more profit for area HIV/AIDS charities.

As circuit-going gay men flood into Chicago over the next week, it remains to be seen whether Fireball 2005 will be a successful fundraiser. Chicagoist will report more on Fireball next week.